To get a sense of migration patterns up north of critters, birds, we're going to try a diary of observations this year . . . . . .
April 12 - Got up to 65 degrees today - it's spring, yeah! Took a walk and saw a butterfly, wow. Still have banks of snow, but the roads have melted. Saw a pair of Tundra Swans flying overhead and wondered where the heck they were going to land. All the lakes around here are still frozen solid. We fed birds all winter, and the most common permanent residents to visit our suit cakes and sunflower seed feeder: Red-Breasted Nuthatch, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Chickadee, one pair of Cardinals, Gold Finches, Purple Finches, Blue Jays, Chipping Sparrows, Crows, and the woodpeckers above.
April 14 - A blizzard hit! 23" of snow. Cripes, it's winter again. Flocks of gold and purple finches are swarming our bird feeders. The Pileated, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers are also hitting the suet feeders rather strongly today as well. (We have identified at least 5 different Pileated individuals.)
April 15 - There is a 20 foot circle of lapping waters around the mouth of the culvert between both sides of our lake. Big John says the ice is still about 20" thick or more of solid ice. However, we noticed a pair of Bufflehead Ducks in the tiny circle of lapping water around the culvert today. I swear I heard a Loon last night, but have no idea where it could have landed and am worried it'll get stuck somewhere (loons need a long stretch of water to take off from . . . . . )
April 17 - Another snowfall of 16" inches of snow. Sheesh. Luna - our oldest white pine tree near Cabin #14 lost a lot of branches due to the weight of all the snow. (photo taken a couple days later on April 19.)
April 18 - A 30 foot circle of slushy ice has opened up at the mouth of our creek (which is running freely today.) A Great Blue Heron flew in and huddled down for warmth. It was interesting to watch the big bird wading through the slush to look for fish.
April 19 - the northern pike rearing pond has unthawed completely. A pair of Wood Ducks have already been seen checking it out. We have two wood duck houses established in the pond and hope they make a nest there this season.
April 20 - 3 Hooded Merganser ducks (two male, one female) were paddling around just off our deck in the lake. The ice has receded to about 30 feet from shore. The northern pike are stacking up at the mouth of our creek. A pair of Mallard ducks (one male, one female) have decided to check out the mouth of the creek as well. Judging from the occasional splashing out there today, we're not sure if the northern pike are sneaking up on the ducks and nibbling their little webbed feet creating startled fowl, or if the ducks are scaring the bejeesus outta the pike. 🙂
April 22 - Northern Pike Conservation Project Day -- We put 5 females (about 26") and 10 males (average 22") into the pond for spawning. The dam had sprung a bit of a leak last night and depth of the creek increased to such a level that there were about 60 fish flopping along the streaming water this morning. Three of 'em had apparently been caught by some critter in the night, as the carcasses were chewed on and strung along the banks. As we were "shooing" them all back out into the lake, we chose the spawning specimens and led the rest back out. We're gonna have to put a screen at the creek mouth tonight to discourage their upstream sprinting as they get stuck and exhausted. Poor things - but amazing just the same.
April 23 - Dang beaver showed his face today while investigating the flow of the creek. That little devil is on my crap list for chewing down TWO of only a half dozen deciduous trees between the lodge and beach area last fall.
April 24 - Saw a Belted or Gray Kingfisher (couldn't tell which one) squatting on a limb 200 yards from our house along the shoreline. Noticed a pair of Red breasted Merganser Ducks just before the Kingfisher. I had to look 'em up in the bird book. NEW SIGHTING of species for me - way cool. The male was quite striking and the female had a brownish head. The ICE on the lake is still hanging on despite the rain showers all day today. It's melted back maybe 50 feet into the lake from the lodge.
April 25 - Big flock of Yellow-Rumped Warblers were hopping around the creek today, sipping water or picking at food. They didn't seem very shy at all and I would say there were at least 20 of them. It started snowing AGAIN at around 3 p.m. and the feeders got crowded QUICKLY with the local purple finches, gold finches, chipping sparrows, one cardinal, a couple crows and a bunch of bullying gray squirrels. Noticed a Common Redpoll with it's puffy reddish cap - it looked cold and crabby today, poor thing. It's supposed to get down to 31 degrees tonight and snow again tomorrow. *sigh* Winter just ain't leaving without a fight this year. I snapped a photo of this Robin (at right) 'cause he looked exactly like I felt watching yet another snowfall in freakin' April. (disgruntled)
April 26 - A couple of Yellow Shafted Flickers hung out at our suet feeders today - so they have migrated back. The Redwing Blackbirds have been back for a week, but I don't remember which day. The lake and pond have frozen solid and the wood ducks and mallard ducks are waddling around on the ice in bewilderment.
April 27 - That new 10" of snow we got yesterday is melting fast!
April 29 - Saw our first Bald Eagle of the season. It was HUGE, but immature (no white markings yet). It was perched on the top of a lightning struck tree just down the road from our resort about 1000 feet. Also, while we were eating at Hardee's in Walker tonight, a Merlin Hawk smacked into one of the picture windows and dropped to the ground. It was such a big thwack, we thought it was a seagull or pigeon, but I walked out to verify what it was and ahhhh, so sad, a little gray hawk with a black banded tail and a beautiful golden eye. He was panting and had blood coming out of his bitten tongue. I stayed until he gasped his last breath, poor little thing. Gawd, he was gorgeous. *sniffle**sniffle*
April 30 - Starting spring cleaning the lodge today. While we were vacuuming a loon yodeled and startled us all, even over the sound of a vacuum - it was loud! My brother counted eight loons just out front of the lodge. Way cool!
May 1 - Pretty sure we saw a female Brewer's Blackbird this morning along the creek pulling up leaves and debris out of the water searching for something to eat. The Brown Headed Cowbirds are back visiting the feeders.
May 3 - Saw the first male American Redstart today! Flit, flit, flit! I love these guys, one of my favorites! And later in the afternoon rain, I identified a NEW SPECIES for me! A Black & White Warbler! It was a striking little black and white and brown bird hopping along our wooden deck pecking at insects. He had no interest in the seed feeders whatsoever, just like the Redstarts. John is really enjoying all the ducks - he's been putting cracked corn and millet on the lawn in front of our house and there were eight wood ducks and a pair of mallards gobbling it up this morning. Two pairs of red-breasted mergansers were also just 500 feet down the lake from us hanging out in front of the lodge. The ice is still on the lake, but it's melted back about 100 feet. We are now a ducky heaven, apparently, and are really enjoying watching all the waterfowl.
May 5 - ICE OUT! Finally!!!! Two weeks later than normal this year. (And yah, there's one chunk of ice still floating on the far side of the lake in a bay, but you can barely see it, and we're certain it'll melt completely today.) Kris said he was working in the shop at 9 a.m. this morning, when a big "THUNK!" occurred and shattered glass came tinkling down inside . . . . . . it was a Ruffed Grouse who broke the window and then miraculously flew away. He swears it was a 10 pounder 'cause it was so huge. Ha! We've been hearing them drumming this last week - they must be getting ready to mate and display (I just wish they weren't displaying through our windows!).
May 8 - We had 10, yes TEN male Wood Ducks and one female visit the cracked corn in front of our house tonight, along with two male mallards and the lone goose. They were wary and scared easily, but came back again and again to visit the corn in the mist-filled evening. It was very poor lighting for a camera shot, sorry, but watching them from our basement window 15 feet away was just the neatest thing as they are such shy creatures. The females must be on their nests as we've never seen such a large group of wood ducks, male or female, like this.
May 9 - One lone Canadian Goose has been hanging around the house and lodge the last couple of days. I spotted a tufted gray bird (Titmouse?) flicking it's tail under and up while perched on a branch next to the Sleeping Cottage. And John was excited to see a little chartreuse green bird pecking at a suet cake yesterday. He wasn't sure exactly which Vireo it was, and could have sworn it had a white eye, but hopefully it will come back so we can get a better look! It was most likely a female Common Yellowthroat as they would love our swampy marshland behind the house.
May 10 - Fishing Opener/Resort opens for season today. Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks are here! They came en masse this morning to the feeders. I'm also positive I heard a Baltimore Oriole yesterday, too, so I'm putting grape jelly out today. If I had time, I'd make some hummingbird food and put it up also, 'cause they should be here soon, too and will be HUNGRY. This afternoon, it started SNOWING again, for pete's sake. Snow on opener. When the heck is winter going to be over this year?
May 13 - Had a pair of Indigo Buntings come to our window today - WAY FREAKIN' COOL!!!!! Saw the female first when we were watching the grosbeaks and finches. She was a brownish color all over without any streaks on her like the sparrows, warblers, female finches and grosbeaks, so I was wondering what she was. And then I looked up from doing a task and saw a flash of blue outside the window. I grabbed the camera and crept up on it - he was sitting calmly on the window ledge just outside our kitchen, so I got a very close look at him. (It was overcast outside and the window pane gave a glare, sorry - but the photo above has not been "colorized" or anything.) The back of his neck had more of a mottled brown and blue coloration which far away just looked blue. It was very exciting to see him so clearly. We had a pair of Orioles look interested in the oranges and suet we put out yesterday - but they were very wary of coming too close. I can hear them singing throughout the day now.
May 13 - We have at least two pairs of Baltimore Orioles, wow! I saw two females and a male all at once on our railing, and then heard a fourth male singing in the trees somewhere. We love these guys! My brother suggested we make sugar water as he thought he saw hummingbirds. And yep, just a couple hours after I put out fresh sugar feeders, we had a visit by THREE Ruby Throated Hummingbirds. I feel badly as I hadn't had these feeders up last week.
May 14 - We've had several black faced sparrows, a Harris Sparrow (?) enjoying the seeds on the ground the last few days.
May 15 - The Painted Turtles and the Snapping Turtles have been on the move the last couple of weeks. Apparently they burrow under the lake bottom during winter and slow their metabolism waaay down. Remarkable really. In spring we see numbers of them traveling up the creek bed from the lake into the Rearing Pond/Marsh. We often have to stop our vehicles to allow them to cross the driveway. Here's a photo of one such snapper my brother helped across the road so that our cleaning staff wouldn't run over it by accident. An hour and a half later, I noticed a snapping turtle 3-5 times larger than this one making the journey. She was HUGE.
May 17 - Our house seems to be a bird mecca this spring. Saw three male Orioles at once yesterday on our rail, and I've seen two females at once, so I'm sure we have at least three mating pairs, how lovely. They are no longer shy - in fact, John saw a female stare down a gray squirrel. When the squirrel made a motion to move closer and hop over her, the female Oriole PECKED the squirrel on the nose! She was NOT giving up her orange, by gawd. The Pine Siskins have been here in flocks for over a week, along with all the other finches (the grosbeaks are still here - I love the females best with their touches of yellow on their breast.) The Red-Wing Blackbirds have been nesting for about three weeks in the cattails in front of our house and in the swampy rearing pond out back. The males make me laugh as they waddle towards a female with hunched up shoulders, kinda like a scary monster. I definitely need to make more hummingbird feed, as there are bunches now, with more arriving every day.
May 19 - It's been such a cold spring that I imagine most insects have not hatched/been active enough to be food for birds yet. The Yellow-Rumped Warblers are still flitting around our creek and now our suet feeders - I hope some stay here for the season instead of migrating through.
May 20 - American Redstarts are here! Hop, hop, hop! These are John's favorites as one will often flit to his shoulder or perch on his head while he's chatting with someone in our driveway. I imagine he looks like a tree at 6'7", hehe. I also positively identified several Yellow Warblers today hanging with the Redstarts, along the lake shore in front of our house. The male was a lovely shade of yellow with rusty streaks on his breast.
June 3 - This last week, we've been incredibly excited to have at least two pairs of Scarlet Tanagers snipping away at the orange suet. (Dang raccoons have been eating all the suet at night - we've been trying to trap 'em - the gluttons!) Judd Brink, of MN Backyard Birds visited us this weekend over Spring Healer's Retreat and gave a guided bird walk amongst our nature trails. With his help, we heard an Oven Bird, a Red-Eyed Vireo ("teacher! teacher!") and a Black & White Warbler! Judd also put up three more bird feeding stations at cabins #7, #9 and #10. We're hoping to attract more and more of our feathered friends to enjoy!
Here's a list of birds Judd e-mailed me that their group saw or heard here at the resort during their one hour guided walk: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Bald Eagle, Common Loon, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Crow, Catbird, Indigo Bunting, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Chipping Sparrow, Tree Swallow, American Goldfinch, Blue Jay, Ovenbird, Great-crested Flycatcher, Northern Parula, House Finch, Brown-headed Cowbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Robin, Black & White Warbler.
June 18- A flock of either Cedar Waxwings or Bohemian Waxwings flocked into the spruce trees in front of our house today. They were very quiet - no chatter or chirping or songs at all.
August 27 - The hummingbirds have been pulling out as there are fewer and fewer this week. A week and a half ago, they were furiously buzzing around all the feeders, filling up on "gas" for their trip south apparently. Only a few are still around and they are not real active. I watched a female perch on a twig next to the feeder outside our kitchen window for a good 10 minutes. She wasn't feeding, just sitting calmly for a long time.
September 17 - Saw the last hummingbird yesterday, made fresh sugar water to entice any latecomers but no sign of any left.
September 19 - Overnight the autumn leaves have really started to change colors everywhere! And it's HOT today - mid 80's, sweat, sweat, sweat.