Oh how I struggle in the dark season! Is it hard for you, too? The insects that fascinate me and fill my days with wonder in the spring, summer, and fall are absent. The shorter days entice me to spend far too much “cozy time” in my pajamas drinking coffee and eating…um, unhealthy food. You may have noticed that I haven’t written here for a while; that’s more evidence that I’ve been struggling to find anything positive to say.
But I’ve made it this far and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can do this! The foot of snow that fell on us earlier this month is melting quickly, and the next two days will be warm enough to make it all go away. There’s been a lot of sunshine in recent days, and that is a HUGE help for anyone who has trouble with depression in the winter. The vernal equinox is on March 20…so close I can almost taste it. (By the way, I’d forgotten the difference between an equinox and a solstice, so I looked it up. You might want to refresh your memory too, here. Basically, equinoxes are in the spring and fall, and solstices in the winter and summer.)
Today I needed to renew my kayak registration at Maumee Bay State Park, so I decided to stop at the nearby Bayshore Fishing Access area on my way home. This is a spot on the western edge of Lake Erie (in Maumee Bay) where there’s often open water because of the warm water release from a nearby power plant. Birders flock to it in winter because it sometimes hosts thousands of ducks at a time.
Wait, what? Kim went birding?! I know, it’s been a loooong time since I’ve done this. My love of insects and native plants has erased nearly all interest in watching birds over the past few years. But today it was time to get back up on the birding horse. Wait, that sounds weird, like maybe I was planning to saddle up a Sandhill Crane colt. (But I am heading to Nebraska next month to see the massive migration of Sandhill Cranes, so you never know what might happen there….I’m told that what happens in Kearney stays in Kearney.)
In my previous life as an obsessed birder, I’d normally take several hundred photos while watching ducks. But this time I wanted to enjoy them in a different way, and I took only a couple dozen photos. Also, there was a cold wind blowing off the lake, so I didn’t stay long. It was a mostly-peaceful scene, except for the groups of male Redheads in pursuit of females. I always feel bad for the females in these amorous avian amalgamations; as you can see above, she’s racing to get away from their aggressive attentions. (A more talented writer than me wouldn’t feel the need to point out the awesome alliteration in that sentence, but I’ve tickled myself with it!)
I only saw this single male Common Merganser today, but they’re always fun to watch as they dive over and over in search of small fish. Another pleasant find was the Common Goldeneye, with its lovely eye and cute white cheek patch. (Click the picture to get a better look.)
These gorgeous ducks spend the breeding season in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska. Here’s an interesting bit of info about their nesting habits, courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “Goldeneye chicks leave the nest just one day after they hatch. The first step can be a doozy, with nests placed in tree cavities up to 40 feet high. As the female stands at the base of the tree and calls, the downy chicks jump from the nest hole one after the other and tumble to the ground.” If you’ve never seen videos of ducklings jumping from their tree nest, I encourage you to watch this one from PBS…it’s incredible.
I’m happy to find that I can still enjoy birding, and that it helped me get through one more day of winter. I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself back out there searching for more open water along the shores of Lake Erie after the warmer temperatures coming up this week.
But I still long for my six-legged friends! I was a little bit sad yesterday when I had to remove a 50-foot elm tree in my yard, mourning all the insects that were undoubtedly dying as the tree was chopped up. And that’s probably why my brain conjured up a tiny insect dream snippet last night. It felt like the dream only lasted a few seconds, but I was standing in my garden and noticing that it was suddenly and unexpectedly spring and I was surrounded by all sorts of insects! I jumped for joy and ran toward the house to get my camera. And then woke up. What a teaser of a dream that was. But oh my gosh, that feeling!!!!!