What a beautiful day! Blue skies, light winds, temperature climbing to 9 C. It pulled me out of my lethargy and pushed me outside to look for signs of Spring. They were abundant (over and above the temperature). There’s a nice loop trail in Cayuga: the Grand Vista Trail. You park behind the courthouse, the trail runs down from the lot and crosses the Grand River along a wonderful bridge, offering wonderful views up and down the river – NO ice by the way. Half way across I heard the soft bugling of Tundra Swans and looked up to find a flock of 10 winging their way WSW, heading for the St. Clair marshes(?). Northern Cardinals were singing from multiple perches and a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds went by (heading NE) eschewing their compatriots on the ground that were already busy staking out territories. [The trail continues on the other side of the bridge winding around and down into Cayuga and then back to the start; a distance of 3 kilometers. A walk I would highly recommend.]
Then it was on to the Farm for some Spring Cleaning. I was surprised that the pond was completely ice free and was being checked out by a pair of Canada Geese (probably potential nesters), 5 Mallards, and 4 Wood Ducks(!). Seems awfully early for Wood Ducks……Spring?
I’ve been trying to declutter the banding hut and give it a bit of a cleaning/sweep. I built a bit of a fire pit out to the side – looking forward to weenie roasts on nights I sleep over or a warming fire on early May evenings when I’m looking for Whip-poor-wills….or both. I also made a round of all the swallow/bluebird nest boxes and cleaned them out – my condolences to the few mice I ended up displacing. We’ve got about 16 boxes on the go, so lots of nesting options for them. Next time I’ll have to lug around a big pail of grease for the poles to try and deter predators (thanks Duncan for the lubricant).
Along the river bank I came upon a number of trees (Black Walnuts) that have recently been harvested by some industrious and enterprising beavers. I searched for a den but couldn’t find it. I wish they would take down the walnuts on the prairie side of the pond – it would save us a lot of work. And if only they had a hankering for buckthorn….
When I was approaching the river several large flocks of Canada Geese flew over, most high up. But a pair cruised by low. Out of the blue I heard 5 shotgun shots ring out and watched as one of the birds wheeled and dropped into the river. I was still about 100 m away and as I approached I watched the downed bird’s mate circle, calling and calling. Just before I reached the bank a speed boat made off upstream before I could catch a glimpse. The occupant(s) hadn’t bothered to get the dead bird, just left it. What was the point of this senseless act. I could see it if the shooter meant to eat it, but, obviously, that wasn’t the intent. The bird was just something to shoot. I don’t get it, I really don’t. [Also, is there a hunting season going on right now?]
Some of you will remember Loretta Mousseau. For a good number of years she banded with me and then decided she would take up grandmothering – at which, it seems, she is really good with 7(!) on the go. She and her husband Pat have a place about 2 km outside of York that they are managing for birds, and other wildlife. Loretta runs a number of nest boxes and has a small population of Purple Martins in the Spring/Summer. (If you get a chance, get her to describe how to feed mealworms to martins during dangerous unseasonable cold snaps using plastic spoons to shoot them into the air – it works!!) Anyway…..she had read somewhere that if you invert the front plate of a nesting box for the winter season it helps roosting birds keep heat in (heat rises…remember). Well, it seems that a Downy Woodpecker was having none of it. There’s only one way to enter a nesting/sheltering cavity and that’s from the top. Thinking about it, I could see how it would be much more difficult for the woodpecker to squeeze into the bottom hole and then go UP to find a roosting spot. So much for theory….