By Boak Wiesner
Lots of skeins of geese flying overhead – sometimes at three different levels simultaneously – remind me of what Aldo Leopold said about spring, that while one swallow may not the summer make, a skein of geese cleaving the March sky is the spring. Several species could be seen and heard and this may be the easiest way to tell them apart for us stuck here on the ground. Snow and blue, white-fronted, and lots of Canada geese, of course. Some male common mergansers were mixed in, so all white that they’re unmistakable. Geese are parading around the lawns and paths in pairs like couples at the prom. As the unseasonably warm temperatures hit in the next few days, things will really “heat up”. An interloper trying to horn in a one gander’s goose may set off some loud “trash talk”.
You must have seen the big full moon out during your evening strolls the last few days. Seeing it reminded me of the words of that other great American naturalist, Dean Martin, surprise! “When the moon’s in the sky like a big pizza pie – that’s amore!” And amore it is, all around us! Red-winged blackbird males have arrived and have started staking out their home territories with squabbles along the boundaries going on constantly. Robins are back, feasting on the remnants of last year’s fruits that might still be hanging on trees.
Chipmunks have awakened from their sleep, which was not so long this time around, what with the late fall and very early spring happening. The fact that they “scurry” around in the leaf litter is how I teach my students the name of their family Sciuridae: “scurry in a day”. All that rustling gives away their location to any passing raptor. In the evenings owls can be heard hooting. They may already have babies hatched already so the rodents moving around could end up as din-din for hungry owlets.
In the wildflower garden area, I watched this squirrel carry load after load of dead oak leaves up his tree and into his hole in preparation for the birth of the young. I’m guessing it was Mr. Squirrel, as the young likely were under the care of their mother.
Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist volunteer.