Saturday, April 18, 2020

Red Fox in April Snow, and More Sights from a Very Long Early Spring

I'll get to the fox in the title by the end of this post, but first I'll share some sights from what has felt like an especially long first part of spring. I'm sure some of the reason why early spring has felt so long is the fact that I'm now home all the time, and every day seems like an extension of the last. But spring also started pretty early this year, and it sure is taking its time to progress.

On the night of March 19, a Spring Peeper showed up on our doorstep as if to say "Hello, it's spring now!" and we heard choruses of these little frogs starting up the next night. This was way earlier than last year, when I didn't hear or see any Spring Peepers until April 5. Here's a picture of this year's early spring herald:

Also on March 19, I was surprised to see Ramps pushing up through the leaf litter in our woods, again a good two and a half weeks earlier than last year:

Wood frogs also got an early start this year, gathering in the pool in our woods and making their quacking sounds way back on March 13 (compared to April 6 last year). Here's one of these frogs floating in the pool on March 26, and staying silent as long as I was there:

While some of our plants and amphibians got an early start, the birds arrived back in our yard this year pretty much right on schedule. It's so wonderful to see so many birds again after they've been absent all winter. I was happy to admire this handsome Song Sparrow up close on March 27 as it and a few of its fellows sang from various corners of our property:

On the morning of March 30, I woke up to the wonderful discovery that our pair of Eastern Phoebes had returned -- they seemed confident and comfortable hunting insects from our back deck, so I am assuming that they're the same pair who has nested at our house for years. Welcome back, phoebes! The male spent some time sitting right outside our bedroom window and loudly announcing his presence:

On April 13 -- amid soaking rain and soggy ground -- I watched the female phoebe gather mud and moss from our yard and fly it up to her usual nesting spot above our front door. The weather hasn't been great for nest building since then, and she hasn't made much progress yet, but it's a start:

On March 27, the Silver Maple tree next to our house looked beautiful in full bloom and backlit by the afternoon sun:

And on the same day, I came across a White-tailed Deer who wasn't expecting to see me emerge from the woods:

The deer got some impressive height as it bounded away:

On March 30, a male Wild Turkey displayed for a few foraging females in our meadow:

White-throated Sparrows have been stopping by our yard in recent weeks, and this brightly-costumed individual looked just too perfect in the midst of a forsythia bush with its emerging yellow flowers:

A couple of Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers have been hanging around the yard as well. Here's the male on a pine tree that bears the marks of many past sapsucker visits:

These birds have made such interesting patterns on this bark, and the resulting textures provide such a wonderful backdrop for the bird himself:

A storm last night brought a few inches of heavy, wet snow. When I woke up this morning, I was surprised, first, by the white stuff covering every surface (this isn't very spring-like!), and then surprised again by the rusty red animal moving through the white meadow. A Red Fox!

We see foxes only rarely during the day (much more frequently at night on the trail camera), and this fox was quite close to the house, so this was an exciting event indeed! What a treat to see this animal so close and just doing its thing. (Please pardon the blurriness of many of these pictures, which I took through windows.)

The fox criss-crossed the meadow and yard, clearly on the hunt:

About half an hour after I first saw the fox, I spotted it again in the meadow, and I witnessed a successful hunt: A precision pounce into a clump of snow-covered grass, and the extraction of a plump vole. Hooray, good job, fox! We have a robust vole population in our yard, if the extensive tunnels throughout the grass (which were exposed when the winter snow melted) is any indication. The fox then moved back through the meadow and yard, stopping at a couple of spots on the way to gather something... which turned out to be more voles that it had caught and cached while I wasn't watching! That's quite a haul!

A quick stop for one more vole buried in the snow:

Got it:

Groceries obtained, the fox headed off our property, presumably to a den of hungry kits somewhere nearby:

Best of luck with your family, fox. Maybe we'll see you around again sometime!

And here we are, still in the early stages of spring. This morning's snow is now entirely melted again. The Bloodroot flowers in our yard are so close to opening, and they've been stalled at the closed-bud stage for days now. We saw a few Spring Peepers and an American Toad out and about on a rainy upper-40s (F) night back on April 7, but we still haven't had the first big amphibian night yet (last year we saw salamanders and more on the night of April 12). It looks like we'll have a stretch of warmer weather coming soon, though, and spring will certainly continue. I'm dreaming of new-green leaves on trees, flowers everywhere, and May birds.... All of that will be here soon enough. :)