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Spring comes into the north, east

By the time you read this, I'll be home in the meadow after a trip to Pennsylvania to visit my folks. I'm happy to report spring is on the way across the country.

By the time you read this, I'll be home in the meadow after a trip to Pennsylvania to visit my folks. I'm happy to report spring is on the way across the country.

Saturday, March 10 as my husband and I came up on the Fargo airport, we saw a small flock of swans flying overhead, and I'm guessing they were tundras. A few moments later, we saw a large flock of geese pass overhead.

In a tree right outside the terminal, we heard starlings chatting and chickering. I also saw a small sparrow-like bird, but that's all I can tell you.

Once I arrived in Pennsylvania, I saw some hawks riding thermals Sunday, March 11. I know red-tailed hawks were spotted in the area as early as Feb. 16, during the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), so I'm betting that's what I saw.

I also saw mourning doves March 11, as well as a couple of white-breasted nuthatches and chickadees. The best sighting for the day was a couple of tufted titmice, since that is the first time I ever saw this bird.

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My mom loves tufted titmice. Now that I've seen one, I understand: These little gray birds with the pompadours are really cheerful.

The tufted titmice I spotted were grabbing seeds from feeders and carrying them away. Once or twice I saw a titmouse poking around on the ground.

Tufted titmice generally live just east of Minnesota, but some do make their way into the southeastern corner of the state and into the Twin Cities area. During the 2007 GBBC, for instance, birders in Red Wing and Cottage Grove counted the tufted titmouse on their checklists. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, tufted titmice expanded their range "steadily northwards" in the last century, so perhaps one day these little gray birds will make their way to the north woods.

Tuesday, March 12, I got up early to check out the bird action in my parents' back yard. Starlings and mourning doves were active (two doves nest in the neighbors' tree), but the highlight of the morning was seeing a male cardinal and hearing him sing from the neighbor's tree, proclaiming his territory.

The cardinal sang for about an hour, from a little before 7 a.m. until the sun really came up. His songs were clear and ringing - absolute "what-cheer" whistles, along with many other notes.

I also heard but did not see a robin calling from a tree that was several houses away.

Around 10 a.m. that same morning, I saw at least four large flocks of Canada geese flying north in the space of about 20 minutes.

Back home

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Back here in Hubbard and Becker counties, spring was also on the move this week.

Peggy from Two Inlets spotted a mourning dove in her backyard Friday, May 9, along with a juvenile bald eagle. Saturday, May 10, Peggy saw "Wilma Woodchuck." She said Wilma was "up and about, eating under the feeder."

A friend thought he might have seen a bluebird fly across the road in front of his truck around noon on Wednesday, March 14. He wasn't entirely sure, but I'm mentioning the sighting to determine if anyone else might have spotted an early bluebird.

Varied news

Margi Ambrose wrote to say that her husband Don spotted a varied thrush close to their bird feeder on the back bay of Third Crow Wing Lake Tuesday, March 13. I think I've received more news of varied thrushes this year than any year before.

Margi also said that a ruffed grouse had been an almost daily visitor, at least until the big snowfall came.

Puzzler

Here is the answer to last week's question: Many woodpeckers, including downy and hairy woodpeckers, have zygodactyl feet, with two toes going forward and two toes going backwards.

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I have mourning doves on my mind, so I will ask this question: What is the longest recorded lifespan for a mourning dove?

If you can't wait until next week for the answer, drive by Ace Hardware, where the answer will be displayed on the sign.

When sending your reports, be sure to give your name and a little information on where you made your sighting. Send to mau

reeng@unitelc.com or, if it's easier, drop a letter by the office or in the mail.

This column is brought to you by Park Ace Hardware.

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Open seven days a week, Ace is located on Highway 71 south, Park Rapids, 732-4513. Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks.

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