They say “the early bird gets the worm” and so this past Saturday as I arrived with the warm early morning sun at my back I headed into the Pipestone Creek Property where I was thrilled to see that this expression was true. A pair of tree swallows were nesting in the nest boxes near the gate and one stood sentinel on the sign to make sure I wasn’t getting too close. He greeted me with a quick fly over and little screech. A warning.
My Mother grew up on this creek and I nearby, so this property holds a special place in my heart. I find a lot of joy in, and passion for; all that dwells there and today I was not disappointed. The little spruce saplings planted last year were reaching out of the still brown grass to hopefully become shelter and a home to some form of wildlife. It’s promising to see the future here.
The air was filled with the sweet sound of songbirds that have recently arrived (yellow warblers, gold finches, flycatchers etc.) and the small pond hosted a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds and the frogs of course had to join in the symphony. It was musical and alive and healthy. Old snags and brush were home to a pair of robins and I could hear a woodpecker inside a hole in a tree rustling around in there. The air around the pond smelled of earth and growth and again it holds life, sustains life and contains the future generations of these species.
As I move on the pathways I hear off in the distance the familiar childhood sound of a Ruffed Grouse thumping for a mate and of course the Canada Geese honking as they fly over heading towards the lake. Ant mounds are rising up from the ground too and they become massive condos housing food for birds and one colony has actually dug a trench in the path and is moving to a new location I assume. Outgrown the mound. The new green leaves and flowering shrubs are utilized by a beautiful Swallowtail Butterfly, soaking up the nectar and warming its wings. As I approach the hill above the creek and pass by the nest boxes I see so far; only one little wren near a box. They don’t usually arrive ‘til later, but he must be anxious to get started. Waiting for the ladies to arrive. I had cleaned the nest boxes in March so they have a clean start for the new family. I also see evidence of a porcupine feasting on a willow.
Finally reaching the hill top overlooking the winding creek I take in the beauty of the valley below me. It is magnificent, open and beginning to green, and the trees reflecting on the water remind me of why nature is so grand and I volunteer to preserve and protect her. I was lost in the sound of a bird nearby that ended up being a Gray Catbird and it was singing for all its worth to attract a mate, when suddenly a loud sharp splash shook me out of my shoes and there it was, a huge beaver in the creek warning of my approach. Everything stopped! It was quite amazing how quiet it became for a few seconds, then the catbird started up again and a hawk left its perch across the creek from high atop an evergreen and soared through the valley.
Continuing along the path through the trees and shrubs and open areas, the wild flowers, buffalo beans and little strawberry plants and wild purple pansies popped out of the brown forest floor. Bees and dragonflies and even mosquitoes and flies were abundant and each on a level of the food chain that keeps the cycle progressing. Wild grasses were doing their best to find the sun and new buds and bright green new leaves made a full palette of color and design. Spring was alive and well at Pipestone Creek this day and when I left 3 hours later I was again reminded of why we do this. I can’t wait to see how the future looks here. I will keep a close eye. And so was the Tree Swallow as I departed. I leave them in Peace at the Pipestone!
By Susan C. Kokas, EALT Volunteer