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Published: Monday, 3/17/2014

OUTDOORS

Spring’s songs what we need to hear after brutal winter

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

OBJECTIt was calm Saturday morning, with just a barely detectable wisp of a breeze, so it was quiet enough to hear an aria, a requiem, or even soft elevator music. And if someone or something was belting out a tune, there was no mistaking it.

Stephen Cox reaches out and gets a hungry bird to take feed from his hand near a backyard feeder near Waterville. Stephen Cox reaches out and gets a hungry bird to take feed from his hand near a backyard feeder near Waterville.
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That was definitely singing that I heard bouncing through the still chilly early air. In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a singer and I can’t sing, unless it’s in church and there is a large flock of faithful around to carry the tune. However, I do know the difference between the sound of Wayne Newton and that of Lil Wayne.

 

But the song I heard as the sun pushed just high enough to make its case was definitely sweet music. For the first time this year, it was birds chirping and tweeting and whistling and trilling. After the winter we have been through, that was a song we all needed to hear.

 

Confirmation of this melodic chorus came from Susie Schwind, a savvy bird watcher from Perrysburg. Although we have not played host to the avian version of the Vienna Boys Choir just yet, we’ve heard enough tunes floating through the air to convince us that spring is knocking on the door.

 

“I have heard singing too,” Schwind said Monday. “But I haven’t seen anything unusual, yet, just the usual backyard visitors.” In Schwind’s yard, a recent roll call included chickadees and a downy woodpecker, but there are some additional singers out there, somewhere.

 

Sally Dunn has had a family of five bluebirds — the parents and their brood of three from last year — frequenting her property in Lambertville. She has also seen a male and female cardinal, a half dozen or so gold finches, chickadees, a tufted titmouse or two, and a group of juncos.

 

There has been less activity concentrated around Dunn’s birdfeeders over the past few days, and she sees that as an encouraging sign that the backyard visitors have shifted into spring feeding mode.

 

“Now that a lot of the snow has melted, I think they are out scavenging on all of the real stuff that they haven’t been able to reach for so long,” the avid birder said.

 

Dunn has reason for optimism — she took part in the Great Backyard Bird Count in February and recorded sightings of 19 varieties of birds in a five-hour period. On another February morning, Dunn counted 22 mourning doves in the trees, on the ground, or working the feeders at her home.

 

Although we were back in the crisp single digits Monday morning, there has been enough activity in the air recently to keep us optimistic that we will not be disappointed when spring makes its official arrival on Thursday. Seasonal moves or not, we have been witnessing more activity in our skies.

 

Earl Nowak of Toledo reported seeing a pair of bald eagles and a half dozen turkey vultures around the open water at Bolles Harbor in Michigan. There were thousands of waterfowl in the area, he said, and also a large squadron of snow geese flying overhead, and that was a first for the 76-year-old Nowak.

 

Stephen Cox. Stephen Cox.
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John Grajczyk and his wife got a real treat on a recent drive near the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge when they witnessed a number of whistling swans. The couple saw the swans again on a second visit, and also got a look at three mature bald eagles.

 

Dan Ruziscka reported seeing a snow bunting, a first in his 40 years in Toledo, while Mel Kwiatkowski of Maumee and Johnny Sinkovic filed early reports of robins in the area over the past month or so.

 

BIGGEST WEEK: Registration is open for “The 2014 Biggest Week In American Birding” festival, which will be held May 6-15. The 10-day birding extravaganza is scheduled to coincide with one of the largest spring migrations of songbirds in North America. The birds are concentrated in the mashes and woodlots along the southern edge of Lake Erie as they rest and refuel before the long flight across the lake. The Biggest Week is headquartered at Maumee Bay Lodge & Conference Center and Black Swamp Bird Observatory. The festival features workshops, guided birding activities, half-day birding bus tours, and speakers on a variety of topics. Information and registration are available at biggestweekinamericanbirding.com.

 

BLUEBIRD MONITORING: The Sandusky County Park District is looking for volunteers to monitor bluebird trails this spring. A series of bluebird nesting boxes in one area is referred to as a bluebird "trail," and Sandusky County has the largest number in Ohio, with 150 trails and 700 boxes. To learn more about bluebirds and how to monitor a trail, attend an informational meeting at 7 p.m. on March 26 at the park district office at 1970 Countryside Place in Fremont. No registration is required, but for more information call 419-334-4495.

 

MAUMEE ICE-BREAKER EVENT: The Maumee River Yacht Club is inviting birders, artists, naturalists, and the general public to view the “Mother Nature on the Maumee River” as the ice breaks up and the river begins its transition to spring. On both March 23 and March 30, from noon to 4 p.m., the club will open to the public for the events. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for children, with homemade soups, salads, and desserts served. Guests are encouraged to bring binoculars and make reservations at 419-382-3625. The club is located at 2735 Broadway Street.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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