Sunlight on tree trucks melts snow in a Clayton County woodland

In between . . .

The calendar says it’s officially still winter.

But red-winged blackbirds and robins have returned to the Turkey River valley.

Chickadees and cardinals and tufted titmice are whistling their spring love songs.

Some bald eagles are sitting on eggs. (Check out this amazing live nest camera!)

Ice chunks lay stranded on riverbanks, and a few mini-icebergs drift downstream in water muddied by runoff from bare fields. But the snow is melting – even though the forecast calls for a fresh blanket in the next couple of days.

It’s the in-between season.

A great time to experience the annual thrill of the first northbound flock of geese or the return of the song sparrows.

But also the time of year when you watch the weather map apprehensively, wondering when the inevitable March blizzard will smack us in the face with a dose of Iowa reality.

In the woods, trees absorb enough of the increasing daily sunlight to melt holes in the lingering snow, leaving circles of brown earth and leaves around each trunk. In most of the woods, though, the deer and turkeys still have to dig for acorns through the soggy, slushy white that’s accumulated since last November.

The deer also have pawed the hayfield hilltops, where the wind and sun have vanquished the snow. But it’s still too early for any fresh, green alfalfa.

The sap should be rising in the maples. Time for our neighbor to hang buckets on the tree-trunk spiles to catch the clear, sweet liquid. It’s a BIG job to collect enough sap for a batch of syrup – so we’re especially grateful when our friend arrives at our door with a big grin and a bottle of homemade maple delight.

We watch the sky for the first turkey vultures, check the creek for great blue herons, and listen for the plaintive cry of a killdeer. But despite the anticipation, we vow not to be TOO surprised to wake up to another blizzard!

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