Where The Wild Things Are-Leaving the Nest

It is the time of eggs and nests, young following around the grownups. Some hatched long ago this spring and now look much like an adult. Others are eggs just laid in hidden bowers. So you probably know that baby birds are generally called chicks. Unless it is a duck. Then it is a duckling! But before I wander down off that path, lets learn some vocabulary for dealing with baby birds in general.

Fresh out of the egg, most birds are naked and have their eyes shut. These are called Hatchlings, for a few days. Some birds (like ducks) do not go through that stage. After a few days they are covered in down, eyes open. These are called nestlings! They don't leave the nest at this stage and are totally dependent on the parent birds. Then the feathers grow in, the young birds start climbing out of the nest and practicing flying. These are the fledglings. These are the kind usually found by well meaning souls who think they are abandoned. In reality, the parents are still feeding them, where ever they are around the nest. They are at increased risk from predators, but that is part of the cycle of life in the bird world. Lots of eggs are laid, a good number of them hatch, some make it to adult, and a few come back and start the process over again.

As I said earlier, not all birds go through all three stages. Woodducks are fluffed out at hatching, and almost immediately go out the edge of the hole or nest, usually 10 feet or more in the air, and jump! To survive the ducklings need to get to the water as soon as possible. Ducks do not feed their ducklings in the nest. Most water fowl abandon the nest soon after hatching. The nest is an easy sight for predators. The ducklings, goslings, cygnets (goose), loonlets, are on the move, resting by riding along on the backs of the adults.

Turkeys have poults, guineafowl have keets. Cranes have colts. All of these young are built ready to run. A baby puffin is called a puffling. and hawks have eyas.

Now you know what to call those babies, not that they really care, but you will sound knowledgeable to those who listen! So go out in nature and if you find a nest, leave it be! Those nestlings have a rough life ahead of them. A quick peek is fine, but the parents are really busy feeding those not so little mouths!

Where The Wild Things Are- Stairways at Hogwarts

I am convinced that the woods are like the stairways at Hogwarts. I am sure that I saw something in one place, and when I go back...nothing. I begin a trail from one end of the woods. Next time out I come from the other end, figuring on meeting in the middle. Long narrow woods, trail on crest of hill. Nope. No meeting of the trails. I couldn't even find the first trail. I think I need to carry trail markers that I can see for more than three feet away.

There are always interesting things to see, even if I cannot find them again. The iris are still coming up, but should be blooming in a couple weeks. In the mean time the grasses are filled with Golden Alexanders and Canada Anemone. The whorled milkweed, with the other varieties of milkweed are popping up out there. I saw one Monarch butterfly today, no doubt looking for the blossoms.

The ostrich fern are waist high, with columbine still providing dashes of color among them. It is also prime time to search out fungi. Yellow oyster was a surprising find. "Toad stools" popping up in unexpected places are fun to find.

Dragonflies have taken flight in swarms. It has been cold for them, setting back their hatch and feeding. They will eat almost anything they can catch, with mosquitos being high on their menu. The mosquitos are also delayed this year, not that we really miss them, but those that count on them for a food source do.

Keep and eye along the Marlspring road, across from the woodshed. The Showy Ladyslippers will be blooming soon! So watch out for dive bombing Swallows and get out there!


Where The Wild Things Are- Ladyslippers and Turkeys

Trails or no trails. When you have a trail to follow, your way is easier. Whether deer have created it, or it is man made, trails can get you into places with less dodging and ducking, better footing. It can be very peaceful to stroll along and just take in the woods around you. But if deer go along it, they browse while they walk, meaning you miss out on seeing some things. You also are limited by where the path goes. You may walk within feet of something remarkable and never notice it. With no trails you pay more attention. You move slower and need to look around more, just to see where your next step will land. But you need to duck under, climb over, push through. You need to backtrack and rethink your plan. You cover less ground, but more thoroughly. You see things that you might never of seen otherwise. Of course it is easier to get "unsure of your location". If you walk looking down, you can get turned around easily, especially on cloudy days. 

Like most things in life, there is a balance. Sometimes the trails, sometimes off. So I have been enlarging existing deer trails through some of the wild area. Trimming back branches, whatever can be dealt with using a hand pruner. If you are interested in knowing where some of these trails wander, just ask me. I'll be happy to show you! 

On another train of thought, do you know where turkeys nest? I didn't. I didn't really give it any thought. I was surprised to come upon a hen turkey sitting on a nest in the middle of a tamarack bog area! We parted ways peacefully, as I was looking for Small Yellow Ladyslippers, not turkeys! The Ladyslippers are at the end of their bloom, but I was happy to see 5 blossoms this year instead of the 3 from the past two years! In the whole village I have only found this one clump. Maybe next year I will get out at the right time to look over some other good areas. 

Things are changing out there in the woods on a daily basis. Get out there and breathe in the peace!


Where The Wild Things Are- Life Is Good in The Woods!

To just stand in the woods and breathe in the green. Blue sky stretching overhead. Birds calling from behind the expanding leaves. I swear you can hear it growing. One of the prolific plants just starting to bloom right now is Wild Sarsaprilla. Under the canopy of three sets of three to five leaves, on a separate stem are two to seven umbrels ( a round cluster of flowers). I thought the umbrels came in sets of three, but after finding them in sets of 2, 3, 4, and 5, further research taught me that there can be up to seven umbrels on one stem. There is always something new to learn! 

I saw the first Showy Orchids of the year on Camphill land on Sunday. If you keep an eye on the ground along the trail through the woods, you might see this charming white and purple peeking out from under the other foliage. Columbine are dangling about knee high. Wild geranium are light purple spots on the green. 

If you were to go out to the boggy areas you could still see Early Yellow Coralroot, Strawberries and Raspberries blooms, and Bunchberries! The Showy Ladyslippers have started to come up in towers of leaves, but no flowers in sight yet. Higher up in the bushes are the Chokecherries, although most of the apple and plums are gone already. 

I was blessed with a tiny vision of blue, flitting around a small meadow. Stalking it with my camera I managed to get a shot of both the upper and lower sides of the wings. It was a good thing I did, because identification would not of been possible with just the upper blue side. It is called a Silvery Blue! And here I had been discounting the little blue butterflies all as Spring Azures! Now my walks will slow even more as I try and stalk elusive butterflies and dragonflies, in hopes of identifying them. Pretty soon I will just be at a stand still out there!

Go out and just breathe. Life is good in the woods!

Silvery Blue Butterfly

Silvery Blue Butterfly

Where The Wild Things Are- All the Violets

Violets. Lots of violets. There are eleven different ones that grow in our part of the universe. I am sure that there are seven different ones in the village. As I explore more this spring I hope to confirm that number and perhaps add to it. The downy yellow violets are the easy ones. They are the only yellow ones we have here. Of the white varieties, I have seen two of the three. In the woods on the east side of the land, east of Prairie Wind, there is a carpet of Canadian White Violets. On the other side of the river, the Small White Violets are tucked in on the north side of a hill, tiny in comparison to the others. There is one other white kind, Sweet White violets, which are very similar to the Small whites. I need to peer closer at some of those! 

That leaves the biggest group, the blue/purple violets. Keeping in mind that some of those can also have white blossoms also, there are three main ways to tell blue/purple violets apart. The most obvious is location. Some thrive in dry places, some in wet, most in the shade. The second is the presence or absence of a beard. Fine little white hairs on the side petals. A magnifying glass is handy at that point. And then there is whether or not the flower is on a stem by itself, or on a leaf stem with other leaves and blossoms. 

So I have a "cheat sheet" that I am carrying with me. It lists the basics of violet identification. If I still don't have a positive ID I can at least get a good photo of the parts in question and try to sort it out when I can blow them up on the computer screen. So far I have seen (this year) Marsh blue, Northern Bog, Dog, and Common violets on village land. I have seen Prairie violets just north of here on the prairie by Midway Gas. 

Other new blooms out there...Blue Cohosh, Naked MIterwort, Three Leaved False Solomons Seal. The complete list is in the shed on the white board.


Where The Wild Things Are- Wild Spring

It's been a wild spring so far. With the weather so changable nothing is quite what is "normal" for the season. The flowers are getting a slow start. The lilacs not even blooming yet! The bellworts are blooming in the deeper woods, along with Wood Anemone and Wild Strawberry. The bloodroots have almost gone already, and the jack in the pulpits are just starting. If you walk in the woods you need to pay attention to see the violets, hugging the ground. The path by the bridge has a lot of them and will for several weeks. 

The other creatures most affected by the weather are the birds. I am having an Oriole explosion at my feeders the last few days. They normally pass by in large numbers, but this year the cold and rain have stopped them from moving on. They love grape jelly, and if I don't have enough out there, the battles begin! Oranges are also a favored food, and a scattering of orange halves litters the ground under the feeders. Rose Breasted Grosbeaks have come back, looking for seeds. The hummingbirds have been hitting their feeders also. There have been many sightings of Scarlet Tanagers this year, along with Indigo Buntings. You normally do not see them in any great numbers, but this year they seem to be much more visible.

It is the time of the year when my walks slow way down. Between scanning the trees for warblers and trying to see what has sprung up out of the ground, I feel like if I move more than a step at a time, I will miss something! I am peering constantly at the developing leaves, trying to remember which plant had leaves like those, guessing what it might become. Temptation to mark specific plants and photograph them every week or so to watch their progression is kept in check only because I don't have markers, yet. 

It is a great time to be out there. The mosquitoes are not yet out in number. You can see through the foliage yet to check out birds and things in the distance. Wood ticks are out, but not much worse than any other year. I find ticks are far more common in the long grass than in the woods. So go for a stroll along the roads. Wander along cattle paths. Put on your boots and walk upstream, or down in the creek. But stay off the river, it is still a bit on the wild side!

Sessile- Leaf Bellwort

Sessile- Leaf Bellwort

Where The Wild Things Are- The Push to Grow, Bloom, and Create Begins

Spring is officially here. Pay no attention to the need to wear your winter jacket and hat. It is spring. The bloodroots prove it! After searching high and low, I finally found them in abundance, down by the river. The other flowers won't be far behind. Hepatica, Leatherwood, Violets. Small leaves are poking up through the dried leaves. 

The Yellow Rumped Warblers are flitting about the trees, snatching up almost invisible insects. The swallows are competing for the nest boxes along the road.Sandhill Cranes are strutting about the fields. The songs of various sparrows, the pounding of the woodpeckers, the soft coos of the mourning doves fill the air. 

There is an aliveness to the woods that has been missing. An urgency permeates the fields and wetlands. This is the time! Now is when the push to grow, bloom, create the next generations begins. 

As the summer unfolds, I will keep you appraised of what is blooming, migrating, and hatching out there. There is also a giant white board in the machine shed, where I will be documenting the latest blooms, showing where you might find them in the village wilds. I hope you schedule your time to allow you to experience first hand the wonder that is nature in the village!


Where The Wild Things Are- The First Warblers Have Come

The snow has (mostly) melted. The temps seem to be warming everyday. Rain has brought a hint of green to the fields. I think it is safe to say...spring has come! The first flowers are blooming, if not in the village yet, at least close by. Pasque Flowers are crowning the hill by Midway gas. I have seen Marsh Marigolds, ready to burst, along side ditches a couple miles away, even though I haven't gotten near the marshes to check in the village yet. I did see a few dragonflies on the wing, migrants moving with the south winds. 

Hepatica and bloodroot will be the next to show, popping up out of nowhere. The first warblers have come, yellow rumped warblers, darting through the air for invisible bugs. I also saw tree swallows in constant motion as they hunt for food. Some where on the village land lives a Northern Saw Whet Owl. I have heard it calling in the darkness, but have yet to see it. The other sound filling the air is the frogs, calling from every pond. 

Even though there is hardly any foliage to be seen, I did find, deep in the woods, the leaves of the Shinleaf plant. It is in the Pyrola family and I have not seen it before. Now that I know where it was last year, I will be haunting that area in June to capture a photo of it in bloom! Another one for the records of Camphill.

I hope you get out there and just enjoy the beautiful weather. After a long winter it is so good to just be outside!

Where The Wild Things Are- When Life Returns

Could it be? Could it really be spring? Tuesdays snow/sleet/rain/sunshine made it hard to tell, but it looks better from now on. The Sandhills are calling, the Bluebirds flying. I took a trip, only an hour or so west of here, and witnessed huge flocks of Snowgeese and Trumpeter Swans, struggling against headwinds. Greater Whitefronted geese were waiting it out in a flooded field, I estimated over 400 birds in that field alone. Here the flocks are small and scattered. The lakes are still frozen. The flooding on the river provides open water, but the currents are strong and more than most travel weary birds want to fight with. But the Kingfisher has returned to fly up and down the river, staking his claim for the summer. 

The only green out there is a few leaves left from last fall. Some plants produce their first rosettes in the fall, and then, when spring comes, they take advantage of the early sunlight to get a start before others can shade them out. Round Lobed Hepatica are one of these. They will be blooming soon, just blossoms inches off the ground, later more leaves will form. Pasque flowers are blooming in southern Minnesota already. I haven't had a chance to check on the local ones, but maybe this weekend I will get out there. They are hard to spot, fuzzy brown bits, close to the ground.Then pale purple flowers, also hugging the ground. 

When I get out in the woods I will be checking for the leatherwood blooming. It's tiny yellow flowers are some of the first in the shadier areas. 

There was a woolly bear caterpillar crawling along the road as I walked this morning. A few minutes later I saw a small moth flitting around. Yep. I do believe that it is spring. Get out there and enjoy it while it lasts!

Where the Wild Things Are- The Sounds of Spring

Spring is slowly starting it's appearance, but the snow is deep and will take a while to disappear. So what can we look for now that will speak of spring? Blackbirds! The males should be showing up in our area shortly and their calls will be loud as they fight over the best nesting areas and establish territories. The females are a couple weeks behind them. 

The other sound to listen for would be the sandhill cranes. It is hard to believe that they will come here with snow on the ground, but they are already in southern Minnesota. Their loud calls will give them away before you see them stalking around the muddy fields. 

I have been hearing and seeing ravens. They will also be searching for territories to nest. I think they might have nested in the pines (or that area) by Susie's cabin. Pay attention to where you see them the most, and we might be able to close in on the nesting area! 

My favorite sound of spring is the sound of running water. Small trickles, slow drips. I equate it to the thawing of the world and the return of life. Just sitting on a convenient fairly dry rock, eyes closed, face to the sun. The sound of melting winter soft in my ears. Could there be a better spring tonic?