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Glenn Eastman — obituary

EASTMAN, D. Glenn 1934-2024 On Friday, April 12, 2024,...

A pair of poems for spring

Editor's note: Chris Cavan sends these reflections...

Diana’s Quiz – April 13, 2024

by Diana Filer 1.  What device in effect...
Science & NatureWhat is That?What Is That ... Early Bird?

What Is That … Early Bird?

Waddells

We always look forward to spring at the cottage and to seeing the birds that are waiting for us.  Some are on their way further north to their nesting areas.  Some stay around Three Mile Bay for the summer.

This year, we were delighted to see a ring-necked duck on April 30th.  We have only seen one once before, several years ago, so this was a real thrill.  The pointy head of the ring-necked duck offers a distinctive profile that we find makes it easier to identify than most ducks from a distance.  Named for its difficult-to-see chestnut-coloured collar, we find the grey bill with its black down-turned tip and white edges to be far more helpful in making an identification.  While our cottage seems to have the nesting conditions a ring-necked duck might prefer, they are uncommon in our area.

Our sighting of a merlin the same day we saw the ring-necked duck was unusual.  Now that we have learned to identify merlins, we seem to hear and see them far more often than previously, but in past years the earliest sightings were in July with the majority through August into early September.  Merlins lay their eggs in the abandoned nests of crows and other large birds.  We see lots of crows at the cottage so there should be some second-hand nests for the merlins to use; we hope we see them raising a clutch this year.

Our April 30th day produced a perfect trifecta when we saw a hooded merganser pair just off the shore in front of the cottage.  The earliest we have ever seen a hooded merganser at the lake is April 9th.  They breed in forested wetlands and build theirs nests in tree cavities 10 – 90 feet above the ground.  We have never seen the baby ducks as they leap from nest to ground, but in mid-June 2021, we were treated to many views, as mother and ducklings paddled just off our shore.  It seemed they were being taught to fish the minnows that also hang around our shoreline.

That day we also saw with our binoculars a pair of Common Loons.  We did not get a photograph, but we hope the pair is a breeding pair and we see the loons with babies in very early July.

Two species of birds we hope to see soon are the Baltimore oriole and the ruby-throated hummingbird.  We are looking forward to hearing the rich whistle of the Baltimore oriole.  May 23rd is the earliest we have seen one at the cottage.  Although their spring diet consists primarily of insects which are rich in protein, they do seem to also like the oranges we put out for them.

The earliest we have seen a ruby-throated hummingbird is May 28th, so we should have lots of time to settle in to life at the cottage and get the nectar feeders out.  These hummingbirds are named for the iridescent ruby-coloured throat feathers of the male.  The ruby colour shows beautifully in direct sunshine, but we often get a photograph of one with a black throat when lighting conditions are sub-optimal.

This time of year is exciting.  We are anxious for warmer temperatures to arrive, so we can move into the cottage and be there to see more early birds, both familiar and new.

For this article, we checked our facts with Chris Earley’s books, Hawks and Owls, and Waterfowl, both of Eastern North America.  Of course, we also consulted allaboutbirds.org.

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