Northland Nature Journal: Unique bird and wildlife sightings

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Saturday, Jan. 20

The red-bellied woodpecker is a fairly new resident to this area from the south. One visited my bird feeder. It is the first I have had stay more than a day or two, so it appears to have included us in its home range.

Sunday, Jan. 21

I saw good amount of snowshoe hare tracks. They have been in low numbers here for many years. Hopefully, they're making a comeback.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, it derives its name from the soles of its large feet which are well-furred, particularly in winter, enabling the hare to run on soft snow without sinking. The snowshoe hare is extremely fast and agile, reaching speeds of 30 mph and jumping 12 feet in a single bound.

Monday, Jan. 22

Five black-billed magpies flew over. The magpies are getting to be more and more common during the fall and winter. I even found one nesting here last spring.

Magpies are part of the corvid family that includes the jays, crows and ravens.

In a Northern Minnesota Phenology report, John Latimer wrote, "They are singular in their appearance, and though not very plentiful here in northern Minnesota, they are unmistakable. Bold black and white patterns dominate the bird. The head, back and upper breast are black. The belly and the scapular feathers are white, as are the primaries at the end of the wing. The tail is black and very long. It is perhaps the most visually dominating feature of the bird."

The nest is a thing to behold, Latimer continues. "They are constructed of a base of large sticks with a robin-like cup of mud and grasses in the center. Then they build a cover often using sticks with thorns to deter predators. The whole thing can become quite large. Generally, they average two feet long and a foot high."

Wednesday, Jan. 31

Mature aspen have big buds. The emergence of pussy willows is another early sign of spring, also the juneberry.

Tuesday, Feb. 17

An eagle carried grass to its nest.

I'm also hearing chickadees calling "feebeee" every morning and woodpeckers drumming on hollow trees.

On average, waterfowl start coming back March 7, and the first robin is seen on March 20. The red-winged blackbird averages March 25, so spring is in sight!