Sunday, March 6, 2011

Closer to home harbingers of spring

I think I am well overdue for a new blog entry and recently a few friends have asked if I've been birding much lately.  The answer to this question is that, with the exception the Soo trip at the beginning of February, I've done almost no birding at all this winter.

This is not to say that I've been completely inactive - just laying around on the couch.  In January and February I started and completed a major house redecorating project and am now enjoying the finished product. For the first time ever, I did not do the project myself but I organized it and lived with the disorganization that any house project creates. Additionally, I've taken this winter as a time to work a lot.

All this to say that I have found this winter to be a long one.  Could any day as dreary as yesterday (heavy rain followed by heavy wet snow) dampen our spring spirits more?  So, when the sun peeked out late this morning I hustled over to the channelized Rouge River to see what might be out.  This time of year, the  channelized Rouge is pretty typically unbirdy so it was not exactly like I was making a big birding commitment for the day.  But for an hour or so, it felt good to be out.

True to the reputation of this area, few birds were around.  Canada Geese dotted the still winterized landscape of the TPC golf course.  I heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a few sparrow chip notes but the actual birds remained invisible.  Though this area does have a Red-tailed Hawk pair and it is possible to occasionally see a kestrel, I saw no raptors.  My good luck with the peregrine at the end of January did not repeat itself today.  Had it not been for the return of bad weather, I might have had daydreams of seeing an early phoebe or meadowlark. Indeed, Jerry Jourdan reported Eastern Meadowlarks near Vreeland and Gotfredson in eastern Washtenaw County today.      

The TPC pond is still frozen, but it is here I saw my first harbingers of spring.  I slid through a hole in the fence to to get closer to the pond. Three Great Blue Herons took off from a small rim of open water around the little island.  Undoubtedly they had overwintered and I feel certain they are pleased to see the end of it.  Then the call of Red-winged Blackbirds sounded as three birds flew overhead.  Later a grackle flew over also calling.  Both of these have been seen and heard recently in our neighborhood.

Finally, I heard a Killdeer.  I know from the reports of others that these have been recently seen in southeast Michigan.  Killdeer nest in the stony edges along the river.  But, I never did see the bird.  This left me reluctant to call this my first of the season Killdeer secondary to the presence of abundant starlings in our area.  

Still, as the sun continues to shine today, I know that phoebe, meadowlark, killdeer and all of the others are not far behind.  In another week the ides of March and spring soon to follow.

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