Sunday, April 20, 2014

Watching the morning? Count me in

By David Horst

TOWN OF HORTONIA — The annual International Crane Foundation Midwest Crane Count is a special morning for me, one I’ve shared with others only a couple of times.

Sandhill cranes are easily recognized by
their grey color and red caps.
This year’s count was April 12. With me — next to the abandoned house and weather-worn barn where I’ve done my counts for more than a dozen years — were Dr. Kevin and Candice Mortara and Kim Krzycki of Appleton and Jim O’Rourke of Green Bay. They are all people I’ve met through the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Paddles.
I have to say that standing outside for two hours early on a spring morning is not everybody’s cup of cold tea. To participate in the crane count, you must be at your assigned site by 5:30 a.m. and stay until 7:30 a.m. More than 2,000 volunteer counters at sites across six states are sharing your discomfort.
I like it because it is the one day of the year that I force myself to sit quietly and watch the morning come.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

We're not out of the woods yet

By David Horst

A beautiful moonset makes giving up the woods a little easier.
David Horst photo
I was beginning to wonder if we had taken a serious hit in nature sightings.

We had moved our hobby farm from a rolling oak-hickory woods to 18 acres of hayfield. We weren’t seeing the deer under the bird feeders. We weren’t being treated to the daily parade of turkeys through the backyard.

I was starting to miss the woods in a big way.

Then came spring.

While it has not been reflected on the thermometer, spring is here officially and, apparently, in the hearts and instincts of our wildlife.

The weekend before the March 20 change of seasons, we first heard and the spotted — high up in the sky — the return of the sandhill cranes.

Cranes carry considerable importance for us. We have called our place Sandhill Llama Farm since we fenced in a pasture in the Town of Hortonia 19 years ago.

The name paid tribute to the sandhill cranes feeding in the field across the road, the sandy hill on which we built our house and my fondness for Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac.” Our new soil is clay, so our very name was riding on the presence of the big birds.