Spring Returns to the Skies

A huge snowstorm blew into MN this week – it certainly still feels like winter, with so much snow on the ground.  But since I spent all that time outside shoveling, I counted 3 flocks of   canada geese flying overhead in just half an hour. I’d nearly forgotten about the geese, but when I heard their familiar honking I realized how few birds there have been around here; especially waterfowl.  Well, they’re back, along with budding maples and daylight lasting until past 6 o’ clock.geese

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Nest Fest – Part 1

'A pair of swallows built their nest under the birdfeeder roof.'

Today I was hiking at a nature center, & I saw a family of geese passing by. The nature center is on a marsh, & Canada geese are very common there. There was a mom & dad & 3 goslings. The goslings are almost half the size of the adults. Their bodies are stumpy, fluffy, & a dirty yellow color, but their legs are just as thick as they’ll be when they are fully mature. They wander all over exploring the world, but when their parents start to move they fall right into line. I bet they never get lost. Geese with goslings to take care of can be very aggresive, but I passed within 4 feet of the geese & they didn’t show any attention to me at all, except to move slightly farther away.

There also were Barn Swallows there. There must have been 8 – 10 pairs around the building, & I’m sure there are many more in the woods around it. They had built their nest all around the building, placing their nests right under the eaves. One pair had even built a nest on top of a bird feeder, under the domed roof placed over the feeder to shed rain. There is a species of swallows in Africa that constructs their nests on the underside of the leaf of a certain plant, sticking it on with a special glue they make. Then they glue their eggs into the nest so they don’t fall out. What beats me is how the chicks don’t fall out when they hatch. Google ‘African Palm Swift’ to learn more. Swallows are created to fly. Their wings are longer than their entire body, & their legs are so short in relation to the rest of them that it’s exteremely hard to lift off from the ground. Swallows are insect-eating birds & can hundreds of bugs in a single day.

Waterfowl on the Mississippi

'webbed feet allow ducklings & goslings to swim almost immediately after hatching'

Mallard ducks are becoming more & more common as it gets closer to summer. A few of them stay all winter – there’s almost always a bit of open water on the Mississippi – but for the most part they leave in fall & come back in early spring. The Canada Geese will stay through the winter, living in the patches of water the currents keep from freezing up, but the mallards are wimpy & head to places with easier food & living spots available.  Soon there will be tiny, fluffy goslings & ducklings hatching. You can see them prancing around on the side of the road behind their parents, learning to swim & fly. They can swim almost from the moment they hatch, but it takes about 2 months for them to learn to fly.Click on the link to see a sweet video of a hen & her ducklings: http://video.yahoo.com/watch/5532776/14543018. Ducks lay eggs until late June, so there are ducklings around most of the summer. It takes a duck egg 4 weeks to hatch, which is actually a pretty long time – most bird eggs hatch in 21 days.