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Ruby-throated hummingbirds coming

Ruby throated hummingbird. (Steve Maanum /For the Enterprise)

The other day while I was raking pine needles in the back yard, the familiar and welcome call of a loon flying over made me stop and smile. I whispered, "Welcome home" and thought about the northern migration.

Last September I wrote about our hummingbirds heading south. Now they're on their way to their northern homes. I haven't seen one yet, but I know Deb Junge and others already have their feeders out and ready. I have mentioned an Internet-based migration site called Journey North in previous columns and this is a perfect time to check with their experts to follow the signs of spring. People write to them with their migration observations and they plot the sightings on maps that are updated regularly.

As of March 31, ruby-throated hummingbirds had been seen in Illinois and Michigan, but no Minnesota sightings had been reported yet. We're certainly ahead of schedule this year with such things as ice-out, so does that mean that everything else will be ahead of schedule, too?

On that subject, Journey North states, "All seasonal changes - temperature, plant growth, life cycles, animal migration, and so on - are driven by shifts in the amount of available sunlight (day length and photo period) and its intensity (related to the angle at which it strikes the Earth)."

I noticed a pair of wood ducks checking out the nesting boxes in our back yard last Sunday morning. I always enjoy that scene because as the female flies up to check each box, her mate just sits patiently on the ground waiting. It reminds me of going to a shopping center with my wife. My desire to shop and my ability to shop for more than ten minutes have dwindled over the years, so now I find a comfortable seat in the mall and read or write while Deb checks out the different stores.

Spring is meant for observing, sharing, and possibly photographing many of the seasonal changes and events. One nice and easy way to accomplish all three is to use a remote camera. I use Hawk-eye nature cams in nesting boxes to record and document the habits of wood ducks.

It is small in size and includes a microphone and color lens. Its infrared capability allows night filming. The camera includes a 100-foot cable that must be connected to a VCR or video camera in order to view and record the image. I am not aware of any local store that carries them so I purchase mine at MINCO technologies in St. Cloud.

You can also go on-line to the Hawk-eye nature Cam Web site at where you can get more details and see videos of owls, eagles, bluebirds, and flying squirrels.

By placing a remote camera by your bird feeder or in a birdhouse this spring you can observe nature, share it with others, and photograph some usual and unusual natural happenings. Most importantly, you are learning about nature without disturbing your subject.

Steve Maanum can be reached at sdmaanum@