Despite cold and snow on April 3, and the blustery, wintery week that followed the signs of spring far outnumbered the reminders of winter.
I’d recently mentioned that I had yet to see a woodcock despite there being perfect conditions for them, and the evening of March 30 three of them showed up in the yard just before dark. For the last week they’ve been buzzing and twittering through the maples for all they are worth, undaunted by the cold and snow that descended upon us after they arrived.
I did mention that I’d seen a bluebird on the porch back in March, and this week there were swallows, cowbirds and scads of robins bobbing around in the pasture.
Perhaps the biggest news (literally!) was the sighting of a huge black bear that appeared on a neighbor’s trail cam on March 29, as early a spring bear sighting as I’ve ever heard of. This bear was huge, coming face-to-face with the camera that was mounted about waist high in the neighbor’s back yard. He came close enough to the camera to get a picture of nothing but his right ear – his nose must have been within inches of the lens.
This bear ate all the suet and bird seed in the yard and stayed “on camera” for about 20 frames before he wandered off. Other folks have reported seeing a “huge” black bear in recent days, which means he could be the same one, but if you want a sure sign that spring is on the way nothing beats having a black bear on your back porch!
My friends on the lake tell me they are seeing more species of waterfowl now that the ice is all but gone. Sightings include several species of mergansers, Canada geese, mallard and wood ducks, a few goldeneyes (normally a coastal bird) and one small flock of scoters (also a saltwater duck).
There have been many reports of hawks moving in of late; in fact I had a goshawk terrorizing my resident flock of doves this week. I happened to notice about a dozen doves sitting on my front porch (which they rarely do) which told me something was amiss out there. I started scanning the yard and trees with my binoculars and finally found the hawk sitting about 20 feet up in a gnarly oak right off the front porch. I went out the back door to scare off the hawk, which of course spotted me immediately and departed, but the doves stayed put for several hours. When they finally left they scattered in all directions at high speed, which I suppose is about all you can do when a hawk is lurking nearby.
Over the summer that hawk (and others) will take their share of my feeder birds, at least based on the scattered feathers I find on the lawn from time to time. I suppose it is a “bird feeder,” and hawks are birds, so there will be some mortality caused by the concentration of prey in one place, but I try to step outdoors often during the day to dissuade the hawks hiding in the trees overhead. It works – most of the time.
Thanks to the unusually warm weather we’ve had in recent weeks I had a chance to get a jump on my gardening, although just a bit of digging here and some raking there, nothing too intense. I’ve been finding nice, fat garden worms since mid-March, and it appears that the frost is all but out of the soil now. During my raking I ran into a few solitary mosquitoes, which is never a preferred sign of spring, although they can’t be denied. No black flies as of yet, but there’s no doubt they will make an appearance as soon as winter makes up its mind.
I have also spent a lot of time traipsing through the woods hoping to catch my first brook trout of the season with no luck so far, but I am also happy to report that I have not yet brought home the first tick, either. Preliminary reports suggest that 2016 is going to be a bad year for ticks, and it may well be, but thus far I haven’t seen one, not on the wood I bring in from the shed or on the trees and bushes I encounter as I creep from pool to pool in search of trout.
I have a feeling it will all happen at once on some warm, sunny day in the near future. I’ll come home with a limit of trout and a shirt full of ticks.
One sign of spring has me really worried. There are several old squirrel nests in the oaks and maples near the house in just a few days ago I saw a pair of crows making some renovations to one of the older, unoccupied nests. I immediately fast-forwarded to mid-May when, I fear, that nest is going to be full of crow chicks. If you haven’t heard the lusty cries of fledgling crows you are in for a treat. They are loud, raspy, high-pitched and relentless. The cacophony will go on from daylight till dark, and it’s a sound that can cut right through walls, doors and windows.
I like the idea of having crows (and ravens) nearby but during the nesting season I may have to wear earplugs during the day. Some baby birds are cute and their pitiful cries are often enchanting, but a baby crow demanding to be fed is probably one of the most grating sounds in nature. It should be over by mid-June depending on when the crow parents start nesting, but it’s definitely going to be raucous around here for a while.
Once winter’s last gasp fades away I’ll continue my quest for trout and get the garden ready to go before the spring turkey-hunting season opens May 2. We spend six months patiently waiting for spring and then everything happens all at once!