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.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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