Springtime Odds and Ends
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.
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.
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!”