Northland Nature

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Superior Telegram

Geese & Swans In Open Water

Like a couple of the previous months, March showed quite a difference between the first half and the second. While the average temperature in the beginning was mid-teens, that of the latter half was mid-30s. Subzero readings with snowfall happened at first, but neither prevailed.

The snowpack was quite impressive — up to 3 feet in some areas — and dropped to about a half-foot by the end. (“In like a lion, out like a lamb.”)

Migrant flocks of Canada geese and trumpeter swans rest in open water on an early spring day. Photo by Larry Weber

All this weather change combined with longer amounts of sunlight, especially after the vernal equinox, and we saw many spring happenings. Some years, this new season will arrive without us hardly noticing, but not this year.

Though we do not have the floods that some parts of the country have, we do have plenty of melting and other changes now as we begin April.

Tree catkins with pollen are forming on alders, hazels, willows and aspens. Silver maples are opening their male and female flowers on the twigs of these large trees. Early crocuses and dandelions are opening in the sunlit sites. The local chipmunks are back in the yard during the day while raccoons and skunks come by for nocturnal visits.

And we see some migrants. While driving in the region recently, I noted a bald eagle overhead and a northern harrier flying above a field. Flocks of crows let us know of their presence as do some new ones at the bird feeders. Joining the wintering birds here are a couple of early spring migrants, purple finches (looking like red-headed sparrows) and gray juncos. But there is more.

A few flocks of robins have arrived, mixing with those that wintered here. During an early morning walk a few days ago, I heard and then saw a singing red-winged blackbird. Its “conk-a-lee” song is always a welcome sound at this time. And it told me that if this migrant of the wetlands has returned, so maybe another one is here, too.

Going out again at dusk near an alder-willow swamp, I listened and yes, I heard the “peent” call of the courting woodcock, another terrific sound of the new season.

Other sounds are easier to hear. Each day, I hear calls from Canada geese as they pass overhead looking for some open water. With lakes still holding an ice cover, they seek sites on rivers.

Stopping at the St. Louis River a week ago and…

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