Boomer Lake has been a virtual airport and highlight of social activity over the past several weeks. Since migration is gearing up, we’ve been seeing plenty of birds moving through both inbound and outbound.
What few Mallards we do observe have been sticking fairly close together and the local domestics have also been in tow with them. Many of those domestics have been there for years, and the Cayuga has been in residence for at least seven years. I recall photographing that bird in the winter when I got my first DSLR camera. All of them have related Mallard roots.
Upon the water, there have been a few rafts of Ruddy Ducks, several dozen Blue-winged Teal, many of which have filled the skies with their repetitive swirling circular movements before they touch down. They and the Green-winged Teal are our smallest ducks. We also shared space with both Greater and Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebes, and the stately American Avocets with their pink-orange breeding plumage and thin, upturned bills, who will take to the skies at any sign of disturbance.
Double-crested Cormorants traveled both north and south, occasionally taking fish from the open arms of the lake, while Canada Geese and the Great Blue Heron lazily feed on vegetable matter and protein at will. The American Coot or water chicken pushes forward, slowly parting the water with its slightly rotund body as it seeks privacy among tall grass and reeds.
Turkey Vultures gently soar on thermals as the air warms and takes them higher, while the Bald Eagle does the same, sometimes circling overhead as it spots a potential meal, while Barn Swallows travel back-and-forth from one end of the lake to the next dining upon insects that they encounter in transit.
A Downy Woodpecker stops for a snack on a short snag, poking its head out as late Song Sparrows seek sustenance under it. The male Brown Thrasher sings a buoyant melody not far from the dynamic pair, and American Robins inch further away from protective cover as they hear movement underfoot.
Red-winged Blackbird belt out the familiar konk-a-ree! as they seek potential nesting sites in private areas off the water, while the harsh grating rasp of the Great-tailed Grackles and Common Grackles mix with the sounds of the hustle and bustle of other feeding songbirds like the European Starling, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Mourning Doves sharing their plaintive wail from the trees as they hide from view.
Such is the wistful life that we encounter daily until it crescendos. As the air warms and the sun beats down to warm the grass and earth we will also take benefit from the butterflies, skimmers, skippers, and moths that will soon grace the supple earth and feed upon their simple bounty.
Awaiting the first Green Heron of the season will tell us that they will try to breed again. If the heat holds off for a while, perhaps we’ll see more than one clutch of young another year.
Deb Hirt is a wild bird rehabilitator and photographer living in Stillwater.