Summer Birds Back in Time for the Deep Freeze

Geese enjoying pond before it froze.

February thawed us out.  The month almost broke records for breaking records. Shorts and patio weather near Valentine’s day. Rain, mud, swelling buds, emerging insects, hints of green grass.  Did it make the summer birds rush back?  Who knows.  Perhaps the first ones seen are the keeners, the jump-the-gun pairs racing north to grab the high end nest sites first. The risk takers who now are trying to figure out how to keep their birdie butts warm in the sudden Arctic blasts.

The big beaver pond in the field, now fully flooded and recovered from last summer’s terrible drought, thawed out obligingly and soon was flocked by Canada geese and mallard ducks.  They swam, the frolicked, they basked along the sunny edges.  The pair of swans showed up again, floating elegantly about, ready to gamble yet again on a nest where they almost all dried up and blew way last year from lack of swimming water and food for their barely surviving brood of four adult-sized cygnets.

Bronzed grackle with the sceptic eye.

On the last day of February,  the red-winged blackbirds showed up, their distinctive trill from the marsh always a confirmation that spring ought to be here.  Also the bronzed grackles, staring at me through the window with their eerie yellow eyes in their blackly iridescent heads. They could easily stand in for the raven in Edgar Allen Poe.  Some robins have been hanging around all winter.  In the warmth of February they began to hop around on the ground soft enough for their favourite meal of earthworms.

Well, March roared in with a hammer of cold.  Down to -20C here by the lake, to -36C farther north in the province. The wide stretch of pond, so beloved by the waterbirds, has frozen into a solid sheet of ice again along with every puddle and roadside ditch.  The bare ground is iron hard, the biting winds sear bare skin make little birdies puff up to twice their size in an effort to keep warm.

The swan are back to try nesting again.

So the geese fly round and round over the pond, squawking and complaining.  The swans have taken off to search for open water out  in Lake Ontario. The robins have retreated into woods hoping some berries are left. The blackbirds cling to dead cattails in the marsh and who knows what the grackles are doing.  Let hope other summer birds, the orioles, the hummingbirds, the killdeers, the thrashers, the grosbeaks and so on are picking up their messages and cannily keeping themselves warm south of the border.

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