Signs of springs are all around us now. The temperature has risen. Wild flowers are blooming, but birds are one of the signs I notice here above Sulfur Creek. I know each year by certain bird signs that spring is really here. For one, the little sparrow hawk or kestrel is missing from the telephone lines. The small hawk, who is actually a kind of falcon, winters here in our area and on south. This is a small elegant bird with distinctive markings on his head. The white question mark behind the eye and the black spike below it contrast with gray on top of the head. On the back and tail the bird is a reddish brown with faint black lines. They are graceful predators, eating mice, small snakes and an occasional small rabbit. They are beautiful to watch as they dive off the phone lines to catch an unwary mouse or large bug.
Another winter visitor that has moved on is the meadowlark. They have a back the color of dried grass and a yellow chest with a bib of black and white. When they fly they flash a white and buff wedge shaped tail. Their song is a beautiful warble that you don’t often hear when the birds are in residence here. They start arriving shortly after the first cold snap in the northern plains and stay until the warmth of spring penetrates to the grasslands of the Dakotas and Montana.
When I lived up north, I used to listen to the Western Meadowlark. They never seemed to sing while flying. They were always perched on a telephone line or pole or a fence post. I wonder where they sang before those things were used. Did they sing from the tops of Indian tent poles?
Trees are scarce where they range. I wonder if they used to sing on the wing and have lost the need now that the tall fake trees are so plentiful. The robins are another feathered visitor that has flown on by the time spring comes. Most of the cedar berries are gone and the nesting instinct calls them on north. Occasionally we can see the large geese and flights of ducks heading north. They will stop off on the lakes for a rest and then move on toward their nesting areas in Canada.
With all the warm weather, the crew are spending more time outside and more time checking for ticks before bed time. Bugs that bite are a sure sign of spring around here, but that’s another story.
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