Recently we had a “melt down” from all the snow and cold. My everyday travels around the Alabama Swamp with the camera showed me that some of the wildlife was coming alive again, kind of a spring into nature deal. Wildlife has a lot of instincts that many humans have lost over time and it is these instincts, along with the weather changes, that got nature moving again.
I monitor eight eagle nests in the area and all but one are incubating eggs right now. Yes, you read that right! Eagles start their nesting season in February-early March, as do great horned owls. This is why it is so important not to disturb these birds, as just a brief period off the nest could kill the eggs because of exposure to the cold.
That melt down got the geese moving. Some are local birds that had traveled to other areas to find open water such as the Niagara River, and some are migrating geese that had traveled further south for the winter. Then last week’s cold spell with high winds hit and the birds were in a tight situation. I am sure some of the leaders of those flocks were harassed by their followers for leading them back too soon!
So, these birds had very few open-water places to roost and and finding food was rough. The local crop fields were pretty barren thanks to today’s very efficient harvesting processes, and they were already pretty worked over by geese, other birds and deer in the fall and early winter. Fresh grass had not started to grow yet and most of the marshes were still frozen over.
There was one small open-water area that I kept close tabs on and soon half a dozen geese showed up and began to use it for resting and evening roosting. Then a few mallards showed up and eventually another early duck, the ring-necked duck, found the spot. Soon afterward I was rewarded one evening by four trumpeter swans. I kept checking on them the next few days to see if any were our local pair that have nested here for the past three years but they weren’t. Eventually the trumpeter swans moved on, but then four tundra swans showed up.
By this time, that little open-water area was getting crowded as more geese moved into the area. The tundra swans moved on and a few smaller flocks were spotted flying through the area headed north. Tundras are early migrating birds and only make brief stopovers in the area as they head farther north to their nesting areas in tundra country. The same goes for the snow goose, and some of those should be showing up soon.
In my travels, by this past weekend I had noticed quite an influx of geese not only in the harvested crop fields but also in the air, in the evening, as they returned to the swamp to roost. In fact one evening I parked near a location where I knew they were roosting, hoping to catch them “piling” in with a colorful sunset in the background. They didn’t disappoint me. As the sunset got better and better, they just kept coming until the light faded to the point where I couldn’t photograph any more.
As I write this, on March 7, it is still cold but there’s much warmer weather in the forecast for the week, so I suspect we are going to see a real influx of waterfowl. This is a great time to get out to the swamp and see the “spring into nature” as birds congregate around the state and federal refuge areas. Nothing beats the sight of large groups of geese with wings cupped as they descend from the sky to the marshes with their noisy “call of the wild” honking.
If you arrive in a refuge area and don’t see a lot of waterfowl, try driving around the local farmed areas and look for birds feeding in the fields. And don’t forget to get back to the marshes just before sunset to catch them returning.
While you’re traveling near evening time, check out those open fields for deer, too. I’m seeing a lot of deer coming out early to feed now, in one instance about 75 deer in one field! Do be careful as darkness approaches; that’s when the deer start moving around, crossing roads, and they are not fun to hit.
You will also start to see a lot of other creatures crossing roads at night including raccoon, opossum and skunk. Of course you should try to avoid them (especially the skunks!) but don’t compromise your safety.
Yes, spring is coming and nature is coming alive. Don’t miss it – get out there!
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or email@example.com .