Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Forgotten Art of Spring

Here's the pond that I call the Superior Drive pond, which has become our favorite spring duck-watching pond in Northfield. Last year on March 7, I reported that the pond was almost ice-free and occupied by more than 40 scaup, several hooded mergansers and the usual mallards and Canada geese; of course, we had unprecedented warmth as the month went on and were starting to care for our bluebird boxes by the end of the month.

In 2011 we were seeing ducks in mid-March, and that felt early.  In 2010 I didn't mention ducks until a mid-April outing to Lake Byllesby, but noted that the snow in front of our house was almost gone on March 17. In 2009, I first discovered the Superior Drive pond in early April, thanks to the urgent promptings of a friend who lives there, who said I must come to see all the ducks.

I do look forward to spring!

One thing that will keep this spring particularly interesting is that I will be taking the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program covering the Big Woods/Big River ecosystem, which is being offered at the Carleton Arboretum starting April 1. It's five hours a week for six weeks, plus two all-day Saturday field days. It's been a long time since I sat regularly in a classroom, but I am truly excited to expand my knowledge about our local geology, flora and fauna, water, land history and more, taught by local teaching biologists and other experts who really know this area.

From the Master Naturalist program website:
The mission of the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program is to promote awareness, understanding, and stewardship of Minnesota’s natural environment by developing a corps of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service within their communities.
Any adult who is curious and enjoys learning about the natural world, shares that knowledge with others, and supports conservation can be a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. [That's so me!] If you enjoy hiking, bird watching, following tracks, or identifying wildflowers, you'll love being a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteers are a motivated group of fun and interesting people: teachers, retired professionals, nature guides, hunters, eco-tour operators, farmers, and...YOU!
The Minnesota Master Naturalist Program is a joint effort of the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
I hope the course will help me bring new perspectives to Penelopedia, and I expect I will share some of my learning here as the program goes on.


Christopher Tassava said...

We're seeing plenty of ducks over here, flying between the marshes south of Woodley and the ponds on the golf course. I can't wait to hear about that naturalist program!

Penelopedia said...

There have been mallards on the open areas of the river all winter, too. Are you seeing anything besides mallards yet? I have the impression some of the earlier migrators are the diving ducks, like mergansers and scaup, which will be looking for deeper water.