Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring in the High Country

There are so many signs of spring in the high country but one of the first is the frost heaves on the gravel county road. We had never lived in an area of high surface water; where springs and seeps appear in all kinds of places including the road. All winter long you don’t notice them because the road is either snow covered or frozen but come spring these underground water courses start forcing their way upward. One minute you are driving along on a rough but dry section of county road and the next your vehicle is sunk down then throw upward as you pass over a frost heave. It’s a time of year when seat belts earn their keep. As the weather continues to warm and the moisture from the springs and seeps spreads out, the frost heaves slowly disappear and we are back to just rough gravel roads.  Ah, spring!

Spring also brings the return of the birds. The first to arrive are the male Mountain Bluebirds and we find them along the county road leading to the post office. The females show up several weeks later and together the pairs will start searching for nesting locations. Next are the male red-winged blackbirds. In the past we often have a flock of two dozen or more at our platform feeder singing their wonderful songs of spring. This year we only have a couple of lonely males and I’m worried. What could have happened to the rest of the males and all the females?

The final early spring birds are the meadowlarks and my favorite, the spotted towhees. The meadowlarks sit on the fences singing the most beautiful song of spring while the towhees spend most of their time  scratching in the duff and leaves under the trees and scrub oak brush. They are tireless workers looking for bugs and grubs. This year’s record tick crop should keep them well fed.

Over the last few weeks my daily walks have led me through the forest to the sounds of the male Northern “red-shafted” flicker drumming away on the hollow dead trees. These sounds are meant to attract females – hopefully it is going well. How they don’t end up with bent beaks and a bad headache is beyond me.
As spring moves into summer, many more birds will arrive to the diverse habitat of our place.  But it is the early birds of spring that bring the hope of another wonderful year.

One last note – thanks to everyone who said they really enjoyed the story of “Inky the barn cat” ( ). We have a wonderful update. After twelve plus years living alone, either at the barn or in our old cabin, Inky is now a full-fledged member of the household. In December we moved him from the cabin to our study and spent the next several months giving our two indoor adopted feral cats the chance to get acquainted with Inky. We are happy to report that the three of them get along just fine and Inky is now a house cat.

Years ago we fenced off about a half-acre adjoining the house with seven foot high fencing. The plan was to keep the kitties safely in the yard and the deer out and it has worked well. It’s a beautiful area with big cottonwoods, aspens and oak plus my flower and veggie gardens and the small greenhouse.  The three cats are spending more and more time out there as the weather improves but before it gets dark, they are back inside asleep on the couch.