15 March 2021

Signs of spring in the Midwest

On my way to the library this morning, I heard bird calls coming from the sky.  In recent days we've heard the first honkings of Canada geese, but these were different - they came from a couple dozen Sandhill cranes.  The closest I can come to describing the raucous call is if you can imagine the grinding sound of wooden axles on Conestoga wagons.  Example here, although that call of warning from the ground may be different from the one in the air.  Another example, from the website of the International Crane Foundation, which is not far from our home here in Madison.

These calls are loud - probably audible for a half-mile or more (which is probably the point of uttering them), and while not melodious are still a welcome sign that the seasons are changing.  We have a front moving in from that storm that pummeled the Rockies this weekend, so I suppose these cranes are aloft seeking air currents that will carry them further north to their breeding sites.  They are not in aerodynamic vees here, but are perhaps in the process of descending or ascending or just getting organized for their migration.

First robin in our yard was earlier this week, as was our first butterfly, on a 60-degree day, when a Mourning Cloak fluttered by as I did yard chores.

(photo from a previous spring, to illustrate the dorsal colors and the underside camo that resembles tree bark)

These Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) incredibly overwinter with us, surviving temps to -20F hidden in some woodpile or under tree bark or in an unheated shed etc, ready to emerge as typically the first BFs of the year.  They emerge before flowers are abundant as nectar sources, so have to rely on leaking tree sap for their sugar sources for energy (these were feeding on peanut butter I had spread on the bark).

My chores were the annual cleanup of the flower beds -

- with the right side done in the photo above (on my second barrel of leaf litter and old vegetation), and it required another barrel or two to get the bed almost finished -

But today that weather front propelling the cranes northward is bringing us yet another round of snow, so the garden will have to do without my ministrations for several more days.

Later -  *sigh*


  1. I long for the heat of summer on my skin, gone with this winter blues.

  2. I live in the South Okanagan in British Columbia. We hear (more than see) the Sandhill Cranes migrate each spring and fall. They're always so high in the sky. We are located next to a small extinct volcano and often they seem to use the warm drafts rising up from it to circle higher and regroup with any laggards. Their sounds are so distinctive!

  3. there is an app for that! :-)

    https://birdcast.info/ BirdCast - Bird migration forecasts in real-time



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