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Periodical events worth watching. too
ring-necked pheasant
Seeing and hearing the first ring-necked pheasant crow is special.

We knew gun deer hunting was a big deal when it drew close to 600,000 participants, and many times more observers, for the opener this past November 18.  That doesn’t hold a rifle to the millions who are ready to skip whatever it is they might normally do on Monday April 8 at 12:50 pm to watch the beginning of the solar eclipse of the sun.

For planning, using Madison, Wisconsin as a home base, the beginning is 12:50 pm, maximum eclipse is 2:05 pm, and it ends at 3:19 pm; essentially1 pm to 3 pm.

Instead of looking at the sun, an outdoors person might consider focusing a camera on a flower that normally closes when the lights go down, or find a Bald Eagle feeding fish or a squirrel to her two eaglets, or a gobbler’s reaction to the sun “going down,” or even a mother muskrat bringing her litter out for their first evening swim and vegetable picking at an abnormal dusk time.

          We’ve already been inundated with warnings to put the chainsaw ear protectors on in late May when the 17-year periodical cicadas begin singing. 

PJ Liesch, director of UW-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab on campus says “This is indeed our big year for our Brood XIII periodical cicadas.  They’re likely to be popping out (from underground) in late May with peak activity in June.”

Some of the most die-hard outdoors persons, while avidly interested, are not sure there’s time.  Brent Drake, in Boscobel, Wisconsin will be minding his Tall Tails Sports and Spirits store.  

Many of us may have seen and heard this event only once, if ever, during a lifetime.  Without warning, on some a May 2004 day, I heard what turned out to be this insect, without warning, for the first time on a neighbor’s property.  I crossed the line fence to find out, and came back and drove down their driveway; camera attached and was rewarded when one landed on my hand.

One would imagine the records would report what’s happened in the past, but Liesch found otherwise.

“Our overall record of specific locations in Wisconsin is not good,” he said. “I'm trying to get a better picture of where they occur and in what numbers. This winter I've been combing through old newspaper columns, government bulletins, and other resources to try and piece together precisely where they occur.  Many of the old records are only at the county level, which doesn't narrow it down all that much.”

It’s either then or maybe never because the next event will be 2041.  I’ll be 100 by then but am likely to miss 2058.

Firsts, or special events, even season openers and first appearances of the year are special to a nature enthusiast.  

Doug Williams, at D W Sports Center in Portage, Wisconsin, has already witnesses Bald Eagles catching fish and squirrels for their young.

Spring is known for happenings, when something first blooms, pasqueflower on a dry prairie or an Upland Plover returning and perching on a grassland wooden fence post, or a morel pushing oak leaves aside, or maybe not and going unnoticed unless the leaves are carefully combed away.

As an alarm, look the scarlet cup fungus before morels.

Many of these events, unlike the solar eclipse, are not at a specific time and date.  When we find the first morel depends on when we start looking; could be as late as early May, too.  It’s events like this and finding a bedded fawn or a blooming orchid, which are contests of our own making.  

License renewals, counter turkey authorizations, fishing trout with bait, taking several fish home, and enjoying free fishing weekend are set for us, if we find pleasure in being first.

After a branch trimming episode, I learned that walnut trees leak sap and in some cases it’s collected as maple and birch fluids for syrup.

The timing of some events is directly connected to day length and others to overall temperatures, which has for decades been making flowering earlier in the year.  In some cases we have become the “canary in a coal mine” and are best able to document the event by sore eyes and dripping noses.  

Start treating spring as a tour to see what is, has been, or is about to burst, bud, bloom, or be born.