The Spring Migration Is Underway

Heading up the Mississippi flyway, the spring migration is underway. Leading the way, trumpeter swans stopped for a rest at Nahant Marsh on a late winter day that would have been warm had it not been so windy.

On the very same day, buffleheads arrived. I have only seen them briefly in the late winter as they are on their way north, and I always look forward to seeing them each year. Their clean whites and rich blacks are a welcome sight against the grays and faded browns that are usually all that’s left as the winter wears out.

Along with the other early arrivals, wood ducks are back on the marsh. Many wood ducks stop at Nahant Marsh each spring, and each spring some stay on to raise families. No doubt there’ll be wood duck families in the marsh this year, too. Especially since there are plenty of likely homes, thanks to an Eagle Scout wood duck house project last summer.

Many ducks have returned in just the last few days. In addition to dozens of bufflehead and wood ducks, mallards, widgeons, coots and scores of northern shovelers are hanging around at the marsh. More birds will be arriving daily.

Perhaps best of all, the sandhill crane has returned. For millions of years the voice of the sandhill crane has called the end to winter and return of spring. The last few days, one has come to Nahant Marsh. Whether to stay for the season or move on after a while is hard to say. It is a remarkable sound to hear echoing through the marsh while it lasts—something like pterodactyls must have sounded  like…

“When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men. And so they live and have their being—these cranes—not in the constricted present, but in the wider reaches of evolutionary time. Their annual return is the ticking of the geological clock. Upon the place of their return they convey a peculiar distinction.” —Aldo Leopold


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