Yesterday I saw two new birds at my feeders. The Yellow-rumped Warblers are migrating through. I have been seeing lots of them along the Red Cedar River but today I saw my first one on the farm. I think this is the first one I’ve ever photographed on the farm.
The Eastern Phoebes have also been plentiful along the Red Cedar River. I normally have them build a nest around the house and yesterday I saw my first one of the season on the farm.
It’s been a long winter for the White-tailed Deer. We had 18 inches of snow in the middle of December followed by rain and ice so it was difficult for them to dig for food. Things didn’t get any better this spring where it has snowed almost every day since the first day of spring.
My wife retired the first of April and decided it was time to start enjoying one of her hobbies baking. In checking our flower stock she discovered that most of it was bad so she gave it to me to discard. I decided the deer might eat it so I took it out to the garden and dumped it a big pile.
A couple of days later one of the deer wandered through the garden and started eating it. It didn’t make much of a dent in it and I thought they didn’t like it. The next evening it snowed about six inches. The next day the deer was back and made short work of the flower.
Something really unusual happened on Saturday. The sun was shining. Since spring started I think we have seen the sun about three times. On most of the other days it has snowed. Since the sun was out my wife and I decided to take a walk on the Red Cedar State Trail.
The no walking signs have been removed so people can now walk on the trail but with all of the snow some diehard folks are still trying to ski. On Saturday the trail was 90 percent snow covered between Menomonie and Irvington. In the morning the snow was crusted and the bare spots were frozen. by late morning the snow had turned to slush and the bare spots were muddy. Most of the hike was along the side of the trail where the ground was solid.
We hadn’t gone three hundred yards and we saw a Sharp-skinned Hawk on a tree next to the trail. Of course, my camera was in the pack. He didn’t seem concerned about our presence so I started to get the camera out when I notice a large group of kids walking towards us. I figured they would scare the hawk away so we just watched the hawk until it finally flew away.
We started seeing large numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Eastern Phoebes, Veerys, Brown Creepers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets along the trail. It was a great day for birding. We also saw a couple of Bald Eagles fishing along the Red Cedar River.
The first flower of the year was also starting to bloom. We found Skunk Cabbage poking through the snow several places along the trail.
Late in the morning we started to be plagued by what I think were snow flies. We could hardly open our mouths without getting a bug flying in. In some places the snow was almost black with them. The birds were having a field day. There were large groups of swallows flying above the river.
On Monday we hiked the trail from Irvington to the five mile marker. On Monday there was less snow but where there was snow it had turned to ice so waking was a little difficult. There were a lot fewer birds although we did see and hear a fair number of Sandhill Cranes and saw a few eagles. There were also quite a few of Buffleheads in the river.
We had another six inches of snow overnight.
Another sign that spring is just around the corner the American Goldfinches are moulting. For the past several weeks I’ve been photographing male goldfinches that are moulting.
I have Dark-eyed Juncos around most of the winter. In the spring they migrate to Canada. The spring migration must be underway because for the last several weeks I’ve had large numbers of them at my feeder. Apparently the females migrate further south and most of the increased numbers are females. Normally there are under a dozen at the feeder but overnight I started seeing up to three dozen of them at my feeders at any one time. Over the past week the numbers have started to go down and I suspect they will all be gone soon. This is assuming spring is still going to come.
The first of the spring birds turned up at my feeder on April 11. It wasn’t the best of days to return because it was the first of several days of an April snowstorm that dumped considerable snow over the area. The Song Sparrow didn’t seem to mind the snow and spent time at my black sunflower feeder and homemade suet feeder.
A number of House Finches turned up at my feeders this past week. I was able to get a number of photos. One bird seemed to have House Finch eye disease. One of its eyes was swollen shut. It seemed to be getting along ok but I suspect its life expectancy is not going to be long. I’ve been watching to see if there are any other infected birds it there are I’ll need to take down my feeders and clean them.
House Finch Eye Disease
House Finch Eye Disease
With the advent of Spring I have been wandering around the farm although it has been tough going with the snow still over a foot deep in the woods. I tried to walk around the farm and was successful early in the morning when the crust on the snow was hard but in the afternoon snowshoes were required. We have also started hiking on some of the trails around town. In the process I’ve found a few interesting things in the snow.
White Pine Needles
When we woke up this morning is was snowing out. The fifth straight day of snow. On the other hand it could have been rain. Since it was snow we decided to head down to the Red Cedar State Trail to do some hiking. By the time we reached the trail it was really snowing hard.
I was surprised at how much bird activity there was along the trail. Normally this time of year the birds are singing but today not a peep. There were a lot Eastern Phoebes and American Robins along the trail. One of our goals was to see if the Bald Eagles were nesting at the 1.5 mile mark. Both of them were sitting next to the nest but not on the nest. There were a few ducks on the Red Cedar River. There were several other birds that I didn’t recognize which were migrating through. At one point an American Kestrel landed near us then few off. A short time later it landed on a Eastern Phoebe and drug it off of the trail.
There were lots of leaves on the trail most of them had worked their way into the snow and were now covered with fresh snow.
By the time we returned from the hike we were covered with heavy wet snow. I look a little miserable but in reality it was a great day to be out hiking although, to be honest, it felt like hiking in the first big snowfall of the season.
Things are finally starting to ramp up at Hoffman Hills Recreation Area. We were out last week and saw very few birds, the ponds were covered in ice and the Pussy Willows were just thinking about blooming. Things are way behind where they were last year. Last year the trees were budding, the birds were nesting and the first of the spring flowers were out. Last year was abnormal this year appears to be a bit behind normal.
Yesterday we visited again and there was quite a bit of activity. A pair of Canada Geese have returned to claim their nesting area. At the end of last year there was almost no water in the first pond. Things have improved a bit but the pond needs quite a bit more water. The pond is still covered in ice and snow but the geese had found about a three foot section that was slushy water. We noticed on the pond where one of the geese had landed when it flew in. there was a long skid mark where it slid across the ice before coming to a stop.
The Pussy Willows are showing more blooms now although they are probably more than a week away given the weather we are expecting.
We heard Sandhill Cranes calling, saw a Bald Eagle and saw about a half dozen Eastern Bluebirds. For the most part the Prairie is covered with snow. There were lots of American Robbins around. We also noticed three students working on some kind of film. Lots of running but I have no idea what the film was about.
More spring photos from Hoffman Hills Recreation Area can be found on my website.