BY LEE MILLER – GAZETTE COLUMNIST
They’re back! The gray goose clan returned two weeks ago, content to stand on the ice and yell at each other. And in the midst of our last snow storm, a bedraggled blue heron flew 20 feet above the ice, making little headway against the north wind. But, home he is.
Then our warm weekend brought more friends home. On the way to church Anne spotted two flocks of snow geese headed north. The local juncos were joined on Monday by a flock of brown tree sparrows. And even Mr. Phoebe made an appearance. Listen for his sounds each morning, in chorus with the cardinals.
Long Lake now has a thin trace of water along the shore, and tiny duck weed appeared from under the melting ice. The geese and mallards are enjoying the fresh green salad. Unexpectedly, there were two small patches of algae, too. Odd that it lived beneath the ice all winter. The open water brought our first pair of mergansers. And the promise of free fish has the gulls swooping and turning and arguing over any tiny morsel. A mallard hens has taken a liking to fermented crab apples and forages the front yard with the robins and squirrels.
The shoreline trees and shrubs are awakening, and sap is flowing. The dogwood branches are red, and the poplar and cottonwood buds are plump. And the swamp maple’s buds are opening. After our winter, It doesn’t get much better than this!
Lee Miller lives on Long Lake in Stillwater and is a regular contributor to The Gazette.