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Saturday, March 29, 2014

SPRING IS HERE, I HEAR


It's been one of the longest coldest winters I can remember.  We didn't have any blizzards, but just steady snow day after day, with bone-chilling temperatures in the vicinity of -17 for weeks at a time.  This is really unheard of.  Usually you get a few days like that per year, but not long stretches of misery.

So last week when it finally appeared that spring might be making a few cracks in winter's icy grip, I decided I wasn't gonna wear my winter coat anymore, just my Bears hoodie.  I had to do my part to let winter know we weren't gonna sit there and take it anymore.  Consequently I've been pretty cold lately.


Today it was in the upper thirties, and sunny, so I thought I'd head up to Big Hill Park in Beloit to look for Skunk Cabbage.  As you may know, Skunk Cabbage is the harbinger of spring.  It's the first plant to come up each year, and generates so much heat as it grows that it actually melts the snow around it.  It's a weird, fascinating plant.  It grows in low-lying wet areas, and at Big Hill Park there's a little swampy spur of land that juts out into the Rock River, and it's a perfect spot to find Skunk Cabbage.


The road down to the river was stilled closed for the winter, so I parked at the top of the hill and worked my way down the slope to the main path, which winds its way along steep wooded hillsides with beautiful mossy rock outcroppings.  The path was clear and wet in places, and ice and slush still coated it in areas where it ran through shadow.


Finally got down to the bottom, and, sure enough, the floodplain along the river was dotted with Skunkers.  They were mostly still closed up, but on a few here and there the bright yellow spadix was visible through the leaves.  So that means Spring is here, or at least around the corner.


(In the backyard the feeders have been covered in Goldfinches, in their tan winter plumage, and just in the past week or so their heads have started to show the change to the bright yellow that they'll sport throughout the summer.)

View of the Rock River, from the top of the hill

On the way home from the park I stopped at the dam to look for Bald Eagles, but I didn't see any.  Now that the river is mostly unfrozen I guess they don't need to hang out at the dam much anymore (they stick around in the winter because the rushing water prevents freezing, and thus maintains their access to fish).


Then back home where I filled the feeders and chased the dogs around the yard.

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