Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring in the U.P.: by Sunwiggy

Finally, Sunwiggy has consented to do another guest blog post detailing her birding adventures in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I think she was sulking about all the snow, but perhaps finally spring has traveled that far north?

I was going to title this guest blog, "Spring Has Sprung in the UP", but that would be misleading; in fact, it might even construed as a lie. Spring in the Far North is more like a sullen actress that has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, onto the stage, and then, at the first opportunity, dives back behind the curtain. This past weekend, April the 23rd and April the 24th, will serve to illustrate my point. On Saturday, the 23rd, we woke to snow drifting down past the window. A peek from the window showed us a whole lot of cold and hungry tree sparrows and juncos and pigeons, and one truly hysterical blue jay, jostling for space at the feeders, while one chipmunk and one rabbit waited for spills down below.

I wasn't about to let this revolting development change my birding plans, though. We were going out to Rice Lake and look for ducks. I figured, correctly, that it hadn't gotten cold enough overnight to refreeze an entire lake. By the time we set out, the snow had been replaced by fog and mizzle (very light rain). By the time we reached the lake, the fog had lifted and it had mostly stopped mizzling, allowing us to set up the scope. And what feathered wonders awaited us! We saw a common loon, and both hooded and common mergansers, ring-necked ducks (although the ring is on their bill, not their neck), mallard ducks, common goldeneyes, and, on a telephone wire, a very handsome kingfisher. What bliss. Of course, there were lots of gulls, one of my husband's favorite birds. Farther down the road, we saw a nice grouse, and regrettably exchanged some heated words, debating as to whether it was a ruffed or spruce grouse. The words got a little more heated when we realized neither one of us had remembered to bring along even one of the dozen bird guides we own!

The very next day, Easter Sunday, was sunny and warm and clear and just about perfect in every way. It got into the 60s! We talked our younger son into accompanying us on a trip to the Nara Nature Center. James, our son, is not a fan of birds or birding. Living, as he does, with a spoiled and cranky and LOUD sun conure, plus having to listen to bird talk 24/7, has given him an aversion to anything with feathers on it. When we invite him to come with us, I plan to hike more and bird less. It helps to ask him to take photos, too, which he's good at. Nara is great for birding. We started on the 3/4-mile-long boardwalks that extend through a marsh into Portage Lake. About 10 days earlier, we'd seen a pair of sandhill cranes and a great blue heron there. The prize Easter Sunday was a coot! Ms. Crow, in Illinois, had been reporting tons of coots, lolling around in lakes and ponds. One had finally made an effort, and reached us here in the UP! I have a special fondness for coots, ever since watching one rearranging her nesting material, in Illinois. There were other recent arrivals, too, tree swallows and flickers and song sparrows, among others. Ah, Spring at last, I thought.

And today, Monday the 25th of April, was another warm, beautiful day, as my customers kept telling me as I rang them up on the register at work. Alas, the rest of the week is reportedly going to be rain...mixed with snow. That old "wintry mix". At least they're saying there won't be any accumulation of the white stuff! Still, I'm catching on. It snows in springtime, it melts, and the crocus don't really care, and the birds slowly keep coming North. The ice has melted from the lakes and (most likely) will stay gone. Barring a blizzard, my next day off will see me out there birding again! Now, if I could just get up to the top of Brockway Mountain to look for migrating hawks, I'd be really happy! Maybe the road up there will be able to be navigated by mid-May! ...Sunwiggy

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