Saturday, April 11, 2009

Week of April 5-12, 2009

Faint honking in the distance signaled the arrival of a new migrant: bean geese! They were the first to greet us at the beginning of this week when a group of 17 birds flew over the visitors center early last Sunday morning.

The warm weather and sunshine has melted away all of the residual snow and slowly but surely the little ponds that dot the landscape of the park are beginning to thaw.

Bean geese were not the only waterfowl to grace us with their presence this week. Glimpses of other waterfowl were seen in the distance but could not be identified. Their location at the park remained a bit of a mystery until a thawed portion of wetland was discovered at one end of the park. A quick survey in this area revealed a mixed group of ducks consisting primarily of green-winged teal, mallards, and northern pintail. But at closer inspection, there were also Eurasian widgeon, tufted ducks, common goldeneye and two very nice species; falcated and Baikal teal.

Along the shores of the pond were hundreds of Northern lapwings....a medium-sized shorebird that can hardly go unnoticed. These birds are quite common and during the breeding season are famous for their fearless protection of their nest on the ground from predators or curious humans. Besides being both brave and beautiful, they have very unique vocalizations which sound like a mix between a siren and some type of childs toy. Among the many other migrants that have arrived this week, was the Hoopoe. The Hoopoe spends the winter in Africa where I snapped this photo last year:

Although all three cranes were spotted in the park the prior week, their numbers have steadily increased over the course of this week. To date, we have observed three pairs of Red-crowned cranes on the property. One pair has been a regular site near the nature center and will most likely nest near here as they have done in the previous years. The other two pairs arrived a bit later and were noted on the southern end of the park where they were feeding together. To the best of our knowledge, there are also approximately 24 white-naped cranes present. This was the largest flock size that has flown over the wetlands. Yesterday, I drove around the property to see what the crane population looks like and in total I have found 7 pairs that have begun to set up territories. A flock of roughly 48 hooded cranes have also been feeding in the nearby fields, and these birds have stayed in a more or less tight flock the whole week.

It appears as of to date, we may have five pairs of white storks that have staked out a nest in and around the park. One of these nests, includes a refurbished nest constructed by Sergei Smirenski after it was destroyed in a previous fire..... Lastly, I want to mention that butterflies have been emerging all over the park giving this week the true feeling of spring.

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