Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring is here, cleaning for Passover, birds are back!

I haven't had much time to write on my blog lately -- between making maple syrup, cleaning out the chicken coop, and cleaning the house for Passover, I haven't been online much in the past couple weeks.   So this is just a quick note to let all my readers know I'm fine, and very much enjoying the return of the birds.  The bird migration north is in full swing.  The phoebes that nest on my land (one in the open garage and the other under the eaves of the chicken coop) are back.  Of course, I have no way to know if they are the exact same birds that nested here last year, but we have had phoebe nests in the same areas for about 5 years now, so it is either them or their descendants. 

This is a photo I took of the young birds in a phoebe nest in 2009 -- they fledged the next day.   I liked it so much, I made it up as a souvenir postcard (you can still buy a copy in my ebay store, The Happy Rooster):

The Canada geese are back in droves, and I've seen Sandhill Cranes flying over several times now.  Monday on the way to Hinckley, my wife and I saw two pair of Snow Geese standing in two different flooded fields -- an unusual sight, we usually see them flying over on their way to Canada but rarely on the ground.  But Sunday night it was very windy so I supsect we had a  bird drop (which is different from a bird dropping) because overnight there were suddenly lots of migrating birds in the trees and bushes.  On the same day, the pond across the street was full of ducks, and I also heard them back in our seasonal woodland wetlands area, where it floods every spring.  All waiting out the high winds, I guess.

Plus there are robins, flocks of Juncos, and song sparrows, pheasants calling, grouse drumming.  I also saw a red-tailed hawk and a pair of Bald Eagles.   And the pair of starlings that nests in a hole in the eaves every year is back.  I keep meaning to get up there and plug it up, but I'm a bit old for climbing second-story ladders now.  Starlings are not really a big problem here, this is the only pair we ever see and I enjoy  enjoy seeing them sitting on the power lines and flying back and forth to feed their young.  When I do get the eaves fixed, I plan to put a birdhouse for them up there.   Otherwise, they might go compete with the Bluebirds or Tree Swallows.

Starlings, you have probably heard, were purposely released in the USA by a guy who wanted to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's plays.   There's a chapter about this in a new book, "How Shakespeare Changed Everything," due out on May 10.  (I got an advance review copy.  Since I'm not a Shakespeare expert, I found it very informative -- basically a good book with odd facts to get teenagers or newbies interested in the classics.)  The starling release has over-succeeded.  In many place they are serious pests.  But up here in the North Woods, they are just another species returning for spring.

Crocuses are blooming, the daffodils are coming up, and the frogs are out, too -- across the road is a marsh where the Spring Peepers are almost deafening, along with a species I call "clacking frogs" because that's the sound they make, likeone of those kids' clacker toys.  I've never actually seen them do it, so I'm not sure what the species is.  No singing toads yet, but I expect to hear them soon.  Last year a big toad took up residence in the flower garden outside the front window and we heard him all summer.

Yesterday I dug up my horseradish for the "bitter herbs" at our Seder (on Monday and Tuesday nights) and today I get to vacuum the rugs.   Sunday we kosher the kitchen to get rid of all leavening, bring down the Passover dishes from the attic, etc. (We order matzoh online -- it has already arrived.)   Monday we go buy fresh veggies and begin cooking for the first Seder Monday night.   So I might not get around to blogging again for a while -- until then, wishing you all a Happy Spring (or fall if you are reading this Down Under.)

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