Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spring Continues

In another three or four weeks we should start to see bluebirds in Newcomb. They are already nesting and laying eggs along the Champlain Valley, but here in the Central Adirondacks things are usually a few weeks behind.

So, in preparation for the arrival of our bright blue thrushes, I was out cleaning and soaping up the ceilings of the nestboxes on the bluebird trail put up by High Peaks Audubon on the High Peaks Golf Course here in town. We have eleven boxes on the golf course and every year at least two have bluebirds in residence. Last year we lost all the babies just before they were due to one knows why. Other nestbox users we get are wrens (nestbox full of twigs), chickadees (nest of moss - very sweet), red squirrels (box packed with grasses - have removed two nests already this last week), and wasps (ugh). We found several wasp nests from last year in the boxes and scraped them out with a spatula. This is where the soap comes into play: supposedly wasps will not build nests in boxes where soap has been applied to the ceiling. So, armed with my bar of Ivory, I set out to soap the boxes on Friday. All went well...until I ran into the nest that already had a wasp checking it out. I immediately left the box and went to soap it's companion box, giving the weapon-laden insect a chance to vamous. When I returned the wasp was gone and I applied the soap with gusto. We'll see what happens.

Meanwhile, Saturday morning while Toby and I were on our walk, I saw my first mockingbird of the season. I never hear them up here like I used to the four and a half years I worked in NJ - there the mockers were like fleas on a dog - very common. Up here, though, I think they are more of a novelty, at least in our town. The lone forsythia bush at the end of my street was putting out some yellow blossoms on its lower branches, a sure sign of spring.

But the best sighting of the day came late in the afternoon while I was wrestling the wrototiller across the lawn (in theory tilling it up for more veggie beds). In my peripheral vision I saw Toby dash down the side of the yard toward the back fence. I looked up to see what had caught his attention just in time to see what looked like a white hankie being dragged across the grass and through the fence: an ermine! This was the first all-white weasel I have seen! Now I can't say for certain if it was indeed an ermine (short-tailed weasel) or if it was a long-tailed weasel: it was moving too fast for me to see the tail. And if it hadn't been still in it's white winter coat, I never would've seen it at all! I'm hoping it takes up residence near the yard because when the snow melted I saw the depredations of last summer's bumper crop of rodents: a vast number of vole tunnels all over the lawn (and chew marks on several shrubs and apple tree branches). So the weasel is welcome to hunt there whenever it wants. It can even bring it's friends and relatives; the more the merrier!

Snow is in the forecast for this week, and rain. We need the rain, but I can live without the snow. All this balmy summer-like weather has put me in the mood for gardening, and one can't really put in one's veggies when there is snow on the ground.

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