Signs of spring appear

Posted March 25, 2011, at 8:07 p.m.

Winter flew away on the wings of two Barrow’s goldeneyes on the Kenduskeag Stream. Last week, Joni Dunn and I were walking along the path next to the Kenduskeag, and we saw two male Barrow’s goldeneyes quite close to us. They were swimming and diving to catch and eat aquatic insects such as crayfishes and nymphs of dragonflies and damselflies. (A “nymph” is an immature form of an insect that does not change greatly as it grows — unlike a butterfly, which goes through a significant change from a caterpillar.)

Barrow’s goldeneyes are beautiful, with a purplish gloss to the feathers on their heads, a white crescent in front of each eye and their golden eyes. They have a good name.

These ducks come to Maine rivers in November and stay through the winter to be warm. Now, they are flying to northern Canada, Iceland and Greenland (which should be called Whiteland, not Greenland, because Greenland is all white with snow and ice in all seasons).

Spring flew in on the wings of red-winged blackbirds and grackles. I saw several red-winged blackbirds, and I was thrilled. I don’t usually like grackles, but I enjoy seeing them come back to Maine in the spring.

With the Downeast Outing Club, I went to Surry for a walk near Union River Bay. There, I found another sign of spring: Little paths and tunnels were evident in fields where the snow had melted. These tiny trails were created by voles (mouselike rodents with smaller eyes and shorter tails).  Their paths are paved with grass. They also make grass nests the size of a softball, with a hole in the side of the nest. When the new green grass comes up in late April and May, the vole’s paths will not be visible.

I also found a mole hole in the wet soil of a field in Surry. The hole was two inches wide with a six-inch-long pile of new mud coming out from the hole. This was evidence of a star-nosed mole. These moles dig through muddy soil looking for earthworms and larval insects to eat.

I love spring!

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