It is always my intention with this column to excite and interest readers in exploring the great outdoors. There is never a guarantee that you will see anything interesting or exciting but there’s always the chance. We are blessed with a richness of lovely places to walk–that in itself is reason enough for me. And you never know what might turn up!
A couple of weeks ago I was setting out on my morning walk after a rather cold night. Interestingly the ice formed during the night (the last of the winter ice was already gone) was thick enough to support the Canada Geese. But this was nowhere nearly as interesting as what I saw next! Along the boom that has been put around the cofferdam, I see a small, brown animal balancing agilely as it makes its way back to shore. And it has a fish in its mouth. Luckily I had time to focus my binoculars and get a good look. It was a mink and it had been fishing off the boom and managed to catch a sizable fish.
To make matters more exciting yet more confusing, the very next morning at almost the same time and in exactly the same place I saw another animal with a fish in its mouth. But it wasn’t the same kind of animal! This animal was larger and had obviously been in the water. I was sure it was an otter. But were my eyes playing tricks on me? Was I incapable of telling the animals apart? Thank heavens, a friend and fellow observer of things in and around the pond, had witnessed both animals on the same two days. We ran into each other and he confirmed what I thought I had seen. And the trusty (?) internet has now helped me by informing me that mink and otter are both part of the Weasel Family. Well now I know why I have such difficulty telling them apart.
Much closer to home, I’m pleased to report that the pair of White-breasted Nuthatches are using my backyard birdhouse again this year. They are comic in their behaviour around the birdhouse and they begin nesting early so I am glad to host them. This birdhouse, though, was originally built and installed in the hopes of attracting Tree Swallows. I still hope for this because as a child we had them every summer in a birdhouse in my home backyard. I remember fondly my mother’s excitement when the swallows arrived back in spring. She would note the date and compare it with previous years–I know where I get it from! But I was thinking just the other day that both birds have white breasts and blue backs (grey-blue for the nuthatches and steel blue for the swallows). So there is a resonance!
But just yesterday a pair of Tree Swallows came to inspect one of the houses in my front yard. And a pair of House Wrens have been checking out another house in another part of the yard. Now, this would be beyond my wildest dreams! Imagine having 3 kinds of birds (including swallows!) nesting at the same time–not to mention the ubiquitous robins.
All nature is coming alive. Wildflowers are in bloom. And the mating calls of all kinds of creatures tell us what an important time of year it is. The weather is pleasant and there is so much to see, hear and smell in the great outdoors. Get out! And enjoy!
By Glen Spurrell