2011.02.26 Search for spring

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I heard a dove singing one morning last week. I saw a bluejay, heard a cardinal, watched geese overhead and listened to the grackles singing a new song.

I even heard a bob-o-link singing last week at work. I was so puzzled that I went outside to find it. I came back in scratching my head, only to hear a great horned owl. That’s when I discovered that my recording of the city council meeting had ended and iTunes moved on to a recording of bird calls.

Until the ice arrived, I thought maybe spring was on the way. Here’s a search from March 1991.

Ben was the first one into the cockle burrs. Rosanna grabbed a greenbrier vine and later got caught in a raspberry bramble. All of us got wet from the rain. Yet, in summary, I would have to say that a good time was had by all.

All of this happened late Saturday afternoon. Remember how hard the wind was blowing? I thought it would be great to walk along Bean Creek and watch those big cottonwoods sway.

How my memory fails me. I forgot that all the big trees were cut down a few years ago. The wind was still whipping through what’s left over. The hackberries are good for wind noise and so are the honey locust with all those spines sticking out.

I thought about taking this hike all day, but I never had the chance to leave until just about the time the rain started. Ben checked the wind chill chart and discovered it would feel like 30° out there even though it was 20° warmer. We suited up and took off into the wind looking for signs of spring.

The first clue came right behind the mill. Sure, the mill has been gone for 20 years, but many of you know where I mean. We scared up a kingfisher out hunting the illusive quill-back carpsucker.

Back when Steve Begnoche worked here, he wrote a story about a DNR survey of fish in Bean Creek. One of them was the quill-back which I believe is listed as a protected species. One of these years Adam Johnson is going to get his wish and Morenci will become famous for its Quill-Back Carpsucker Fishing Tournament. Adam will probably be arrested by conservation officers.

Ben thought he found a skunk cabbage sprout, but it was a false alarm. We did finds remnants of the last season—and old Indian cucumber seed pod blowing in the wind, carrion flower clusters bouncing around, some bladdernut fruit still clinging to a branch. 

We reached the old drainage creek and the excursion became more interesting. Cattail shoots were appearing in the water and a few water striders were skimming the surface of the stream. Ben spotted the larva of something in the the water that reminded him of his now defunct sea monkey collection.

Rosanna was clinging to my hand as we maneuvered along the muddy embankment. If she fell, I knew she would take me along for company.

It started raining too hard to see much in the water so we headed on down the path with Ben in the lead. It was so windy that we couldn’t hear each other walk and he kept turning around to see if we were still there. Back a few years ago, I stepped behind a tree and Ben thought I was gone. He probably hasn’t trusted me since.

The whole family walked down here a month ago and every time the path neared the creek, Maddy would yell, “Don’t throw me in! Don’t throw me in!” What a reputation I have.

A pair of geese flew over, then circled and passed overhead again. Rose found a muddy buckeye. Ben swung on a grapevine that broke in mid flight. I refused a request to cross the wet log over the creek and instead we headed back to town. It was beginning to feel as though it really was 30°.

It was the third day of spring, but that was more of a calendar event than a natural one. True, it’s getting light a lot earlier in the morning and the birds are definitely singing a new tune, but it’s still rather chilly and inactive.

But wait, what’s that sound? We’re back near the drainage creek again and I think we can finally hear spring. The woods are starting to get loud. It’s not the wind this time, but the frogs. The peepers are up and around. Spring really is here.

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