Thursday, March 17, 2011

It is all Happening so Fast (Part 1)

In my previous post I said I would try to update my readers on the rapid advance of spring.  Once again it is happening so fast, so here’s a quick update.  This morning I took a trip out to the marsh.  The parking lot I pull into was all aflutter with American robins those heralders of spring.  I actually arrived well in advance of the rising sun.  A quick scan of the overcast skies and the heavy breeze indicates I don’t need to bring all the heavy camera equipment, so I leave it in the car and traveled lightly.  Immediately  a pair of mallards buss me, and for the rest of the three hour trip every time I look up there are ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes. 

A blah day for for photography,
but a great one for wildlife watching
I take much the same route as I snowshoed in “Leaving a Trail” only 16 days earlier.  Today only a few snow drifts remain and the ditch I walked over 16 days ago is now open in parts.  Then, only a crow called out and the only other bird I saw was a northern harrier.  In today’s predawn I watch a group of 25 red-wing black birds rise from the cattails.  They are soon joined by another, then another flock from the same roust until several hundred birds are swirling in a living tornado over a ½ acre clump of cattails.  They rise and head west.  Most of the birds were heading west, including the little ducks (teal?) that are flying low and full throttle over me like a squadron of Messerschmitts intercepting B-17’s over Germany.  Spring is not a time for patience. 

As I walked the spoil bank there are the constant calls of cranes.  They spent the night in the marsh and are mustering the troops to head out to the fields to feed.  Eventually they depart, the constant honks of Canada geese replace them.  Some flocks numbered 30 or more, but many fly in pairs.  A pair of geese land in the frozen marsh within shotgun range, and pay me little attention.  No doubt they were deciding upon which of the many muskrat houses to build a nest.  Like the geese, there were a few stubborn pairs of sandhill cranes that give me a wide birth, but do not fly.  They too have claimed their territory.  They bow to each other and begin their strangely beautiful dance. 

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
I plan to walk all the way to the lake today, 2 miles, but something stops me in my tracks.  It looks like a headless witch, perhaps a dragon flying over the marsh.  My eyes adjust, and my mind begins to decipher.  It is a bald eagle, its head nearly invisible in the overcast skies.  In its talons is a mass of long grass trailing three feet behind.  I watch it fly until it lands in its nest directly in my path.  My route is blocked, I turn back.  Along the ditch at the parking lot is our first flower:  skunk cabbage, in full bloom (more on that in a future post).  I get in the car with wet boots and pants.  

On the way home a mile outside of Oshkosh another bald eagle crosses Hwy 45 with a larger mass of grass.  Its flight is labored.  He works hard against the wind and clears some power lines by a couple of feet.  Catch a couple of walleyes for me, guys…I never can.    

1 comment:

  1. I didn't mention yesterday that I also saw: killdeer, muskrats,acommon merganser, and snow geese. I found two spent 22-250 rifle cartridges, it looks like someone saw one of my phantoms (coyotes). Today I saw my first turkey vulture of the year.