Sunday, March 14, 2010

The good, the bad, the trashy

The signs of spring are mounting. My final avian sign of spring arrived today: the Eastern Phoebe. I'm amazed at the timing of these sweet little birds. March 15th, give or take a day or two, is when they come back to our woods. I've been straining my ears for them for days, and when the sound finally rang true this morning, it brought a little tear of joy to my eye, and certainly made my heart skip a beat. It still remains to be seen, though, whether they will reuse last year's nest. It's getting a little tall, since it was already reused last year - they pretty much built a new nest on top of the one from the previous season. I'm not sure if there's room for yet ANOTHER new nest on top. Interestingly, a Carolina Wren has expressed interest in the nest and has started reshaping it a bit, so we'll see what happens.

Speaking of nests, we put the Bluebird boxes out in the field across the road today. We removed them from their winter home up here on our wood shed, dusted them off a bit, and hung them out in hopes that we'll have a good nesting season.

Last year wasn't so good: not much interest in the boxes in general, and the one nest attempt that I'm aware of did not end well. What it must be like to birth and raise your children so out in the open like that, with so many predators around - I would think it to be quite a stressful time. I wish them health and safety if they decided to use our boxes this year.

Once the boxes had been hung, I took off into the woods to see what I could see.

Lots of seed sprouts. Don't know what the plant will be, though!

There was also a very cool tree that has obviously encountered some strange stresses to be growing like this:

It looks like the trunk split in two and then twisted around itself. As I got closer to it, it started to look like something else, though...

This view looks to me like half of a face of a Barn Owl.

Unfortunately, my walk in the woods was not all about cool and pretty things. It doesn't take long to spot trash by the creek.

This 5-gallon bucket came in handy... for containing some of the other trash that I found.

Dave and one of our neighbors did a pretty major clean-up of the creek a couple of years ago, and they hauled out a lot of tires. There's still a few back there, though.

I really wanted to get at this stuff, but the water level looked to be a little deep at this point, and since I didn't have my diving gear on, I wasn't going to chance reaching for this flotsam.

Standing back a little ways shows even more trash, including the mother lode: a plastic tricycle (it was too small to be a Big Wheel). I'm sorry to say that there are some folks who live way upstream from this spot, clear on another road, and their yard is always full of trash, so I wouldn't be surprised if at least some of this floated down from their place. Not to mention that people like to just dump stuff in the creek every once in a while. You know, 'cause it's fun. Sigh.

I don't want to end this post on a sour note, so I will also share some tracks that I found in the sand and mud.

Not the best impression, but you can easily make out the 5 fingers.

According to my research on the interwebs, these are raccoon tracks. The track on the left is a hind foot, and the one on the right is a front paw.

All of these tracks were made on some fairly uneven ground, and I'm sure the coon had to dig in quite a bit just to keep its footing, so claw marks show up pretty well.


RuthieJ said...

Jeez Heather, all that trash is so disgusting! It's the same around here in a lot of places when the snow melts every spring. Glad the good sightings outnumbered the bad!

Monika said...

Wow, I wasn't expected THAT much trash. Yuck.

Keep us posted on the phoebes - that was so cool last year!

Erica Houskeeper said...

It must have been upsetting to see all of that garbage strewn around. Makes me so mad!!! On a happier note, I love the animal tracks, and the photos of the bird boxes are wonderful.

Meg said...

Well, at least you guys are picking the trash up. Imagine if no one did it.
I love the raccoon tracks! Ooh those guys are pesky, but they are so dern cute and crafty.
Re: the woodcock, no I didn't see the nest. John found a turkey nest last spring, though, with nine eggs in it!

Ginnymo said...

So nice to see spring coming and little sprouts starting to show. I hate it when people throw their trash all over. What a mess it makes. Great shots of the paw prints!!

David said...

I can guarantee that most of the trash came from that place up the road. I saw that big-wheel outside their trailer a few months ago. Several years ago an upstream neighbor filed a complaint with the Sheriff or Health Dept. about their use of the creek as a waste disposal system.

We'll get in there and bag it all up like we do every year. By and large I think the valley has stayed very clean since our first big sweep.

Heather said...

Ruthie - Yes, it certainly is disgusting. I often wonder how old some of the trash is... sometimes it looks ancient! The 'coon tracks more than made up for the yuckiness, though.

Monika - That mess of trash is nothing - I should take a photo sometime of a dam that has built up along the river that runs through Athens... LOTS of trash there! Still not sure what's going on with the Phoebes, but I will definitely keep you all posted.

Erica - Litter is a discouraging thing. Always makes me wonder why people can't be more responsible.

Meg - We always mean to take a trash bag with us when we go for walks over there, but we usually forget, so we only pick up the trash sporadically. But it's better than nothing. That's really cool that John found a turkey nest last year!

Ginny - I was pretty excited about those sprouts (and the tracks)!

Dave - I was trying to give those folks up the road the benefit of the doubt, but I'm sure you're right, especially given all the trash in their yard and the fact that they are right at the creek's edge. I agree, though, that for the most part the creek has stayed pretty clean. You guys did a good job.