Left: Hundreds of ducks enjoying the February sunshine
While shoveling some melting ice on my driveway this afternoon, I paused to chat with my neighbor, a woman in her seventies who probably walks 8-10 miles a day in her retired occupation as a dog walker. JoAnne knows everything about everything and everyone in a radius of a half-dozen blocks, and she informed me that she saw tulips sprouting two blocks over.
Now, I should interrupt and mention that I am as impatient for the arrival of spring as any proverbial kid at Christmas, and my desire for the balmy winds of spring is magnified by the fact that we planted over 200 bulbs last fall.
Anyways, I did not find the sprouts in question, so I decided to take a longer break from writing my dissertation and saunter to the local park to watch the ducks. I counted over 210 in the flock that calls my neighborhood park its home (call me neurotic, but I count the ducks every time I visit said public space).
Ondatra zibethicus, hard at work
Equally active this afternoon was the largest muskrat I have ever seen in my neighborhood. This slippery rodent was busy terraforming the bank of the creek, likely in an effort to construct a new home. The muskrat tore away about thirty square feet of dormant grass and wildflowers to open up a muddy patch.
I have seen as many as a dozen of these creatures - members of the Cricetidae family - in the half-mile stretch of Tifft Creek that runs through the park. Technically, Tifft Creek is Tifft Ditch, at least according to the local water drainage maps, but I find "creek" to be a more accurate term for a waterway that gets as much as six feet deep after the heaviest rains.
Besides, who wants to ponder urban wildlife settings next to a "ditch"? That word conjures up rusty pickup trucks and empty beer cans by the side of some light industrial highway, at least in my imagination.
Left: the first tulips break through the semi-frozen ground
I trudged home in the 44 degree late winter sunshine, disappointed that I did not locate the sprouting tulips of whose presence my neighbor testified. Just for grins I decided to survey my own one-third acre of an urban double lot to see if there were any visible signs that spring is approaching, and that I would need to fire up the dehumidifiers.
Lo and behold, at least two dozen irises in my yard have decided to test the weather, dispatching light-green waxy leaves upward like a person might dip toes in a pool to test the temperature. Evidence of spring, it turns out, was only ten yards away from my workspace in my home office, yet with nose to keyboard I was oblivious to the new life that emerged overnight.
I declare spring to be in session!