Spring in the marsh

The sounds of red-winged blackbirds are once again filling the air.  They’ve settled into their summer homes, nests are nice and cozy and beginning to fill with eggs!  As the last remnants of pussy willows disappear into blooms and leaves, green is now transforming the marsh and soon young will be hatching.

I’ve discovered a number of nests. Three have been completely destroyed by a predator in the marsh. The others, I am very careful around. I shoot quickly and leave quickly so that I don’t stress out birds unnecessarily or give away their locations. This nest was built too close to people and she’s been noticed. Sadly. People are not thoughtful enough about such discoveries and I worry that she may still abandon her nest. That being said, take a close look at the nest. I watched her for a short while as she built it. It is amazing that they can weave the grasses into such sturdy structures with only a beak!

It is exciting to find a nest and to follow it through nesting, hatching and fledging.  Consider, however, that if you want to see one through all the stages, it is very important to respect the nest and the parents.  The birds want to be felt invisible to you, they want to feel safe from strangers and threats.  Time they spend off the nest to distract onlookers away from their families is energy that may be needed to incubate, protect and feed their chicks. If a bird is not spending enough time on a nest, the eggs may not hatch.  If parents don’t feel safe enough to feed themselves and their chicks enough, the chicks may not thrive. So if you find a nest, that’s wonderful.  And it will be more wonderful to spend as little time as possible close to it it and when near one, be quick and don’t linger, so that parents feel safe to do what they need to do.

Green is returning. There is now a fringe of green at the bottom of last year’s cattails as new growth pushes up.

The males were the first to arrive, setting up territories before the ladies arrived. They are now in protective mode, calling out dangers and swooping around people who get close to unseen nests, attempting to lure threats away. When they aren’t chirping threat alarms to the other birds, they are singing to proclaim their territories.

This is a Common Grackle nest! It was perfectly placed so that the nest could be observed, yet far enough that the bird didn’t seem alarmed at being watched. She would occasionally rise to move eggs in the nest, to adjust pieces of the nest. I was looking forward to seeing the eggs hatch. Then one day, the nest was gone. Completely. A marsh predator of some sort had pulled the entire nest down and the grasses themselves were reshaped so that there was no sign this ever existed. As few days later, a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds nests similarly disappeared. It’s a tough world.

I’ve seen as many as a dozen turtles piled against each other along this log. This day, a single one was sunning in this location and a friend joined for a while.

Mom doesn’t like anyone stopping on the boardwalk. If someone does, she quickly leaves her nest to try to distract the perceived threats away from the nest. I took advantage of the beautiful lighting and pose to snap a couple of shots and continued my walk. As soon as my back turned to her, she settled back into her nest.

The song of the yellow warbler is once again filling the air throughout the city. They are so small that they can be difficult to see behind leaves and branches, but their song is unmistakable. It you are in the Toronto area, Google their song. It’s unlikely that you haven’t heard it before.

A Canada Warbler peeks through branches. The world is full of bright colour right now, as warblers of all sort migrate through.

What’s a marsh without a muskrat? This fellow was swimming along the shoreline, periodically stopping to munch on cattails.

What’s spring without the sound of frogs singing love songs? It’s amazing how much volume can come out of something so small, but it’s wonderful to listen to and this fellow attracted a bit of attention, so apparently he also is sounding good to potential mates as well.

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