Early March arrivals, late March awakenings

Birds in Particular

by Halle O’Falvey

I am so happy for the month of March to begin, even though predictions are snowy and cold, then mild with rain. February froze lakes, so, “ice out” may be delayed as well as waterfowl return. They depend upon open water, as they fly North, one lake at a time. 

We will have some big hits this month anyway. I’ll stop by Lilydale for the wood ducks and the robins who live there year-round, Carpenter Nature Center for Eastern bluebirds, Fort Snelling State Park for swallows, the 140th Street marsh in Hastings for kildeers and red-winged blackbirds, and Lake Phalen for mergansers and swans. Great blue herons will fly over my house from Pig’s Eye Heron Rookery and chipping sparrows will hop along on my front boulevard. I might find a crossbill or two in the spruce tree. 

One of my favorite spring arrivals is that of the double-crested cormorants that show up on the Mississippi River. They like to hang out on stumps, buoys, pilings and old fences. They remind me of dinosaurs with shiny black wings. If you look close enough, you will see amazing oranges and yellows that draw you toward their head. When they are sunbathing you may find their bright aqua-marine blue eyes in your binoculars. Most alluring though is the blue lining of their mouths that brighten during the mating season.  

March 1 is the Waning Gibbous Moon, in the astrological sign of Libra, and my cousin’s birthday.  This Snow Moon, which rose at 6:31 pm on February 27, 2021, is called the Hunger Moon. The Dakota call it the Popping Tree Moon and the Ojibwe call it the Sucker Fish Moon. It was a time when people were getting sick, food supplies were thin, and hunters had to travel far for food.

This is also the time black bears are waking up from their deep sleep, called “torpor.” Black bears are not true hibernators. Males wake up when it is warm and forage for food. Females are giving birth to blind, deaf, and toothless cubs suckling in a dark, warm shelter. The cubs have a fine fur covering over their bodies. By May or June, the furry cubs will be tumbling out of the den revealing their blue eyes and robust desire to play. Tamarack swamps are favored because the saplings are sturdy, strong and amendable. 

So, here is a moon joke from my “reliable source.” Why wasn’t the moon hungry? Because it was FULL!!! Get it? A full moon. 

And here is the perfect activity for the month. Get outside!!! Look up and listen for songbirds. They are really vocal in spring during mating. Make them some nice, healthy bird treats. Check out the International Owl Festival, an annual celebration of the nocturnal predator that will be held March 5-7, 2021. They have very few things planned for the event which is hosted in the Southeastern Minnesota town of Houston with the Covid-19 Pandemic. 

Still, they have many things planned virtually. And you can check out the children’s art exhibition and their Facebook page. (Facebook.com/FestivalOfOwls/). This year’s submissions were from nearly 50 different countries. Tune into programming to hear experts to speak about owls at internationalowlcenter.org.

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