Archive for March, 2010

The First Beauties of Spring

Sunday, March 28th, 2010
snow trillium

snow trillium

hepatica

hepatica

spring beauty

spring beauty

Mere specks on the drab forest floor, the first spring flowers nevertheless bring a welcome bit of life and color to a grey-brown season. We found hepaticas, spring beauties and snow trilliums in bloom on March 28 – perhaps few days earlier than usual for Clayton County. The tiny Dutchman’s breeches buds will pop soon. No doubt about it; spring is here!

Prairie fire!

Thursday, March 25th, 2010
Margaret Stone tends a dying prairie fire.

Margaret Stone tends a dying prairie fire.

Spring brings out the fire bug in us! The warm temps, calm winds, and dry ground persuaded us that it was time to scorch the bromegrass and boxelder seedlings in our reconstructed prairie. Maybe it’s wishful thinking – but we want to suppress the brome and woody plants and give the natives an advantage, if we can. The first small, green leaves of pussytoes also got singed – but they’re used to it and should recover. While the bluebirds watched with interest, a meadow vole scurried out ahead of the flames to find refuge in a nearby, unburned prairie. We’ll leave a few patches like that for the voles and insects and ground-nesting birds.

Amazing, endless cranes . . .

Saturday, March 20th, 2010
Sandhill cranes feed in a corn field near Kearney, Neb.

Sandhill cranes feed in a corn field near Kearney, Neb.

Early-spring visitors to the Platte Valley will see or hear sandhill cranes almost continually.

Early-spring visitors to the Platte Valley will see or hear sandhill cranes almost continually.

Sandhill cranes prepare to go to roost for the night on sandbars in the Platte River.

Sandhill cranes prepare to go to roost for the night on sandbars in the Platte River.

SPRING!

It’s official!

But how could we not notice all the recent signs of the changing seasons – from longer days to cheerful cardinals to muddy roads to ice jams to moths at the window to song sparrows and red-wings and flocks of robins. Even a wooly bear.

The subtle signs set the mood – but we almost overdosed on the sights and sounds of the season on a recent trip to Nebraska’s Platte River valley between Grand Island and Kearney, where the sandhill crane migration is in full force. It’s a world-class spectacle – no doubt about it. Our 5-year-old grandson was not exaggerating when he breathlessly told his Mom that we saw (and heard!) “thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands” of the magnificent birds. (And his 7-year-old brother tried to photograph nearly every one!) We could see or hear cranes almost continually during the parts of three days we spent along the Platte. The birds were continually flying overhead or feeding in bottomland fields and pastures. Lots of geese, too – snows, Canadas, and white-fronts.

If you’ve never seen the show, consider the trip. It’s amazing. We first experienced the crane migration more than 35 years ago, but we’re ready to go back tomorrow. Highly recommended! Here’s a good link for more info:

http://www.rowesanctuary.org/