For the Birds

Early spring is relatively quiet season on the lake. It's too cold for swimming. The snow has already melted so it's too warm for snowmobiling or ice fishing. But if you look to the sky, it's the absolute best time of the year to catch a wide variety of feathered friends passing through or taking up temporary residence.

Yes, I'm talking about birds.

Big Blake Lake is home to a wide variety of birds year-round. But Spring is a special time when the seasonal residents migrate back to their spring and summer homes. If you keep your eyes trained on the sky or the treetops you might be lucky enough to see some of the following:

Bald Eagles mate for life, usually returning to their nest each year to breed. Their nests are usually huge and formed near the trunk of a tree. We're lucky enough to have four eagles' nests on Big Blake Lake which is pretty rare. It also means we get to see them constantly. Still, it's always a thrill to spot one of these majestic birds.

Yellow-rumped Warblers put on a show each Spring when their feathers turn a dazzling shade of yellow. With one of the most versatile diets, they can survive on berries, bugs and seeds. You might see them snatch an insect out of the air. They're small and fast so it may take a while to find one, but they're worth the wait!

 

Catching a glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker in action is a real treat. They're big birds, about the size of a crow, and tend to hang out on dead trees and limbs. The unmistakable rat-a-tat-tat they make while going to work on a tree is one of our favorite sounds and we always enjoy the splash of color their bright red crowns provide since Mother Nature hasn't yet let loose her palette.

Have you ever seen a Great Blue Heron coming in for a landing on the lake? With a wingspan of five to six feet, they're hard to miss. Usually we see them strutting around the shore on their spindly long legs. If you catch them in flight, check out the way their necks curve into an "S" and how their legs trail out behind them.

Osprey are fairly common around Big Blake. But we still enjoy watching them swoop down to catch a fish and take off with it dangling from its sharp talons. They travel huge distances, wintering in warmer climates like the very southern U.S., Central or South America. Their wingspan can stretch to over five feet.

Every year since we've been at the lake we've spotted a pair of nesting loons. Seeing them swim along with their babies is one of our favorite sights of Spring.

What's your favorite feathered sign of Spring? For more info about bird watching in Polk County or around Big Blake Lake, visit The Wisconsin Society of Ornithology or The Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail.