Wildlife: How I almost missed spring

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After an absence of two weeks, I'm back. Because I heard from so many of you (thank you for the cards and emails), I thought an explanation was in order.

On the last day of February, I woke up feeling weak and sick. I suspected a stomach virus. The next day (March 1), my wife took me to the emergency room. My gall bladder was severely infected, and two days later (March 3) it was removed. My surgeon told me it was "dead."

I came home on March 5 and have been recovering ever since. That meant lots of rest and virtually no outdoor activities except walking up and down the driveway. During that time we had several snows that limited my activity even more. Finally earlier this week, the sky turned blue and the thermometer reached 60 degrees. I stepped onto the porch and listened for signs of spring.

The first sound I heard was a male eastern bluebird. Its subdued warble actually put a smile on my face.

Then I heard the first eastern towhee of the year -- "Drink your tea!" I hadn't seen or heard a towhee since November.

Then the loud triplet of a Carolina wren echoed across the backyard, "Tea kettle! Tea kettle! Tea kettle!" I was relieved to hear that it had survived the winter.

When my wife saw me wandering around the yard, she reminded me, "You're supposed to be taking it easy."

I worked my way back to the porch and listened for another 30 minutes. I heard Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, and song sparrows. Overhead two turkey vultures kited from west to east, perhaps in search of a road-killed deer.

As I took all this in, it occurred to me that I had almost missed the final transition from winter to spring. To truly enjoy and appreciate nature, we must experience it. It recharges the soul and actually made me feel better physically. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature sharpen the senses. I'm so grateful to have recovered in time to see spring arrive.

Biologist, author, and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 8 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) or online at http://tunein.com/radio/WVLY-1370-s23555/. Visit Scott's web site www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at sshalaway@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.

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