Horned larks are messing with my eyes. I guess the birds were just hatched that way.
So while I fear to hear someone say the bluebirds are back, because I have not yet made bluebird box repairs, I turn my eyes to trying to see horned larks. That is, trying to see them before they alight from a crusty, dirty snowbank.
As March creeps steadily toward spring, as least for now, horned larks have shown up near the sidewalk between fields where I walk my dog and along the country roads I drive.
A horned lark is creamy white with streaks of tan and black patches on its throat, eyes and the tiny “horns” atop its head. And so, a horned lark looks a lot like the edge of the fields and the crumbling snowbanks in all their late winter shades of tan and dirty, spotted white.
Of course, this is where horned larks perch and peck at clumps of grass the snow plow blade left behind or the melting snow has exposed. I walk the sidewalk, or drive the road, vowing to see the larks before they fly.
Guess what? I don’t. Sometimes I’m incredibly close before the camouflaged birds — normally two or three of them — flit away on their undulating flight. I must look closer.
Horned larks are cousins of snow buntings, the birds we call snowbirds, the birds that whirl in wavy, silvery flocks along roadsides in winter. The horned larks show up in March, or as early as February, as was the case this year. In this area, March has the highest sightings of larks of all the months.
One of these days I will take binoculars along on the walk. While my dog investigates the mysteries of what winter is leaving behind, I will focus on glassing well ahead of us, hoping for a good look at a bird with horns. Good luck on that good lark.
Greschner is Rice Lake Chronotype sports editor.