Going, Going, (almost) Gone!

Finally! After eight months with measurable snow on the ground (at least off and on at the beginning), we are about to see the end of the stuff (at least mostly - I've seen it snow July 4th) - for about four months! Looking at it that way is depressing so I'm not even going to go there!

Don't get me wrong. I love snow! I love the look. The feel. The sound (or lack of). I like to play in it. On it. With it. I don't dread winter. I really don't. But, I have also lived my life in places where spring follows winter. Seasons in their proper order and succession. This year has challenged that!

However, I am thankful to report (and to remind myself) this is not the norm. In fact, one old timer from Island Park, Idaho (just over the Continental Divide to the east) - a man who has lived all of his 80 plus years in the same house - says he has never seen pastures ungrazable into the middle of May. Eighty years! Sounds like global warming to me (okay, I digress).

I am thankful, truly I am, for the great water year. The record snow pack combined with the snow's strong moisture density provided a LOT of water for our thirsty ground. However, if we had experienced a quick warm spring melt, much of that water would have run off down the valley to - well, eventually to the Gulf of Mexico.

As it is, there is very little water 'running' anywhere. Oh, the streams are flowing nicely, but even they show little sign of run-off. I'm speaking more specifically of water traversing down roads, in ditches and divets, across ground surfaces which normally do not feel the tickle of running water.

This slow spring coming has allowed the ground to absorb the melt. As one man said (of the snow in his own yard), "It hardly seems to settle. It more like melts back from the edges." Although we've finally seen a lot of 'settling', I observed the same phenomenon in my own yard. Shrinking snow soaking the earth's sponge.

On the other hand, I wonder how hard this slow spring is afffecting wildlife. Take the birds. Many have returned to the valley - bringing with them their lively activities and their cheery voices. However, with the snow receeding slowly, I wonder if they don't feel hunger pangs?

Call me soft. Say I think too much. I purchased a bird feeder this weekend. I have avoided putting one up (dispite the pleasure I get from watching the feathery friends who visit my outdoor diner) because they are considered bear bait by some. This year I couldn't help myself. And, maybe I was right. In little more than 24 hours, various little birds (Juncos, Finches, Chickadees, and more) have nearly wiped out 5 pounds of bird seed. So, either they're gorging themselves, or I was right.

Of greater concern, however, are nesting issues. Without adequate food, the birds dare not nest (although I've seen eagles and ospreys hard at it). So, with a short season here in the mountains, will my flighty friends have time to reproduce? I wonder.

Maybe worse yet is the larger animal's plight. While reproduction may be a real issue for some birds this year, they migrate. So, logically one wouldn't expect them to out distance their food source. Larger animals, however, are 'trapped', to a degree, in an area. Although they move up the mountain as the snows melt and the grasses green up, I do wonder if the elk, pronghorn, and deer will make it to their typical calving and fawning grounds before their 'time' arrives. Will they be driven to seek that sheltered nursery regardless of the weather conditions? If so, will they find feed for their own needs and those of their new offspring?

I'm glad I can rest assured God will care for His creatures. Otherwise these little details would keep me awake at night. But, I believe He cares for them much more than I do. So, I'll put out some more bird seed and hit the sack with a clear conscience!

Lady of the Lake

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