Feathered friends signal warmth

Northwoods Notebook

A COMMON GRACKLE in prime breeding plumage. The grackles and red-winged blackbirds have returned to the region.

As anticipated, the warm weather of a week ago opened the door for some of the early familiar migrating birds to return to the region, with more showing up throughout the week.

Red-winged blackbirds and common grackles are back in force, at least the males; the females usually hang back while the males sort out territory. Other confirmed arrivals include sandhill cranes — heard, not seen, at Six Mile Lake — and that true harbinger of spring, the turkey vulture, reported by Phyllis Carlson on Thursday.

Four trumpeter swans were seen hanging out at Six Mile Lake as well on Tuesday, but had moved on by Wednesday evening, though an immature swan was back Friday afternoon keeping company with Canada geese. Noteworthy was some of these geese were not the usual giant Canada subspecies that nests in the region but a smaller type, likely headed to the country of its name.

Other signals this warmup is for real: raccoons are back moving around and chipmunks have emerged from hibernation.

One noteworthy exception: bears, for now, have not been reported in the region excepted a couple that likely were rousted early by logging, said Ryan McGillviray of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Crystal Falls office.

Betsy Bloom/Daily News photos

Even when they do wake up, most bears stick close to the den to feed, just in case the weather turns again, as it did last April. Most complaints about bears raiding bird feeders don’t come until late April and early May, he said.

One last note for the season — deer will be drawn to the slopes alongside roads, which now have been clear of snow for a couple weeks, while the shaded forests still may have 18 to 20 inches, McGillviray advised.

Open to the sun, these hillsides can have early green growth for the hungry deer, but it also puts them in proximity to traffic. That leads to an uptick in vehicle collisions, so drivers need to be extra-vigilant until more vegetation gets established in other areas farther away from the roads.

Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 40, or bbloom@ironmountaindailynews.com.