Lake Emma Merlin chases goldfinches

I spent a little while Wednesday morning watching a bald eagle sit on its eggs in a tree-top nest. Thanks to the National Wildlife Federation's "Bald Eagle Web Camera," I caught a few seconds of a mature eagle incubating its eggs, somewhere in Ma...

I spent a little while Wednesday morning watching a bald eagle sit on its eggs in a tree-top nest.

Thanks to the National Wildlife Federation's "Bald Eagle Web Camera," I caught a few seconds of a mature eagle incubating its eggs, somewhere in Maine, not too far from the Atlantic Ocean. The female eagle laid her eggs March 6 and researchers expect the chicks to hatch out sometime around April 10.

The day I visited the Web site, I had trouble getting the Web cam images to keep playing on my computer - only a limited number of viewers can access the images at any time and the site gives that warning. Nevertheless, it's worth visiting /baldeagle/webcam.cfm because of all the great eagle information there.

For instance, I learned this particular eagle pair "practiced" incubating eggs weeks before any eggs were laid. Both the male and the female took turns sitting in their empty nest for periods of 45 minutes to three hours.

The Web site also has a photo of a juvenile bald eagle that came to the featured nest and got chased off. It looks just like the young eagle I saw north of Emmaville a couple weeks back, with a dark head and blotchy, dark coloration. Scientists speculated that the juvenile was actually one of the eagle couple's own children, and that the bird was just coming back to visit mom and dad. There is no way to know this for sure, though.



Speaking of birds of prey, I spent a long time watching a red-tailed hawk ride the winds Saturday, March 18. The hawk was so high up in the air I could identify it only by its silvery-white underside and characteristic dark bars at the wing edges.

I saw a couple more hawks on my trip to Bemidji Monday, March 20. There were also ravens here and there, picking deer carcasses clean in the road ditches.

Dick from Lake Emma Township saw a merlin Tuesday morning, March 21. He said the merlin was chasing redpolls and goldfinches. Merlins are somewhat similar to American kestrels in appearance.

If any merlins show up here in the meadow, they will have their pick of goldfinches, since the birds are filling the trees around the house. At certain times during the day, if I step outside, the sound is really dazzling. Some "goldies" are really starting to get their bright summer color, too.

Edric Clarke of Park Rapids saw three wild turkey hens feeding along a road ditch west of Two Inlets the morning of March 21.

"It's been years since I saw any wild turkeys," Edric wrote.

Cardinal rule


Edric Clarke also wrote me with some momentous news March 11: For the first time in 36 years he had a pair of cardinals at his feeder.

"Today is a red letter day because it is a red bird day," was the way he put it.

I think I understand. As I've written here before, in Pennsylvania I grew up around cardinals. A neighbor had cardinals in his pine tree year round, and I could hear the birds calling from my bedroom. I can whistle a cardinal call, the one that goes, "What-cheer, what-cheer."

Even the mascot for my high school was a cardinal. A bright red male cardinal with his crest fully extended was a "fighting cardinal." Okay, so maybe we weren't panthers, but we were still pretty tough.

When I set up my first birdfeeder in Iowa City - attached to my apartment window with suction cups - a cardinal couple graced it each morning. When their grayish baby was big enough, they brought him along to the feeder. I watched both mother and father place seeds in the kid's mouth.

And what about female cardinals? No, they aren't brilliant vermillion, but they have their own dusky red beauty. Sure, they might let their men feed them seeds once in a while, but it's not because they can't feed themselves.

So, even though I'm not a person who only likes brightly-colored birds, cardinals have been with me my whole life. If they are extending their range northward as they appear to be doing, I hope they start hanging out in the meadow. In any case, I wanted to write about cardinals this week, since this marks the start of the fourth year of the phenology column. I've enjoyed each one of the 150 or so columns I've written.

Long may we all fly.


Thank you to all who wrote with news. When sending your reports, be sure to give your name and a little information on where you made your sighting. Send to maureeng no later than 8 a.m. Thursdays. If it's easier, feel free to drop a letter by the office, or in the mail.

This column is brought to you by Park Ace Hardware. Spring is here! Now is a great time to start planning your deck preservation. Check out our full line of Cabot and Sikkens stains.

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