April 20, 2008

Duck, Duck, Owl

The earliest sign of spring in Minnesota (since it keeps snowing and covering up all the others) is the activity of the birds. In the past two weeks I've seen the usual suspects: robins, juncos, starlings, grackles, gulls, wild turkeys, herons, Canadian geese, mergansers and coots and more other kinds of ducks than I can differentiate. I've had to work to speak over a yard full of red-winged blackbirds and passed a park with a ring of tall trees and crows cawing from every available branch, wondering how long it would take to understand them if I stopped and listened.

I've also seen a bald eagle perch on the retreating edge of lake ice. I couldn't tell whether it was hoping the fish would have forgotten it over the winter or checking whether the mergansers had all made it through migration in good shape. They all scattered quickly enough when it flew across the water. The geese and trumpeter swans ignored it and its mate.

The hawks are looking plump again, instead of just fluffy. Yesterday, in an hour-long car ride, I saw more than half a dozen, which means I wasn't paying much attention. There was another eagle too, perched in a tree about twenty feet from the edge of the road. The standout of the ride, though, was the barn owl sitting on the fencepost in broad daylight. I don't know why he was hanging out instead of sleeping, but he very kindly spread his wings a bit to aid our identification. I hope he made it comfortably to nightfall.

Despite the dreary weather, I finally feel like spring is here.

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