What You Can See on March 22
Submitted by Ted Williams on Wed, 03/22/2006 - 11:33.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Hard Drinking Woodpeckers East of the Rockies, yellow-bellied sapsuckers are moving north as sap rises in some 250 species of native tree favored by these furtive, medium-sized woodpeckers. Listen for the drumming courtship duets of both sexes and watch for the horizontal lines of squarish holes, all pointed slightly downward so as to collect sap. After a sapsucker has excavated a tree, it will leave to work on another, then return and lick the sap with its brush-like tongue, tilting its head back as if swigging beer. Describing one feeding bird, 19th and early 20th century naturalist John Burroughs wrote: “Then, when the day was warm, and the sap ran freely, he would have a regular sugar-maple debauch, sitting there by his wells hour after hour, and as fast as they became filled, sipping out the sap.” Yellow-bellied sapsuckers guard their holes, squealing angrily at other birds and chasing them away. You can occasionally attract them with suet, peanut butter or even humming bird feeders; and they will nest in bluebird boxes. Delicious Breath Unfresheners As mountain folk have long known, wild leeks are good for warding off rheum, ague, chilblains, collywobbles, and, especially, neighbors -- unless, as so frequently happens, all the neighbors are eating them at once. Breath fresheners they’re not, but leeks -- called “ramps” or “rampscallions” in the southern Appalachians where whole towns turn out for ramp-gathering/eating festivals -- are generally said to be the most delectable of all onions and garlics, wild or domestic. What’s more, they’re rich in Vitamins C and have the same capacity for reducing cholesterol as garlic. Striking green against the drab forest duff of early spring, these lovely, orchid-like members of the lily family abound in the deciduous woods of eastern North America. Look for the flat, rubbery leaves in moist, shady areas. Any doubt about what you’ve found will be thoroughly erased by crushing a leaf and inhaling the strong onion odor. Leek leaves and, later, their bulbs are superb in scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, soups, and casseroles or as onion substitutes in any recipe.