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American Woodcock welcomes springWinter is persistent! March 2018 came and went as a lion.

We woke to frost goblins and tonight there will be more snow. But this day announced itself with sunshine that soon after revealed a secret.

Life-listing birder

Thirty years ago I was a novice birder with a growing list. At that time I lived and worked in Miami with Everglades at the backdoor. One evening a friend invited me there to watch the aerial ballet of the American Woodcock, a chubby little guy determined to impress the ladies with his circling, diving courtship, declaring intentions on whistling wings. My logbook shows him as my 201st life bird and I’ve seen only a handful of others in more than three decades until . . . .

American Woodcock, Scolopax minor

Fast forward to Easter Sunday 2018 and an urgent call to come see who was snacking in the creek below our springbox. The American Woodcock is not rare in the eastern United States though this is the first one I’ve seen in decades; it is a secretive bird, skulking around in damp underbrush from dusk to dawn.

Woodcock with a stylish coat and a big head

This bird has huge eyes placed high in a big head—the better to see me with. They’re strongly marked with bars, stripes, and dots above a soft cinnamon, buff-colored belly. The feet are pink and the bill is long and thin, perfect to probe the soft stream bed where slugs, worms, and snails hide. Scolopax minor walks with a constant rocking motion which distinguishes it from its cousin, the Snipe.

Eye-to-eye, one species to another

All of these behaviors were on vivid display while I sat watching from the grass. He saw me there, big eyes staring straight into mine, then returned to his hunt. I watched as his day ended and mine began, relishing the sunshine, thankful that it’s strengthening each day. To him and to all of you, Happy Easter, welcome spring!

An invitation added in December 2019:

I was recently introduced to another blogger who is passionate about birds. The photography at Chipper Birds is beautiful. Take a look at https://chipperbirds.com/beautiful-birds/ to discover which ones make author Dale Garrett’s top 25 and stay to learn more!

Imploring the weather gods

Springside Pond

It’s been warming all morning and well into the afternoon finally reaching 10 degrees by mid-afternoon. That’s in Farenheit for my Celsius friends who will recognize minus twelve. It may be spring by the calendar but it’s still deep winter here in Richwood Valley! And in the frame below all the tracks in the snow? There are many odd terms for animal congregations some of which are known only to specialists or those who work crossword puzzles. These tracks are not those of an exaltation of larks nor a wake of buzzards, a murder of crows nor a convocation of eagles, but a rafter of turkeys. You’re seeing their tracks, marching multiples still looking for food!

Does this look like the first day of Spring to you?

Richwood Valley

 

First morning out!

Wasp moth, species Ctenucha virginica

Click any image to see them all full-sized.

It’s the 18th of March and there’s a white-out snow storm happening. By now the crocuses should be up and basking in sunshine while enduring nighttime cold. Instead we have rafters of wild turkey by the dozens parading in the side yard with heads deep in snow seeking grass for their gullets. By now Jakes and Jennys should be courting behind the backs of possessive Toms with their steely gaze and harem hens. Rare to see them so close to the house but the snow cover is less deep here and they’re hungry. So am I, but for warm air and blue sky instead.

According to astronomical definition, spring equinox in 2013 is two days from now and it doesn’t look promising. The daylight and night shadows may be nearing equal length but rebirth and renewal seem a long way off. I’m waiting for the springing forth of light and life that means the new season is arrived. I want the snow and ice to melt, frost to come out of the ground, and for winter to let go.

As I look forward in anticipation of real spring, these are images from last year. Click one for a Lightbox gallery to see them full-sized. First is a Black swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes, the state butterfly of Oklahoma. Some people call it the American Swallowtail for it is indeed common throughout. Its black with yellow markings is highlighted with spots of intense red and metallic blue. It survives like other swallowtails by a nasty taste that comes from concentrating flavors of what it eats and with a foul smell emitted from a Y-shaped organ near the back of its head. I found this patient creature drying its wings after emerging from the crysalis on its first day out.

Next is Hyla versicolor, a more colorful name than Gray tree frog. Indeed it is commonly gray or green, splotched or not, and it changes color for camouflage. Obviously, it’s not in its nature to match coral paint and so we see a vain attempt that makes it even more apparent. And then there is the brilliantly shining golden eye! Gray tree frogs have big toe paids to help them climb after their insect diet. This fellow on a window ledge was boldly singing its tra-la-la to attract a mate. Three days later he was still there, persistently hopeful.

Last is Ctenucha virginica, a broad-winged wasp moth of Midwestern marsh and meadow. The range is expanding westward and is recently established to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. En masse they arrived on the porch last spring though I found this cooperative fellow eating wild parnip in the meadow. It was dewy early morn that left me wet to the shoulders from wading through tall grasses. In late spring I head out to clean the meadows of invasive wild parsnip, yellow rocket, and several varieties of dock. Ambitious and obsessive to make things better than I found them, I carry a camera always as it is hard work that gives me a reason to be where the action is.

Please leave a comment to share what you most look forward to as you think about coming spring!