Spring officially starts March 19th but that is what we say. I prefer to let nature tell me when it arrives and this past week she has been telling me that it's already here. I know we recently had a nasty storm and we will probably have another, but that is part of spring.
My “playground” is the Alabama swamps and the surrounding counties of Orleans, Niagara and Genesee where I explore nature with my camera. This includes the state's Oak Orchard Wildlife Management and Tonawanda Wildlife Management areas and the federal Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (INWR). Living on the edge of these areas I visit them on a daily basis and so am treated to many unique sights and experiences.
Early last week saw a big influx of Canada geese with tundra swans and some snow geese showing up too. There was a large number of swans roosting on the ice on the back of Cayuga Pool at INWR and a lot of geese in the air looking for places to rest and eat. Jerry called and said there was a large flock of swans with some snow geese mixed in at Carlton. Denise texted me to say she saw a flock of about 35 swans on South Woods Road on her way home from work (when I got there about 150 snow geese had joined them) and Mike let me know that there had been a lot of swans flying over his place on Lake Alice. Ducks such as hooded mergansers, pintails and mallards are also arriving with wood ducks and teal close to follow.
If you live in the country you have probably noticed that sizable groups of deer have been coming out in late afternoon to look for food on the open crop lands. This too is a sign that spring has sprung. The danger of deer on our roads is still there but seems to be less now, as the deer are beginning to head to their feeding grounds or from their bedding areas nearby before dark (which is great for those who dread deer jumping out in front of us as we drive after dark).
Red-winged blackbirds are another sign that spring is arriving and I have noticed small flocks of them, along with some males, already claiming nesting area and singing perches. The gold finches at my feeder are starting to switch over to their yellow and black “coats” and I enjoy the geese calling overhead as I fill the feeder each day.
You may have noticed a few skunks being hit on the roads (they are not very good at looking before crossing) and that is because their mating season is on. Foxes are also on the move scouting out potential den sites.
If you are interested in seeing this exciting coming of spring event, my suggestion is to arrive early in the morning to the above mentioned areas. There are numerous overlooks from which you can “see the action” and if you are not familiar with the area you can stop at INWR eadquarters on Casey Road in the Town of Alabama and get instructions and maps of the state and federal areas. They can also tell you where “the action” is.
If you miss the early morning action, your best bet is to cruise the surrounding crop fields for waterfowl. Geese of course are always in good numbers but in recent years the tundra swans have been making a bigger showing as they stop over on their way back north to tundra country. Their graceful flying and calling (a “barking" or “wow-wow-wow”) is amazing to witness but you must be quick as they don't stay long.
Another white bird that gives quite a sight, usually because of the large number of them in a flock, is the snow goose. They too have been making a bigger showing in this area in recent years during their spring migration back up north to nest. They are smaller than swans and have black-tipped wings with pinkish bills. Their populations have increased tremendously in the past few years and they have become an environment-destroying factor for nesting Canada geese up north. In fact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has increased seasons, bags limits and hunting methods to reduce this problem (but it doesn't seem to be working).
So get out there and experience the coming of spring. Just remember, when doing so: Don't disturb the wildlife and be careful about parking on the sides of roads.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or firstname.lastname@example.org .