Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Few March Songs

"In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence."

― Robert Lynd

Hooded Merganser

The section of trail that runs along the North Fork section of Pheasant Branch Creek is a great place to observe and photograph early spring migrants. On account of freezing temperatures, the confluence ponds were open in only a few areas on Saturday, but were frozen by Sunday morning. There was a single Hooded Merganser, a Lesser Scaup, Mallards, Northern Shoveler, and several Canada Geese present, but they likely left for Lake Mendota where there is still open water.

March's habitat color primarily consists of browns and blues. The newly arriving birds offer other colors, often red or yellow dramatic highlights ― perhaps an eye, a wing, or cap. But there are March sounds, too. Once the male Hooded Mergansers begin their courtship displays, they emit a call that's more frog-like than bird.

Hooded Merganser:


Even if you're not a bird enthusiast, I'm sure you'll recognize the songs and calls I've included in this blog post. Perhaps you've heard them while running an errand at a store that has a small wetland nearby, or maybe while doing yard work. These voices provide the soundtrack for early spring. Well, it isn't astronomical spring just yet, but Nature doesn't waste any time when weather conditions are favorable to exploit resources for future nesting opportunities.


Red-winged Blackbird

Maybe you haven't spent much time outside so far this year. So, for the remainder of this post, I would like you to imagine yourself walking along a trail adjacent to a marsh. Play the recordings while admiring the birds. You should be able to play more than one at a time. Imagine you have a camera and you feel compelled to photograph the critters you encounter. In the truest Mary Oliver sense, there is nothing else I'd rather be doing. There is nothing else I should be doing.

Red-winged Blackbird:

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow:

Sandhill Crane

And if I should ever learn I have only  few weeks left of my life, I wouldn't travel to Galapagos, New Zealand, or Borneo ― I would spend as much time as I could at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. If I were still able to walk, I would traverse the trails I know so well, listen to the voices that have given me decades of happiness, and admire the avian life that has inspired me to return to them, again and again.

Sandhill Crane:

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Mar 10, 2017 5:05 PM - 5:35 PM
21 species

Canada Goose
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
American Crow
Horned Lark
American Robin
European Starling
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
House Finch

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell