Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him c/o Katie Rohman at email@example.com.
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Also from the cattails comes a weird booming gurgling sound. I stop to listen to it again. This noise often described as lumber pumping comes from another member of the heron family, the American bittern. Different descriptions of the sound from this cryptic bird are given, but I like "oonk-a-lunk" or "bloonk-anoonk." The bird gives this call several more times. Like other vocals on this May day, the bittern is proclaiming its territory and seeking a mate. Normally solitary, it uses this sound to get attention. It is hard to see and when I finally do find it, I need to separate it from the surrounding swamp growth. Though more than 2 feet tall, their bodies are almost entirely brown.
Like many in the Northland, I maintain a bird feeder near the house.
Migrant songbirds are arriving in such numbers that when walking here, we see new ones each day. Most active and abundant are the variety of warblers. The several species here now will swell to about two dozen kinds of many colors in a couple of weeks.
It's late April, and the pace of spring happenings has been speeding up.
We can, and often do, get snows, some rather substantial (nearly 51 inches in April 2013) or none (April 2010). We do get the expected April showers, which can morph into thunderstorms accompanied with hail. Strong east winds can make us think that this spring month feels more like one of winter.
I have been watching a male turkey fan his tail and display to an audience of females during this past week. Until recently, he has been silent, but now the dawn is punctuated with a forest gobbler. And during the same walk, the guttural calls from overhead alerted me to the presence of a migrant sandhill crane. It took several walks, but I finally heard the sound that I have been trying to hear each morning for the past week: the drumming of a ruffed grouse.
Like a couple of the previous months, March showed quite a difference between the first half and the second.
Looking out now at the feeders, we see more than just the regulars that wintered with us. In addition to the juncos, there may also be purple finches (sort of a "red-headed sparrow") feeding on the seeds. Other finches might include goldfinches, pine siskins and there could be some north-bound tree sparrows.
Recently, as I moved about in the basement, I paused to look in a corner — something that we normally pass without a glance. This time, I observed it more closely and with the aid of some light, I discovered a complete spiderweb. It took a little more searching to find the owner, but back in a tunnel-like site, it sat still. The web shape and size gave it away as being that of a funnel-web spider.
Early March 2007 gave us a "good old-fashioned" blizzard of nearly twenty inches with wind and drifts. But a mere three years later, March 2010 came and went with no snow and the snowpack that we had melted. I paddled on the lake by the end of this early spring month. Perhaps we are more inclined to remember the extremes which are impressive, but "normal" March itself is quite impressive.