Monday, March 26, 2007

Silver Maple, Red Admiral, frogs and sunshine

Spring has arrived for the animals. I've seen several nuthatches and lots of juncos and a whole big flock of grackles has moved in across the street. Lots of robins. A pair of mallards were walking around, shopping for real estate, but the joggers running by out front were not to their liking. Coots, still a flock of coots on the pond, not as many as before. And Canada geese. No grebes.

The dogs herded the woodchuck out from under the front porch but, being herding dogs and not killers, they then didn't know what to do with him. So they herded him under a bush and kept him there until I pulled them away by their tails. He made a chattering noise I never heard before. He seems to have moved away, can't imagine why!

Frogs are in evidence, twittering from every bit of lowland. I don't hear any of the singers though, just the spring peepers. At the lake, before it was developed, we heard the singers first; their unearthly chorus was my first introduction to the strange and wonderful wildlife of Michigan. They don't seem to do well around people, and many Michiganders don't seem to know what I'm talking about. "You mean the peepers?" they say. No, the singing toad, Bufo americanus, with the long trill, sung in choruses of different, harmonious trills, rising and falling. Sometimes they sing in perfect intervals, thirds and fifths; sometimes they drone while one breaks away, higher, like a soloist. There is a recording here: . Multiply that times twenty or a hundred and you have something to take your breath away. (The same website also has a recording of the spring peeper's shrill whistle, also better in big groups but not the same as the singing.)

Flitting around the dried leaves is a single Red Admiral butterfly, too quick for my camera.

The warm weather has caused a surge of growth. Red leaf-buds are all over the silver maples, especially where they hang over the water. I see marsh-marigold leaves (no buds or flowers yet) in my swamp. The skunk-cabbages have doubled in size and the ones in the sunniest spots are growing leaves.
It's the annual race between the new sprouts and the flowering plants and the killing darkness of the nonnative Norweigian maples. When they leaf out -- before any native trees -- that's the end of the flowers and the end of the growing season for natives. I wish I could get rid of them, but they are too big.

Thunderstorms are predicted, and it's in the high 60s. I had the back door open last night and some big mosquitos came in.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Spring, or something like it

Yesterday was beautiful, sun and cold. Today, rain and about 40 degrees. Snow remains in trailing bits on the north side of trees, like a compass-point.
This morning a downy woodpecker and a nuthatch came to the suet feeders. At the tops of various trees I saw a cardinal, a dove, and a grackle, all with their own versions of music. Titmouses and juncos. Above the dam, a small bird I didn't recognize was swept along, apparently not understanding about the current. He dove but came up and struggled back around the bend, out of sight. Very small, mottled brown and white with a very large splash of white on the throat running up to the cheeks.

Then there was a lovely male goldeneye diving close to the top of the dam. The green of his head was quite visible.

The confab of coots continues; there are at least twelve of them. They stay well back from the dam. Their diving is very different from the seal-smooth diving of the goldeneyes. The coots seem to leap and pounce, making short, shallow dives. If only I had a telephoto lens!

The woodchuck appeared yesterday, ruffling around under the feeder on the lilac bushes. A muskrat was sitting on the remaining ice at the edge of the Pond. Some little tiny iris have appeared in full bloom in the garden. I wonder what they are? Not native, everything native still sleeps, except the skunkcabbages.

The river is very, very high. It is as high as I've ever seen it.

Here's the snow picture that didn't upload; just a few days ago!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

70 degrees, then snow

One coot on the pond; nuthatches at the feeder; and a woodpecker hammering out his love-song in the woods. My photo won't upload!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Snow, Rain, Sun (with coots)

A week ago I was driving along an almost impassable (due to heavy, blowing snow) M60 and now the temperature is in the 40s, rain one day and sun the next. Growing up in California I always thought talking about the weather to be the dreariest part of being old, but now in the midwest I can see why it's such a topic of conversation. Odd, unstable, and not very predictable.

A rim of snow remains along one side of the pond, but the ice is all gone. The large number of coots remain, leaving long silvery trails as the move across the water. Yesterday a cardinal was at the feeder and two young male robins were chasing each other around the house. A woodchuck appeared from somewhere and scuttled across the neighbor's yard and down over the bank to the river. And I'm pretty sure I saw the beaver swimming.

Here's a picture upriver. The floating island-like mats of vegetation have re-emerged from under the snow, and pairs of geese are checking them out for nest sites, like human couples looking at real estate.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ruddy Ducks and an aggregation of coots

Lots of new snow a couple nights ago, three or four inches. Now, beautiful sunshine!

Out on Hoffman Pond I've been watching a small flock of Ruddy Ducks (in winter colors.) I've never seen them before. They seem to stay well hidden behind the trees that screen the house from the water. Yesterday there were maybe five of them; sleeping in the cold (it was cold again, about 8 degrees F in the morning.) They had their tails stiffly up and their bills tucked unter their wings; but they still appeared to be swimming, not floating. (Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis.)

Another interesting thing last night was an aggregation of coots (Fulica americana) just up from the top of the Boys Dam; there were maybe fifteen of them, maybe more; they kept ducking underwater! Very quarrelsome with each other.

Also in the last few days another pair of mergansers passed through, also swimming quite close to the top of the dam. There is a lone male Goldeneye venturing close to the dam, and a large and noisy flicker came to the feeder; also a downy woodpecker. I'm pretty sure I saw a wren in the woods! The regulars -- juncos -- come to the feeder even when the weather is bad, like today. I haven't seen the nuthatch in a while. And this morning a Bluejay was sitting in the redbud tree (it has a feeder in it) making an odd chuckling noise.

Back to the Ruddy Duck -- Peterson says "Cannot walk on land." It's scientific name is Oxyura jamaicensis; the Red-tailed hawk is Buteo jamaicensis. What does Jamaica have to do with things that are red?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

March 1: Mergansers and Thunderstorms

Thunder and lightning this am; the ice is being washed away. There's now lots of open water, and the geese are standing on the little floes around the edges of those "islands" of floating vegetation.

Four mergansers! Swimming close up to the top of the dam, one seeming to enjoy getting as close as possible. Three males and a female (Mergus merganser).

My favorite merganser sighting was at about this time of year in our cove off Lake Templene, when the ice was melting. Five females, working together like so many border-collies on sheep, slowly drove a school of fish up against the shore; when the fish were well trapped, it was a feeding frenzy! Happening right under my window!

I watch for them each year. They are not willing to appear anywhere that they sense people nearby; I doubt they are still seen on Lake Templene due to the sensless elimination of trees and jammed together development. (I cried when the tree that had reared generations of green herons was cut down -- and then left there; cut down apparently only out of a general dislike of trees, as nothing has been built anywhere near it.)

Anyway. Here on the river in the last week I have seen two downy woodpeckers, juncos, a nuthatch, and titmouses. Titmice? A housefinch was inspecting out porch, and Jim saw a robin by the St. Joseph in Mendon.