Springtime Odds and Ends

April 3, 2008 at 8:11 pm 3 comments

Spring is desperately trying to make headway against winter’s insistent pull.  As soon as most of the snow disappears from our yard, another storm blows in and dumps a half-foot thick wet blanket on our warm weather aspirations.

The dogs don’t mind.  They love the snow.  The young dogs sprint through the slushy mess grinning as it splashes around them.  They roll and wrestle in the deeper bits and the old dog rouses his tired bones to join them, at least for a bit.

I sulk.  Unlike the soft, feather-light snows of our winter storms that can often be cleared off the walks with a push broom, the spring snows are more water than ice.  Water just cold enough to have an unstable, yet somehow inert, form.  It’s aptly referred to as ‘heart attack snow.’ 

To distract myself from the evil whiteness I’ve been listening to CDs on birding by ear as I putter around the house.  I got the first one at the recommendation of a friend whose husband’s encyclopedic ear is legendary.  I expected to listen to it a few times, lose interest and move on to something else.  Instead, I’ve become addicted. 

birdsongcd.jpg

We live in a wonderful area for birding.  Our place sits on a wooded bluff above a spring-fed creek a few miles above the Mississippi River.  Hardwood forests, open fields, cliffs, creeks, broad river areas, marshes and suburban yards are all located nearby.  It’s a veritable smorgasbord of habitat.  The Mississippi flyway bottlenecks not far from us, where the River flows into Lake Pepin, making this one of the best birding areas in the country.

In just the last couple of days along with the regular avian visitors to our bird feeders I’ve seen great blue herons, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, a northern flicker, a  couple of robins and several red-winged blackbirds.  The robins and blackbirds were especially exciting to see as they are harbingers of… dare I say it…. Spring! 

And now that I’ve had just a bit of time to listen and study the song identification CD, even though I haven’t seen them, I can also tell that barred owls, saw whet owls and a sand hill crane have been by to visit. 

Another of my favorite springtime occupations is picking up the winter’s harvest of poop.  Odd, isn’t it?  It should be an unpleasant job but ambling around the two acres or so that we keep mowed gives me a chance to reacquaint myself with the ground my feet haven’t touched in at least four months.  And I sometimes find interesting things along with the poop.  Just this week I came across a disc-shaped wasp nest and the pinecone shaped nest from some bald-faced hornets.  I found an old udder tug that Zip was thrilled to see and the severed head of a rabbit.  The rabbit head disturbed me a bit at first, but I called my friends Sharon and Mark from Northwoods Wildlife Center and they told me that great horned owls often sever the heads of their prey.  So, though it may be a bit creepy, it’s just another bit of evidence that these owls are regular visitors. 

hornetsnest.jpg

Since we’re spending more time indoors that we’d like (I think it’s safe for me to speak for the dogs here) I’ve been doing more fetch work with young Audie.  We’re moving on to having him pick up and carry large, awkwardly shaped items like bath towels and fleece jackets.  This is difficult in several ways.  First, he has to figure out how to grab the item – as a grabbing place is not necessarily obvious, then he has to work hard to pick it up because its heavy and finally he has to figure out how to drag it without stepping on it. 

I find it interesting to see that as we advance with fetch work, Audie carries around things similar to the ‘difficult things’ we’re working on with a Very Focused Look on his face.  I’m convinced that he does this to practice.  We just started working on large, awkwardly-shaped items on Sunday.  Starting last night, he’s begun to pick up largish fabric items he finds on the floor (sadly not a particularly difficult task in our house) and dragging them to me.  This am as I took my wakeup pee, he dragged the size XL long-sleeved t-shirt Mark slept in to me looking Very Proud of himself.  He made of point of handing the shirt to me, then strutted off.  I’m convinced that he was telling me “See, I CAN do this!”

Entry filed under: animals, dog training, dogs, minnesota, wildlife. Tags: , , .

Clever Isaac And While We’re Talking About Birds…

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dontbesadblog  |  April 3, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Hey,

    How you care to come and join in the “Fill the world with birdsong” project. Come and try your ear and guess the birdsong. So far we have had blackbirds, robins and swallows and many more to come….for what you’ve written here, I’m sure you will like it.

    The current quiz is up for the next day or so. Please do submit your answer in the comments.

    Kind regards.

  • 2. Audie's Gramma  |  April 5, 2008 at 2:56 am

    I keep telling you lady …

    This pup is going to explore The Meaning Of The Universe via fetch.

    It is his calling. His means of both being and becoming.

    Why this should be so for him, and not his (also talented) brothers and sisters, this is one of Life’s Great Mysteries.

  • 3. Audie's Gramma  |  April 5, 2008 at 5:32 am

    On your bird theme — forgot to mention that we saw and heard a common loon on Lake Arthur in SW Pennsylvania last Saturday.

    Maybe not so exciting to you Minnesotans, but it’s quite a treat for us to have these birds visit, if briefly, on their migration.

    My friend Ray had never seen a loon in his life, so it was a treat to show it to him; I heard him first, and we bushwhacked through brambles to the shoreline for a look.

    There were a lot of other transients on the lake that day, but without binoculars, and with the strong glare in the afternoon, it was hard to make them out. Several species of gulls and terns, some kind of teal.

    I’ve seen snow geese on the same lake last year — only snow geese I’ve ever seen. There were hundreds. Strange call.

    As we are packing up our home of 12 years, our resident male kingfisher is back, rattling his way up and down the creek. We will miss him. Our families always ask after “our” kingfisher, but I tend to think of us as the kingfisher’s people; sometimes I think we are the only ones who have ever noticed he is there, patrolling the stream and marrying and raising babies in a burrow somewhere near our own yard every year. We once saw him, or his mate, teach a baby to fly using minnow bribes and loud encouragement.

    I suppose he’s probably the son or grandson of the one who greeted us in 1996, but it sure seems like the same guy.

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