Monday, May 9, 2011
Is It Spring Yet? By Sunwiggy
My guest blogger Sunwiggy has returned to tell of more of her birding adventures Up North.
It's beginning to feel like Spring up here in the UP! It hasn't snowed for...well, okay, there was a little bit of snowing going on last Monday, May the 2nd, but it's not like it stuck around or anything. And on last Saturday, April the 30th, we celebrated the arrival of Spring by revisiting one of my favorite birding places in Houghton County, the Paavola Wetlands. It's not real big, just 115 acres, but it has a 15-acre beaver pond right in the middle of it, cattail marshes, some hardwood forest, and, tucked in one corner, an old long-abandoned farm. I always marvel at the incredible amount of hard work those early farmers did. Back in the early 1900s, they cleared the land of trees, and cleared their potato fields, too, of great big rocks. You can see their rock piles and rock walls all over the place. The beavers used one of the rock walls to anchor one of their two lodges. When I look at their tiny, falling -down house, that once housed Father, Mother, and ten kids, I wonder what they'd think if they saw the place now. I think they would not be happy to see all their hard work gone for naught, but it's a wonderful place now for birds, beavers and deer. The pond was full of ducks, and the marsh was full of redwing blackbirds and even rusty blackbirds. The most excitement was generated by a greater yellowlegs. I love their big feet! Even Son James, most definitely not a birder, viewed the yellowlegs through the scope briefly. The second most exciting event was when a ruffed grouse exploded, screaming, off the ground and practically up my nose; I WISH they wouldn't do that! I wondered if she'd been sitting on a nest, but didn't want to give her a total nervous breakdown by stepping off the path to look. Soon the Paavola Wetlands will be full of sparrows and warblers, and we'll be going back weekly to look for them!
On that cold and snowy Monday, my husband and I ventured into northern Wisconsin to bird in a park there, and then proceeded to Wausau to shop. I'm willing to drive a long way for a Barnes and Noble bookstore. The park is in a lovely area, surrounded by pretty, family-sized farms, with cows and their new calves grazing in green pastures. Almost every farm has a pond, and almost every pond has ducks and geese on them. Some of them, I discovered, were exotic waterfowl owned by the farmers. They were not going to be represented in Stokes! The park itself, the section we were in, was all about water and marshes, and I was seeing lots of year birds. My poor husband is a good sport about me yelling, "Stop! Back up! Back up farther...there's a tree in the way! There- right there. What is it?" An park employee had told us where we might find whooping cranes, and we did! We were lucky enough to see and hear three beautiful whooping cranes, and it was a wonderful moment. To quote from Ms. Crow's poem, they were each "a miracle with wings, and a beating heart." The park was also full of sandhill cranes; we'd never seen and heard so many before. On our way to the park, we'd encountered a pair of sandhill cranes standing in the middle of the road. My husband's attempt to shoo them off the road, by putting down his window and waving his hand, while shouting "Shoo!" earned him quite a glare from the cranes. I guess they thought we should just shut up and drive around them.
I'd expected, after driving south for over 200 miles, to see green grass, leaves on the trees, and wildflowers in Wisconsin, but it was even grayer and colder there than up here. A park employee told us frankly that, so far, their Spring sucked! I guess winter's been lingering on longer than usual all over the north. But at least we made it, Thursday the 5th, up to the top of Brockway Mountain, near Copper Harbor, and were rewarded with dozens of hawks, and eagles, sandhill cranes and turkey vultures, getting ready to ride the thermals over the lake (Superior). The official counters up there were kind enough to explain to us how to tell the difference between sharp-shinned and broad-winged hawks, I don't know if I'll even be any good at IDing hawks, though. At least I can tell a turkey vulture when I see one! The birding's been great up here for the past two weeks, and I'm making it official: "Spring Has Arrived in the UP!" Somebody, quick, tell all those warblers in central Illinois!