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Spring’s appearance, first on fringes, begins to overload the outdoors until the entire expanse is too much to comprehend at once.

For the first time all winter, a round of nearly 100 American robins gathered for a drink and some morsels in a watercress spring in eastern Iowa County. The first spring robin in a drab field is just a robin but when the background is florescent green with herbs, spring’s depiction is bold.

Count the ways to say spring with birds. Killdeers, red-winged blackbirds, sandhill cranes, meadowlarks, grackles, eastern bluebirds and cowbirds push for space among the early, big bird nesters high upon the trees. Owls and eagles are well on their way to recruiting another generation.

Swamps, marshes, ponds and lakes are teaming with waterfowl. Some settle in, others have a while to go before they rest and nest.

White and blue buckets, bags and tubing mysteriously appear as the snow turns liquid and vapor. One in a hundred sap buckets seem misplaced hanging from papery white birch bark, but the sugar bush staff finds refreshment is drinking the sap rather than boiling off 100 gallons of water to get a gallon of thicker syrup. But with the many maple species, 40, or fewer, gallons will make one of syrup.

While the flower buds atop the red maple trees are expanding, the tree’s bole is awaiting freezing nights and sunny daytimes to create a flow. Anything different shuts the faucet until the right combination of cold and sunshine reappear.

The tree’s natural openings bring wildlife in great numbers, including squirrels, woodpeckers, deer, skunks, opossums and raccoons. They lick or wick up the sucrose-laden sap. Many birds are waiting for the yellow-bellied sapsuckers to drill holes, and then steal, but these early drinkers take advantage of bark cracks, snapped limbs and pruning scars.

It is not beyond some homeowners to drill a few holes and simply allow the sap to drain out for the animals to enjoy, sort of a fountain feeder, if you will. Throw in a freezing night now and then and the animals, sometimes the homeowner, too, have a sapcicle to enjoy.

The MacKenzie Center in Poynette is home of the State Game Farm, where the new pheasant hatchery staff will cut a ribbon on March 20 and be ready to incubate and hatch enough eggs to raise about 75,000 ring-necked pheasants for release this autumn in time for the Oct. 13, 9 a.m. season opener on public and private parcels.

The Wisconsin Hickory Association is promoting shagbark hickory trees in the state with help from a special crop grant and then teaming with UW-Whitewater’s Fiscal and Economic Research Center to conduct a feasibility study. Visit the nutters web site at

The hickory is a close relative of the pecan.

The Wisconsin Deer and Turkey Expo is within days of releasing its seminar schedule for the April 6-8 expo in Madison. Visit for more details. With the later opening of the turkey season and particularly the youth hunt, this date will be less of a conflict.

The DNR’s updated Chronic Wasting Disease response plan details are available on the Department’s web site, Updated information on the Deer Predator Study, now in the second year, is also posted on the DNR website.

Collaring goals for 2018 include 200 adult deer and 100 new fawns to be born in May and June. While trapping and collaring deer are greatly dependent on cold, snowy weather, there were several stretches of ideal weather during February when about half the goal was captured. Coyotes and bobcats are also being collared and tracked using modern GPS systems.

With the mild weather in late February and early March, deer have become active; feeding on what has been uncovered with snow melt and are continuing to feed on dried oak leaves retained on marcescent trees, particularly those in the red oak group.

Regardless of how low temperatures drop until March 20, the first day of spring, or how much temporary snow piles atop the fields, most spring indications continue to hold firm. Daffodil shoots do not retreat; marsh cabbage still smells strong, and animals’ spring mindsets move forward, not back.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or 608-924-1112