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Date:12/20/2014 10:55:53 PM
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Waiting for Spring, Part II
I was talking about tracking the arrivals of spring, in this case, the migratory birds. In recent years, both ducks and geese have wintered over here in Northeastern Wisconsin. Even in the worse of weather, I have observed Canada Geese around the mouth of the bay and in the fields. In the open parts of the Oconto River below the dam at Stiles I've seen daily the ducks on the water. I do know that those kind humans who set out corn and seeds for wild birds keep these large waterfowl in mind. When I was a kid, a flock (or skein) of geese seen in the sky at this time of year meant that spring had come. Nowadays, it means that a flock has departed the Wildlife Sanctuary at the mouth of the bay in order to feed on cornfields to the west of the bay.
For me, (as I've mentioned before) the surest sign that the year has really turned is the arrival of the Red-winged Blackbird. It is said that the uncolored females arrive before the males with their brightly colored epaulets. The females seek out feeding and nesting sites before the males arrive to court. (Typical, that the female attends to necessities before the male arrives for romance) Oft-times the female blackbirds are indistinguishable from the grackles and other blackbirds, at least for the uninformed. Regardless, once I see the males singing brightly on last year's growth of high grass and cattails, I know that spring has arrived.
The last, and indisputable sign of spring are the spring peepers. Hal Borland said that three days of 50 degree weather will bring them out. In my experience, it's usually has to be near 60 degrees for two or three days before we hear them. Once out, it takes a heavy cold snap to drive them back into the mud. Even during a late snowstorm, if it's not below 35 degrees, I can still hear the peepers. The spring peeper is simply a small treefrog, even though it seems to want to stay in the marsh or swamps. I've never seen one actually on a tree though once or twice I remember seeing one glued to our bay window. There's nothing nicer in my experience than an early warm spell in late March or early April when you can leave the windows open even in the evening and listen to the peepers. I've seen temperatures approach 80 degrees at these times. The wind blows warm and sweet with smells all the way from The Farmwife's land in the Deep South. Between the trill of the peepers and the chirps of the robins I am perforced to linger outdoors and just revel in the end of another winter and the start of another spring. -- Gary
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