As summer approaches, we’ve been enjoying the usual abundance of wildlife that keeps us company here on the farm through the warmer weather.
The goose babies are growing fast and they are beginning to show signs of their adult feathering. Unlike most years, they’ve spurned hanging out at the first pond and the willow-shaded, grassy spot along one edge of the waters. Instead, they seem to prefer a bare spot alongside the big pond.
Frequent passage and parking of field equipment on the grassy area has apparently disrupted their preference for that usual haunt. One thing is for sure, we don’t have to watch quite as closely where we walk. On the other hand, enroute to the meadow we find ourselves having to weave around a maze of tractor tires, hay rakes and sprayer booms.
A bluebird perches atop the newest house most mornings, hopefully a sign that there’s a hatch underway beneath his feet. After constant squabbling with tree swallows over dibs on the newest birdhouse, the bluebird seems to have come out victorious. Likely, the tree swallows resigned themselves to a nesting spot in, well, a tree.
I’ve longed for years for a flock of wild turkeys to settle here among our fencerows and woods, even though we know they’ve become crop pests on numerous farms where large flocks gather and gobble. One turkey was actually spotted here several weeks ago, near the far end of the dairy barn, but we’ve yet to spy any ourselves.
A video that our grandson, Caleb, shot on his phone from a site on nearby rented fields while he was planting there, captured the racing gait of two hen turkeys sprinting out ahead of the tractor. So I keep hoping for a couple of turkey residents to settle in the neighborhood.
Roly-poly groundhogs try valiantly to make up for the lack of turkeys, despite varied efforts to keep the hole-digging, soybean-stalk-gobbling rodents at a minimum. Our few permitted groundhog sharp-shooters continue to make dents in the population, but the woodchucks seem to be about as prolific reproducers as rabbits.
On occasion, we are thrilled at random sightings of some of nature’s more elusive creatures as they pass through the yard, meadows and fields.
A small, yellow-green bird working its way through the fuzzy blooms of the willow overhanging the first pond puzzled me as I spied on it a few evenings recently The busy bird was just elusive enough to keep moving, yet stay somewhat hidden among the willow foliage, making it difficult to get a really good look. It was a warbler, specific type undetermined, we finally decided, probably headed somewhere north and dining on the willow’s seeds on a prolonged rest-and-refuel stop.
Most of spring, I’ll cross paths with at least one warbler somewhere between the house and the woodlot, most frequently among the thick foliage of the field-road fencerow. Spotting one flitting in the willow tree overhead was a welcome first.
The Farmer spied a much, much bigger bird a couple of weeks ago, while a friend and his son were here fishing for bluegills. He caught sight of the large, feathered form as it aimed at the first pond, then dove straight down toward the surface. Only once before did we have the honor of a visit by an osprey. Apparently it somehow got the memo that fishing was on the agenda here for that Sunday evening.
And, almost as unusual was a sight that caused me to do the proverbial double-take one dewy morning last week. Walking down through the yard, a shape in the lush grass beyond the split-rail fence caught my eye. I’m sure my mouth fell open in surprise when I realized it was a medium-sized snapping turtle, parked there on the grass, perfectly still.
After watching the motionless turtle for about a half-minute, I realized it was probably a female laying eggs. The nearest edge of the pond was probably a good 25 yards away. Late last summer, I’d found a quarter-sized baby snapper near the edge of the pond; likely this was the same turtle momma, returned to the same nest area.
I summoned The Farmer to come and see, and we stayed at a distance so as not to disturb the plate-sized turtle. But when I returned from a quick walk to the woods, she was hustling toward the water. I fervently hoped it meant she had completed her task and had not been interrupted by our spying on her.
Every day spent outside here on the farm is an adventure of sorts. And I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until I run across the several snakes Caleb keeps reporting seeing in the area.