It’s Happenin’

    Clint Austin, a News Tribune photographer, and I were walking a road along Wisconsin’s Brule River on Saturday (March 29) when I saw a bird in a popple tree. I realized I hadn’t seen a bird of that size and shape for a long time. It was the most common of birds, an American Robin, the first of this spring for both Clint and me. We watched it for some time, making sure we had identified it correctly. Yep, it was a robin.

    I had heard reports of a couple of robins from readers in Cromwell and Sandstone just a two days before that. Later on Saturday, back in Duluth, I saw and heard another robin. Duluth birder Laura Erickson says robins move northward along the 38-degree isotherm, and that’s just about what our average daily highs are now.

    Seeing a robin is usually no big deal, but seeing one after a long winter is always a pleasant surprise. We saw a bald eagle on Saturday, too, along with a couple of Canada geese and a kestrel that was sitting on a power line. Geese have been moving through for several days now.

    Sunday evening, walking in Duluth’s Hartley Park, I noticed that Tischer Creek had opened. In the day’s fading light, the creek looked almost black as it twisted through a snow-laden wetland. Then I saw a pair of mallards that had staked out their territory. They cruised nervously on the water as I passed by about 20 feet away, but they didn’t flush. They may have been in the Duluth area all winter — some do winter here — but now they had moved inland in preparation for nesting.

    A winter storm is forecast for tonight, but above-freezing temperatures ought to recycle it into runoff pretty quickly. Meanwhile, the the northward trickle of migrants will soon swell, and a robin will no longer be a novelty.