|Tundra Swans against a WNY backdrop|
Not long ago I received word that my mother's friend has a nearly annual stopover on her property of Trundra (Whistling) Swans. We were invited to visit and see them, and so took a drive down into the river valley and into the fertile floodplains. A cornfield with some wet pooling areas had attracted the swans... along with a parade of Canada Geese, Mallards, Wood Ducks, and even a single pair of Northern Pintails.
|A close look will reveal Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, and Wood Ducks.|
|Interesting contrasts: White swan, black crows|
When I observed these birds it was clear that they didn't want anything to do with me at all. I was fortunate to have brought a long lens with me and it was the only thing that allowed me to capture images of them at all. To the naked eye they were actually amazingly hard to see; white birds on white snow, with a bright atmospheric glare. My eyes watered against the intense light as I'm photosensitive, but I watched them from afar as long as I was able.
One pair of birds was foraging very nearby when we first arrived, much to the landowner's delight. As soon as we stepped out of the vehicles they'd had quite enough though, and removed themselves to the interior of the field, which was littered by far more bold Canada Geese.
|The swans were shy and marched away... The geese couldn't be bothered.|
On the same outing, I scouted the local crick (creek, for those that are not familiar with our native tongue..) and encountered a pair of Common Mergansers. After a few moments, it was determined that my presence was offensive, and they flew off. Because they are heavy-bodied diving ducks, they cannot leap into the air like mallards can. They must have a "runway" and takeoff is not graceful at all.
|A Common Merganser Drake.. taking off... eventually.|
Several days later, while surveying a portion of our land, we witnessed several bonding displays between a
|There's always a branch in the way when I photo these guys.|
Interestingly, this species is the one hawk that we have not observed taking any wild birds as prey, nor have they ever 'stalked' our chickens. All other local hawk species that we've had on our property have been witnessed to do one or the other... both, in the case of a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. I think that the Red-shouldered hawks are capable, and truly much more happens in nature than we ever see with our eyes, but they do seem to prefer rodents. The wild birds do not react strongly to their presence, either.
Of great excitement are our most local arrivals... the bluebirds. Bluebirds are a bit of a family joke. They are the state bird of NY, however my mom has never seen one. I, an active birder, never saw one until I was 25.
They seem to be blue ghosts of our open areas and always elude my family. I have had bluebird houses put up since the moment we moved into this house, and every year so far I have caught glimpses of these tiny blue gems, and distant warbles of the male's sweet song. Last year, to my delight, they chose a box and began nesting, but disappeared soon thereafter. I mourned their nesting failure as if it was my own; what had I done wrong? The box placement is not ideal, as my yard is narrow and long and by necessity the boxes are somewhat near the woodline.
|A Female Eastern Bluebird arrives.|
This year, I was ready... I hoped. I did my research and learned about wren guards. These are essentially baffles that make a nesting site less appealing to the wren. Wrens are less likely to approach a nesting hole from the side, and have a harder time getting their big stupid twigs in there that they like to use. Sometimes bluebirds don't like it either, though, and the recommendations I read suggested that one should apply a wren guard only after a bluebird has started to lay eggs and is therefore committed to the nest site. Well... I couldn't wait. My wrens are due back any time now and they know these boxes, and they love these boxes. I had to take a risk and put the wren guards up before the bluebirds started nesting. I was thinking I might write "NO WRENS" on the cardboard.. but I felt like perhaps I would just be tempting fate to do so. I don't think wrens read. Or care.
|Oh goodness, please stay Mr. Bluebird!|
|I nearly screamed when I saw her go inside with no problems.|
And so spring creeps, sneaks, quietly enters... even while winter keeps whispering down the back of my neck with a cold zephyr.