The long, harsh winter has at last been nudged aside by persistent days of spring. As ice and snow were pushed back, birds of the spring migration pushed in, barely waiting for the ice to melt. Wood ducks have returned to raise families at Nahant Marsh. They’re courting and checking out holes in the still standing dead trees by the beavers’ residence.
The beavers must be pleased that spring has arrived and unlocked the ice from their deeply frozen pond. Perhaps it is more snug, secure and comfortable than I could possibly imagine, but it does seem a hard way to pass the winter, confined in a underground hole in the cold dark. The den under its deep frozen layer of mud and sticks in turn buried by hard ice and deep snow.
The marsh is full of its usual spring visitor and resident birds. The water filled with birds the moment it transformed from ice. I find that the diving ducks and grebes are especially fun to watch. They fling themselves into the surface of the water, disappear, then pop up like a bath tub toy in a slightly different location.
I often watch the pied-billed grebes at Nahant Marsh, but this spring I saw a horned grebe there too. Every year, every spring is different. Although the familiar and reliable does occur nearly every time, you never quite know what surprise may glide out in front of you. Both grebes are quite small and very good underwater swimmers—you have to watch carefully to see one.
They do, of course, have to pop back to the surface eventually. The marsh is host to many interesting birds in the spring. They are easy to spot out on the water or in the leafless woods. For the moment. The buds have broken and the green is rising fast. After being pent up for so long a time, the green of spring is expanding all in a rush.
The time to take a look and look carefully is now. Soon the green will have closed in, and the birds of the marsh will be harder to spot. Others will have followed the edge of snow and ice to pass the season in a more northern place. Now is a good time to be at Nahant Marsh, and don’t forget your binoculars.