Lots of things have been going on in the Alabama swamp this spring and it's been great for the camera buff.
Most recently there has been a snowy egret and a gull-billed tern at the Cayuga Pool Overlook on the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Both of these birds are rare sightings in this area but the tern more so. Extreme birders have been flocking to that sight like ... birds! Of course the white pelican over on the Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area also caused a stir.
The bluebirds had a rough time of it with their first nesting as cold weather made it almost impossible for the adults to find food. Ditto for the purple martins. Hopefully both will do better since warm weather has finally arrived.
The ospreys are all incubating now except the one that electrocuted itself over on the Sound Woods Road. The nest on the power pole next to Route 77 near the Cayuga Overlook may not have a successful season this year due to all the folks stopping near the nest or walking up to it for pictures; they may have spooked mama off enough that the eggs won't develop now. This spot has always been a problem. People harass this bird and it is a very dangerous section of road because there is not enough room to get completely off it (hence the “No Parking” signs on both sides of this section). This virus thing has had a ton of people out visiting the refuge areas and this, of course, has put more pressure on nesting birds such as this osprey.
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There have been some sandhill cranes nesting in the swamp the past few years and now we are seeing some of this reproduction return to the area. It takes two to seven years for young cranes to mate and nest and I believe we are now seeing some of our “home-raised” birds returning. I have been doing quite a bit of photographing of them this year as they have been giving me some great opportunities.
When photographing wildlife you learn a lot about them because you are spending a lot of time waiting to get those good shots. One of the things I have noticed are some of these younger cranes seem to pair up, so maybe we will be seeing more nesting in the future. A few weeks ago I saw a pair of sandhills with a young one (a colt) and that was quite a sight, such big and tall parents and the colt looking like a small goose gosling with its short legs.
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The eaglet in the nest over at Ringneck Marsh will have fledged by the time you read this. There were two eaglets in this nest until the first week in May, then one disappeared. I believe he died from some unknown cause and several of my photos show what looked like his remains.
The other eagle nests that I monitor have one eaglet each, except one that has two, and they will be leaving their nests soon. However, three of those 10 nests were failures this year. One had the predator guard torn from the tree by the wind and a raccoon most likely got up there and ate the eggs. Another failed to hatch for a unknown reason. Another nest on the refuge was not used this year, again for a unknown reason.
There is a new nest in the refuge and most likely it will be used next year.
The good news is that two pair of eagles that had failures the past two years did produce this year.
The state and the feds have both stopped putting predator guards on the eagle nest trees, which I feel is a mistake. Fur prices are way down and not many trappers are out there any more to manage raccoons, which is allowing the population to explode. Raccoon are great carriers of rabies, they are great nest raiders, and when numbers get high they move close to people, causing all kinds of problems.
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Of course there are a ton of goose goslings out there now and they too are becoming a problem. The early goose season that was set up to control our resident goose problem is not working. We just don't have the serious goose hunters out there anymore to manage their numbers.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a massive invasion of folks into the refuge areas, and that is good. More are now seeing and learning about nature — but I'm also seeing some negative activities that are affecting wildlife and that concerns me.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or email@example.com .