February 26th – Spring?

Still just February but the Farm’s pond is wide open – and sported 4 Wood Ducks: 1 female and 3 males!! -DOL

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.]

Skunk Cabbage emerging in the Farm’s wetland. -DOL

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).

The Grand River is wide open and ice free with water levels more reminiscent of late Spring. -DOL

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….

Wanton killing. What was the point!? -DOL

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?]

Downy Woodpeckers don’t like change. -LAM

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….

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