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  • Dale Bowman

First duck & checking off: Ramble with the Lady

The first duck since the ice came whistled off near dawn. I think it was a wood duck by the sound of it--I could not see it in the half light--when it flew off the the east side of the north old clay pit.

Wood ducks are one of my favorite birds. In part because the males are so dramatic looking. And in part because I am old enough to remember when they were in danger.

For the last 10 days or so, I have been going down the checklist of spring's arrival and checking off things. The first duck is pretty far down the list and that is a good thing.

I survived one of the harshest Februarys on record without sliding down into the motionless quagmire.

Robins arrived heavily over the last week. The racket of robins in trees and hopping around any grassy area filled the air as Lady, our family's mutt, and I set off. There were so many robins flying around in the near dark that Lady snapped at a few flying low past us.

Cooing of mourning doves floated all around, too. That is another big change, how many doves have returned.

A free-ranging cat, one of those slaughtering machines, roamed through yards behind the bus barn. Lady did not see it. I am sure the cat is ramping up to take advantage of the arrival of all the birds.

After crossing the side rail separating town from the wildness of the town pond, another checklist item came. This morning had the most red-winged blackbirds I heard yet trilling around the north old pit.

It was another morning cold enough (mid-20s) to freeze any leftover mud and standing water, so we stretched out an extended ramble. I was rewarded by dawn coming spectacularly as we came off the far end of the extended ramble.

Speaking of checklists, the north pit is completely ice free. The south pit, the deeper but smaller pit, still is four-fifths covered with honeycombed ice.

A woodpecker--I could not find it to tell if it was a red-headed or not--hammered away on the dead tree on the southwest corner of the north pit.

Back on the edge of town, a barn pigeon cooed somewhere on the big grain elevators. Usually if there is one pigeon there are at least a dozen. Not this time, maybe it was setting up a nest.

Back downtown, the sun, which had completely risen, caught us square as we turned down Station Street. Lady and I cast long shadows. It is good to cast a long shadow.

A dove whistle-fluttered to the peak of city hall.

More doves whistle-fluttered off from the feeder by the neighbor's yard.

Sounds and lights of spring build.

Oh, add colors, too.

A vividly red male cardinal fed below the feeders on our front porch.

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