Well, it’s finally March. February is over at last. In March, one’s attention naturally turns to spring.
One of the best known signs is the robin. They are back. Although their scientific name — turdus migratorius — is somewhat less than flattering, it is hard to not cheer up when you see them in the backyard or hear their song. Although some of these birds do indeed stay around all year, they normally keep to the deep woods. Seeing them in the yard is a definite sign of spring.
Although I have yet to see one, I know that the bluebirds are back, too. If you want to attract them, there are countless plans online for bluebird boxes, or you can get them from the Game Commission. Putting up a bluebird box is not as simple as nailing it to a tree. Check online for the specs. Personally, I think that the indigo bunting is the most beautiful of the “blue” birds, but the regular bluebird is right in there.
Another of my favorite birds is the red-winged blackbird. The males are the first to arrive, and may very well be here by now. They get here ahead of the females and stake out nesting spots. Often thought of as swamp birds, they will nest anywhere, especially close to water. I have seen them many times along the Allegheny River. These birds have a distinctive, musical song.
By the end of this month, the belted kingfishers will be back in town. As there is a creek at the end of my yard, I get to see these guys fairly often, as they love to hunt for minnows. If necessary, they will dive totally underwater in order to snag their prey.
Now, for the peeper frogs. Of all the beautiful sounds in nature, I believe that the singing of the spring peepers is the most beautiful. When these tiny little critters decide to get vocal, it is truly sweet. If we get a few warm, rainy nights, we could very well hear them this month. There is an old, but interesting legend about peepers. It is said that they must sing, then look up through the ice, and sing again, indicating the end of cold weather.
For those of us who are anglers, but do not care to go icefishing, March brings a great opportunity to wet the first line of the year. The quarry, of course, is the humble sucker. Around here, the two main types of sucker are the white sucker and the hogsucker. Occasionally, a redhorse is caught as well.
Sucker fishing is sometimes referred to as “lazy” fishing. When you come right down to it, that term is not all that far off the mark. All you really need to do is rig up to keep your bait on the bottom, as suckers are bottom feeders, cast out, put your rod in a forked stick and wait for a bite. As far as bait is concerned, the only success I have ever had is with live bait. Mealworms, maggots and pieces of nightcrawler will work, but I have found nothing better than plain old garden redworms. Even a big sucker has a fairly small mouth, and the redworms are easy for them to eat. Although it is probably possible to catch a sucker on an artificial lure, I have never done so, and I don’t know anyone who has.
If you manage to catch some suckers, you are faced with the decision as to what to do with them. Some use them as garden fertilizer. Others, sadly, toss them on the bank to rot. As far as I’m concerned, the two best choices are to release them unharmed or take them home and eat them. The meat is white and delicious, but the countless little bones make them hard to enjoy. The solution is to pressure can them. This will destroy the small bones. It is a bit of a chore, but worth it.
Well, I hope this has made March a bit easier to tolerate. However “Beware the Ides of March.”