George Carpenter holds an MSC degree in limnology and a Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife, and his love for the natural world is clear in this report. George and his wife, Trudy, live in Cherry Home subdivision, north of the village of Northport on Grand Traverse Bay, with their two dogs, Franny and Cricket.
"Notes From The Nature Channel"
by George Carpenter
Franny says that spring definitely has sprung but slow enough that we have been able to handle the water. Thanks to the warmer temperatures and recent rain, snow is gone except for a few remnant drifts on north sides of shaded hills. There are also scattered patches in the woods where the ground is still mostly frozen and all of the cedar tangle wetland is flooded, quite deeply in spots. Runoff from the ponds and in the few ditches is heavy and water table drainage to the coastal wetlands is extensive with considerable flooding along the shore. The spring peepers are happily installed in the coastal wetlands and singing/howling through the night (depending on your view - we like them). Tree frogs, eastern toads and salamanders will come later.
Most of the birds are back although female cowbirds, red winged blackbirds, starlings, and common grackles have not put in an appearance yet. Guess the female is the smarter gender. Some dates: killdeer arrived on 4/4, cowbird males 4/7, song sparrows 4/7 - the previous "Notes" [George's reports appear regularly on the Cherry Home website] announced other arrivals. Sandhill cranes have been voicing overhead since 4/2 but have quieted lately. The big news is pairings - all of the woodpeckers (pileated, red bellied, downy and hairy) are firmly paired as are Canada geese and mallards. Bufflehead, common and hooded mergansers, and goldeneye are pairing as well although there are some unspoken for if anyone is interested.
Beach grass is greening and deer have been seen digging up the roots. No deer are showing stress or foal swelling yet although a couple are known to have been caught this winter by coyotes. For the first time in two years a fox has been heard barking and tracks were seen in a recent light snow. Hope they're on their way back.
Burdock leaves are emerging as is reed canary grass. That's pretty much it although roadside grass is showing. Trembling aspen buds are swelling but the red maple isn't showing yet, will soon though.
No wood ducks have been seen yet but the barred owl is finally calling in the woods. The bear did not make an appearance last fall and still hasn't this spring. Cricket informs me that pileated woodpeckers drill their own holes and will drill a new one if a second brood is contemplated. Red heads and hairy woodpeckers will drill their own nests or use existing cavities but most other birds like downsides, nuthatches, and chickadees prefer someone else do the work.
We saw a single red headed woodpecker last year and wonder whether we might see more this year. The story has it that the next few years might see an upswing in woodpeckers due to the emerald ash borer getting stronger in our area. Dead or dying ash trees are common in the lower County and there are infected trees in Leelanau State Park, possibly hundreds. The bad news is two trees have been seen in Cherry Home Shores and more are expected. The short term prognosis (5 - 10 years) is that the ash will be eradicated but another host has not been identified yet so maybe seedlings can pull a comeback. Keep hoping and get out there, Mosquitos are still a month away!
Thank you, George! I'll add to your report that we spotted a pair of common mergansers on Shalda Creek yesterday. It took me way too long to identify them, but a camera with zoom and a couple of wildlife guides finally paid off. - pj