Back in January I took a stroll through the USFWS Schoonover Waterfowl Production Area near my home in southeast Michigan. Even in the midst of this relatively mild winter there was little to see aside from some persistent plants from last season and some resident Canada Geese (Anseriformes: Anatidae: Branta canadensis). Today I visited again and now, in late winter, I finally found that a number of birds had returned.
The ubiquitous Canada Geese were still present, and in greater numbers than in January. Their loud honking filled the air, but they were not the only birds looking for love. A variety of ducks were also present, patiently waiting for the geese to silence themselves for a moment so they could issue their own breeding calls.
Ducks are pretty jittery animals, and although I approached as cautiously as possible many fled from their resting places.
Some stayed put however, allowing me enough time to get a positive identification. These Ring-necked Ducks (Anseriformes: Anatidae: Aythya collaris), although somewhat distant, were rather cooperative.
Along the shore a number of newly-returned Red-winged Blackbirds (Passeriformes: Icteridae: Agelaius phoeniceus) and various American sparrows (Passeriformes: Emberizidae) sat among the trees, issuing their own delightful songs. This particular sparrow fancied himself as some kind of Sinatra, crooning for all to hear.
Along the water’s edge I also got this fair shot of a muskrat (Rodentia: Cricetidae: Ondatra zibethicus). These moderately-sized rodents are exceedingly common in North American wetlands, but their skittish and elusive nature makes it hard to get a clear view of one. When alarmed they are quick to dart under the water.
In the distance I could hear Sandhill Cranes (Gruiformes: Gruidae: Grus canadensis) calling loudly, but after driving and hiking around for a bit I could not pinpoint their location. It seemed they were firmly planted in the middle of some nearby private land, comfortably away from prying eyes.
In the end this brief visit was worthwhile, but I am really itching for the plants and animals to explode this spring.