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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: May 17, 2018

The Sights and Sounds of Spring

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

Right now I am shuttling back and forth between Oklahoma and Wisconsin with high frequency. It is interesting to see the transition from nearly summer in Oklahoma to early spring in Wisconsin as I drive south to north; and my visit last week gave me a good opportunity to really take in the startling changes as the land and animals come back to life in my home state.

One of my recent visits was the day after "snowmageddon" in April. Our property in Wisconsin was buried in several feet of snow, and the woods were silent and sterile. The pond was completely iced over, and nothing stirred except a few hardy birds. The field around our barn was a blank slate with no tracks " leaving me in wonder how the animals even survive the long, dark and hungry Wisconsin winters.

This trip was totally different. Unusually warm weather prevailed; and I forced myself to take a 15 minute break from my frantic activity unloading in our barn to walk back to the pond. The trees were literally alive with birds, but what caught my attention was a sort of "island" of sticks a few feet out from the bank about 100 feet away. I was sure it was not there the last time I visited. Nothing moved, but careful study revealed a huge crane, probably a Sandhill, sitting on a nest. She had her neck stretched out straight, low, and unmoving, so that what I first took for a branch on a pile of vegetation, I slowly realized was an expectant mom, doing her best to escape my notice. I slowly backed away to leave her undisturbed, but I rejoice at seeing her, and I welcome her presence.

I drove from Central Wisconsin to Marinette, leaving early in the morning. I saw numerous wild turkeys in the fields and woodlots on the way. The males were doing their very best to impress the ladies; those ladies I was able to spot appeared to be paying little heed to this display. It is adaptive behavior, however, and interesting that apparently female turkeys like the sight of a rounded, puffed up male. Looking at pictures of human male fashion models, it is apparent the human ideal is a lanky, thin physique, just the opposite.

During my Marinette visit, I slept upstairs in my childhood bedroom. It was warm enough for me to need to open both windows, and as I fell asleep I noted the numerous animal night sounds. About 3 a.m. I was startled awake by loud, startling sounds I did not recognize. It was neither totally feline nor totally canine; it was certainly not a coyote, wolf, domestic dog or feral or tame housecat. I do not believe it was a bear; it almost put me in mind of what a Badger or Wolverine might sound like; but I can't be sure since I have never heard the calls of those animals.

However, my Mom is currently troubled by some nocturnal critter who has very cleverly figured out how to break into her steel birdfeeder. This birdfeeder has proven totally impervious to squirrels. But the last 3 nights before my visit she found it askew and pilfered. We know it is not the bear that previously dismantled such a feeder; it is something with more finesse but less strength.

The raccoons are strongly suspected; but they have not yet been charged. I looked up "raccoon vocalizations" and see they are noted for many varied vocalizations, so that's probably what woke me.

In the morning there was a sound much like a hard-working home builder rapidly pounding nails just feet from the house. The creature producing that sound is easy to identify " a woodpecker, and not some little Robin-sized woodpecker like a Downy or Redheaded. No, it was the spectacular, crow-sized Pileated Woodpecker " two of them in a tree. It is always a joy to see these primitive-looking birds " we had a pair at our home on Highway 180 and I hope these two stick around at my Mom's for viewing enjoyment.

I also watched three deer cruise through her backyard, so I waited to go outside until they'd melted into the brush.

My home in Oklahoma does not have much wildlife near it, because of a lack of cover. I am very excited to relocate, and have the kind of fun I had seeing my Wisconsin wildlife neighbors emerge from their challenging winter to flourish and thrive as the land comes back to life.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.




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