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Naturalist Notebook

Reviews and journal entries inspired by nature in West Central Illinois.
A Spring Walk

A Spring Walk


It is now approaching the end of May, and the trees have filled out, and the nests have been built and new life born this spring is emerging to explore the world. I will never tire of watching this story unfold year after year. In fact, it is why I choose to live in this part of the world where seasonal changes are more dramatic. There is joy in anticipating the changes to come from season to season.

Spring always surprises me with new discoveries. Sometimes it might be new birds not seen here before or perhaps a new wildflower. On today's walk around the property, new finds were plentiful.

It was one of the most active mornings I had ever witnessed at the bird feeder. A Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Rufous -Sided Towhee and a Baltimore Oriole were at the feeder all at once. It was quite a colorful arrangement! Like a bouquet of flowers gathered together. Our resident Barred Owl was also very vocal for such a bright morning. I detected the voices of more than one.

On the trail along the creek, I spied a doe in the tall grass. She got wind of my dog and me and catapulted out of there. I am sure she will return and would not be surprised if a little one will be with her. The oxbow part of the creek has been their favorite birthing area.

Further along the creek I was surprised by a big old snapping turtle out on one of the silt islands in the middle of the water. I haven't seen one this large for many years. For the first two or three years I lived here, turtles have been observed coming up the hillside from the water to lay their eggs. Their numbers have been gradually declining for reasons unknown. Perhaps the flooding cycles have disturbed their behavior. There have been significant floods the past three years. So it is good to see big ones like this are still around.

Walking out into the timber my dog stopped suddenly to sniff the air and again to my surprise when I looked up into the trees there sat a big old groundhog barely hanging on to a thin branch. I don't know how the branch held, but he was hanging on to avoid meeting my dog up close! We moved on quickly.

Circling back around past the prairie, I saw that it is growing rapidly and has a diverse collection of plants in it. Not all desirable but it will be great for the butterflies later. I observed a small wildflower in bloom that I had never seen before. A delicate little thing called Prairie Ragwort. I have seen this in small colonies along the roadsides but never here before, so this is a new one to add to the list.

Out along the back pasture fence, I saw that Bluebirds had successfully set up a nest in one of the boxes we made for them. I hope I see the young ones soon. There are also many Bob White Quail in this open grassy area. They can give you quite a startle because they don't fly until you get right up to them. They are interesting birds with their characteristic top-knot.
The majestic male pheasant was very vocal this morning also. I could hear him nearby in a small grove of trees I passed. I've seen the female several times too, so there has been much activity in their world this spring.

Returning to the house, I reflected upon what I had just witnessed and was thankful for this opportunity to observe and enjoy the sights and sounds of spring.

Rose Moore – Master Naturalist Intern
May 28, 2017

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