Spring’s a glorious sensation
“Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.” — Lewis Grizzard
Some days, it is just feeling like spring. The quality of the sunlight, the warm, driving winds, and the melting snow on Tuesday seemed to just be shouting, “Spring, spring!!”
It was a glorious sensation for so many with such high hopes, great expectations for some warmer weather, put masks away and just enjoy a new season. The days seem to just be reeling in the new season.
A look out to Lake Superior brings nothing short of complete shock as deep blue water is so rapidly replacing the recent, amazing black ice. In the coming days the Lower Harbor ice cover is sure to all but disappear. What began as an innocent opening in the ice northeast of Picnic Rocks less than two weeks ago spread along the east side of Marquette. As it spread, the ice on the south end of the Lower Harbor also began to disappear. By midweek, warmer temperatures and strong winds had pushed openings right to the edge of the ore dock and most of the south side of the harbor and weaken the huge amount of ice throughout the rest, leaving the chunk alongside Mattson Park the most intact.
The air has been filled with more than warmer air. Bird songs and calls are becoming more and more common each day now. The melting ice comes as a welcome sign for the 200+ herring gulls now back in the Lower Harbor and at Picnic Rocks. They have been joined occasionally by visiting glaucous gulls and soon, if not already, by returning summer resident ring-billed gulls. The herring gulls have been sitting on the ice near Ripley Rock next to the ore dock and on the Picnic Rocks where the ring-bills will nest. The calls of the gulls can be heard on Lake Superior and also in the air as the gulls cruise over to the Marquette County Landfill for a bite to eat.
Early morning hours have been filled by the songs of northern cardinals around Marquette this week. Several have been heard on Marquette’s east side, as early as 6:50 in the morning, just as the earliest dawn light appears. What a treat to enter the morning with a serenade of the cardinal song — “Cheer, cheer, cheer!” Crows and chickadees have also increased their vocalizations and there have been many more interactions of both of these species as chickadees begin breaking up their winter groups and crows reassemble and sort out social orders. A few house finches have also been heard starting their singing too. March is just full of small encouragements for those looking ahead to spring!
This has been a great time to see bald eagles around Marquette too. There was a terrifically beautiful pink and orange sunrise over Picnic Rocks at the beginning of the week and a number of photographs caught the great event. Many were surprised to learn they had more in their photographs though, than — just an amazing sunrise image. Out on the ice near the rocks were five bald eagles. Although they appeared a silhouettes in emerging light, they added a special magic to the dawn.
Hit and miss seems to be the call for swans and an American wigeon in Marquette. A pair of trumpeter swans reappeared on the Dead River near Granite Street again on Wednesday morning to the delight of birders checking on the waterfowl and the chance to see a river otter or two.
An American wigeon that had been traveling with the mallards and American black ducks this winter was seen again, but just once since the recent deep freeze changed the daily patterns of the ducks.
Redpolls continue to move around the Upper Peninsula, also with no apparent regularity to their moves or appearances. A good-sized flock of around 40 was seen from Lakeshore Boulevard, Marquette, earlier in the week and small groups have appeared elsewhere gritting for sand along roadsides and feeding on birch seeds and at some feeders.
Great horned owls have also made somewhat unpredictable appearances around Marquette and Harvey recently. While much of the early winter calling has subsided, some hooting has been noted and a few twilight sightings have also been made. Despite their large size, due to their mottled brown coloration and their habit of roosting in pines or near the trunks of trees, they are rarely seen roosting, especially during daylight hours.
Occasionally they do pop up though, to the delight of observers.
The creation of feeding stations along the Peshekee Grade along the Baraga-Marquette County line north of U.S. 41 has created some great opportunities for both local and out-of-the-area birders to catch up with U.P. rarities, boreal chickadees and Canada jays. Both are found in small pockets of bogs and boreal forests — ones made up of some aspen, tamarack, black spruce and balsam fir. Even in these small biological community pockets, they are unusual. The feeding stations have made them easier to find and watch, drawing birders to the area almost daily. Black-backed woodpeckers have also been seen, particularly along the McCormick Tract Wilderness trail, about 10 miles north of U.S. 41. The area is a quiet beautiful area to bird and the McCormick Tract is spectacular, allowing for foot traffic only, making it a quiet, truly wild area.
Whether in town or in the wilds, it is a great time to enjoy the warm winds of March!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Scot Stewart is a teacher at Bothwell Middle School in Marquette and a freelance photographer.