It’s Easter Sunday as I sit down to write today, and what a gem of a spring day it is. If it weren’t for the deadline of getting this in, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here at the computer! We’ve been gone for a week to meet our third grandchild out in New Jersey. Little Chloe is doing well, as are her parents. I walked the mile to church this morning and was pleased to note that the first purple martins had arrived back at the apartment boxes I maintain for them at Nevada’s SCORE Park. I wish I could say the same for our back-yard bluebirds. Some difficult-to-discourage English sparrows moved into both bluebird boxes while we were away. I’ll have to be more determined to kick them out than they are to build nests. The bluebirds won’t have a chance if the sparrows are allowed to become well established. It’s liable to be a battle of wills well into May.
This a time when some of us develop a seasonal condition that might be best described as being vertically cross-eyed. I can’t just take a walk this time of year trying to stay moderately aware of where I’m going. One eye must be scanning the tree tops as the little green buds begin to open into leaves and flowers. That’s were some of nature’s most dazzling creations, woodland warblers in their finest spring plumage, will often show up. They’ll be flitting around looking for the tiny insects and larvae that fuel their migration to more northern breeding areas. Most will pass through within the next month before the trees reach full leaf, but a few species will nest in our better wooded areas. There, too, will be the gorgeous neotropical migrants that include some of our favorite (and sadly most threatened) summer birds. Orioles, tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks and more will be arriving soon from their wintering areas in Central and South America.
While one eye scans high for birds, the other must watch carefully among last fall’s leaves for the emergence of the all-too-brief parade of woodland wildflowers. Some species bloom for little more than a week, and nearly all must complete blooming and seed development before the woodland canopy fills in and takes away the sunlight. It’s a time I certainly look forward to and I cherish those scattered times that I can get away and try to take it all in. It can be a bit frustrating, too; even when I’m out enjoying the woods. There’s always a nagging feeling that I might miss a passing bird while studying a flower, or visa-versa. At least the flowers hold still a little longer so I get the chance to see most of them if I don’t get into too much of a hurry.
There are a few spring chores that are important not to forget. Be sure to apply your new orange boat registration tags before you hit the water. See the county treasurer if you don’t have yours yet. They’ll be good through the end of April, 2022, but your old tags expire at the end of this month. While you’re at it, check to make sure you have a new 2019 fishing license. Some of you may have “matured” to the point of being eligible to purchase a lifetime license. I bought mine a couple of years ago. Remember that any adult licensed angler can take any number of unlicensed youth anglers fishing until they’re 16 years old.
My 11-year-old grandson is an old hand, now, but I hope his 3-year-old sister will catch her first fish this summer! Your boat and trailer have probably been in storage all winter, so make sure the trailer license sticker is up to date, too.
There are no corrective lenses to ease the discomfort of vertical cross-eyedness, but it’ll go away once the wildflowers and spring migration are over. That’ll be all too soon!
Steve Lekwa is a former director of Story County Conservation.