The Lower Chippewa River valley was covered by a damp blanket of fog when I got up this morning. Around noon it looked like it would burn off, so I hopped into the Prius and headed north to the Chippewa River State Trail. I just had to find the hazelnut today.
I got as far as the Maxville School when I saw a skein of Sandhill Cranes fly over head. A dozen buglers. I stopped at the school to tell the kids to get outside and watch! Turns out they'd heard (but didn't see) them earlier this morning.
I got back in the car and continued past the farm fields into greater downtown Durand (population 1,968). I was just the sewage treatment plant when I noticed a big dark bird soaring up ahead. It wasn't a Bald Eagle - it was the first of the year (FOY 2010) Turkey Vulture!
By the time we got to Tarrant Park the fog had burned off and the sun was shining.
The trees and willow shrubs were full of Red-wing Blackbird males, alternately flocking (hiding their red shoulders) and then singing (flashing their red) to stake out the best territory in the marshes along side the trail.
Where were those hazelnut shrubs - full of filberts - that I photographed last fall? How is it that I could find a cocoon in the woods, but I just can't see a hazelnut shrub along the trail?
I finally found one on the walk back to the parking lot. What caught my attention was the solitary empty nut case hanging on the more familiar hairy twig.
The trick now will be to come back on the "right" day - when the buds burst.
The rest of our walk was uneventful. We pulled in to the driveway at our little farmhouse in the town of Nelson and were greeted with the sight of our National Bird, soaring overhead. We watched until it landed across the street, right outside my kitchen window.
As I sat down at the kitchen table and started to process my digital images, I looked out the window towards the river - and realized the prairie in the Chippewa River bottoms was on fire! I could see the white smoke above the tree line.
I have something to look forward to now: prairie grasses and wildflowers (and no weeds) blooming in May!