Moments of Wonder in an Unusual Spring

Surprise encounters with bee swarms and birds amid an out-of-the-ordinary season.

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by Joanna Will

Our spring was long and slow, compared with most I’ve experienced here in rural Osage County, Kansas. The flowers were late, fruit trees seemed confused, bees swarmed early, and rain was plentiful. All of this added up to an incredibly lush and temperate May that was marked with a couple of interesting first-time experiences and a modification to the seasonal patterns we’ve become accustomed to.

Bee swarming season came on with a vengeance in May, and within a two-week period, we captured and re-homed several feral swarms and a few from our own hives. Incredibly, I was sitting deep in the bee yard one afternoon observing what I thought were scout bees investigating one of the new hives I’d built. There were sufficient bees entering and exiting the hive that I wondered if some small group had moved in.  Then, quite suddenly and to my delight, a swarm began arriving in full, coming from the creek bottom about a mile away. Thousands of bees swarmed around me and landed on me, directing the rest of the group to the hive. And for about 10 minutes, I experienced the joy of observing a large, feral swarm move into one of my hives all on its own.

Around Mother’s Day, Joanna and I were happy to see that the Baltimore and orchard orioles had returned in spite of some serious weather that had taken out a couple of trees where they normally nested. And then we noticed, for the first time at our place, that orioles were visiting our hummingbird feeders. So, we put a little orange marmalade on top of one of the bird feeders, and wow. It was well-received. I headed off to the wood shop to find some scrap material from which to fashion a proper oriole feeder, and within an hour, there were many orioles — male, female, and juvenile — in the trees around the feeder, and taking turns on it. We placed a bowl of grape jelly and an orange cut in half on the feeder, and within a couple of hours, the jelly was gone — about 4 ounces of it. We were ecstatic and continue to delight in oriole antics as I write. To date, we’ve counted more than a dozen of the birds on and around the feeder at the same time. And many pairs are nesting in the trees around the house and in our woodlots. We go through almost 30 ounces of grape jelly each day!

In spite of the anguish and discord that makes up our everyday world, we remain grateful for the small gifts and wonder that nature provides us on a daily basis. If you’ve noticed any odd wildlife behaviors or any other out-of-the-ordinary natural phenomena this spring and summer, I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to send me an email at, and we’ll try to include a few observations or experiences in an upcoming issue.

See you in October,