If you love the outdoors, there are probably some activities you like better than others. Maybe it's trout fishing or deer hunting. My passion is birds. I love the spring migration when new species return almost daily.
I especially enjoy seeing species I've never seen before. Adding birds to my "life list" is a competition with myself. Last year I added mourning warbler to the list.
But what I love best is finding active bird nests, especially those in nest boxes that I have built and put up. When I check my nest boxes for the first time each year, I almost get giddy with anticipation. It's difficult to describe, but I suspect the feeling is similar to the excitement anglers feel on opening day of trout season or deer hunters feel on the first day of buck season.
A few weeks ago when I checked my boxes, I approached each one slowly and quietly, just in case a female was on the nest. The first three boxes I checked contained freshly built bluebird nests, each with five eggs. The cup on the nest in the fourth box contained a dull blue form. The female was determined to not be disturbed. So I closed the box and walked away.
In other boxes I found Carolina chickadee and tufted titmouse nests. Each contained six eggs, which the female had covered with a layer of nesting material to hide the eggs from more dangerous visitors.
Over the coming weeks I'll checks these nests two or three times a week to monitor each nest's progress. I'll watch naked, helpless hatchlings transform into adult sized fledglings in fewer than 21 days. And I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that if I had not put up the boxes, these birds might not have nested. I will have made a difference, and that's worth getting excited about.
My wife also enjoys watching our nest box tenants grow and mature, but her passion is morel mushrooms. She starts getting antsy in early April.
"Think we should check for morels, yet?" she asks on the first nice day after her early April birthday. Finding morels on her birthday would be the ultimate gift.
When I found this year's first morel right in the yard, the bug bit hard. A day later we were in the woods searching Linda's favorite spots.