Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spring is Sprung

Finally spring is here!  We had to wait a few extra weeks this year--I know that for sure, because I keep a garden journal from April 1 until sometime in September, and our temperatures have been way below normal for May.  But the good weather has finally arrived.

The cottonwoods in town have put out their leaves, and they are just a marvel to behold.  Now, cottonwoods are not a well regarded tree, although the pioneers loved them because they are quite willing to grow on the prairie.  A little later on we'll all be very annoyed with them because of the vast amounts of "cotton fluff" that they shed.  But this week they are a glory.  The new leaves are clean and shiny, a fresh green that is bursting with new life, fresh as baby skin.

One of the glories of spring is the chorus of birdsong.  We are loaded with birds here, since we have planted perhaps two or three thousand shrubs and trees on our eight acre yard. Many of the shrubs are fruit bearing, such as these Nanking Cherries. 
There are also four 350 ft. long rows of Saskatoons (very similar to a blueberry, but with seeds).  All of this makes wonderful bird habitat.

Over winter there are the usual bird species: crows, magpies, and the occasional owl.  But when spring arrives, so do the birds.  This year there seem to be fewer robins, but more blackbirds.  The robin has a beautiful song, but the blackbird sounds like a rusty hinge.  In fact, one species is called the rusty blackbird because of its call.

We also see swans in the spring, but they don't stick around.  They head on farther north for the summer.  But we do have a long term resident Canada Goose pair.  Now the past two years there have been three hanging around together, and that puzzles us.  Since geese are monogamous and mate for life, who is the third wheel?  Is it one of their hatchlings from a previous year?  Do geese ever do that?

A new addition to the yard this year is a pair, or perhaps two pairs, of Mallard ducks.  One morning there were three Mallards on our little landscape pond.  One drake was chasing the other, pecking at his back feathers, while the hen floated unconcernedly nearby.  But that Mallard hen is a real puzzle in that almost every morning, between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. we see her sitting on the gravel near the end of the driveway.  Here's a picture of her, accompanied by a mourning dove:

Whatever is she doing?  One morning she and the drake were standing there together for a little while.  He left and she sat down for her regular stay.  I can just imagine him saying, "Well, okay then, if that's what you have to do!"

One morning she was perched on top of the bark chip pile, and that really amazed me, because last year that was the favorite hangout for a pair of fox kits.  These little guys played king of the mountain there almost every morning, also between 5 and 6 a.m.  And foxes do leave an almost skunkish odor around.  We really enjoyed seeing these little guys grow up. They were beautiful animals, but full of mischief.  One morning they started ripping apart the bales of peat moss, and then we had to discourage them a bit. 

The large greenhouse is a wonderful nesting site in the spring, for we close it up each night, and the nesting finches are perfectly safe from any predators.  This past week we had some infestation of bugs on the plants in there, and there were several yellow finches making a feast of it.  Good for them and good for the plants!

I love living the rural life, being part of the natural world, enjoying the birds and the beasts, the fresh air, the sunrises and sunsets.  We are indeed blessed!

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