We may live in the city, but nature, though often drowned out, is still there and capable of putting on a show. I live near Lake Calhoun and this is spring migration season. This year the birds are coming through, and in greater numbers than usual.
We had an early thaw this year, but normally the red breasted mergansers arrive the first day the ice recedes from the shore. How they know it is a mystery. Do they have scouts? Like most of the migrants, they hang around for a couple of weeks and they’re gone until fall.
Most numerous are the coots, little round black birds with white beaks.
They gather in the southwest corner of the lake and dive for food.
My wife and I have watched a drama worthy of a PBS nature show when one of the local bald eagles comes cruising by. The coots gather together in a tight pack. When the eagle swoops down to take one, they all flutter their wings and splash water. This seemed to confuse the eagle, who came up empty after several runs.
Mixed in with the large flocks of coots, probably also to discourage predators, are a number of other species. Today I saw pied-billed grebes, eared grebes and horned grebes. At first glance they look like coots, being shaped about the same, but their heads and colors are much different. The eared and horned grebes are striking and well worth bringing your binoculars to the lake.
Today’s coot flock also hid four types of ducks–red heads, buffleheads, lesser scaups and blue winged teals.
In the past week I’ve also seen canvasbacks.
The ducks vary from year to year, but I’ve also seen northern shovelers and goldeneyes in the past. Trumpeter swans appeared a couple of years ago.
The loons are back. Two or three of them will stay all summer in different corners of the lake, usually a few hundred feet from shore.
Soon the warblers should come through. It’s an exciting time of year.
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