March 2: Although March 'came in like a lamb' it felt more like a polar bear today. The mercury hovered around zero and tonight the temps are supposed to drop down to possibly 25 below zero. I worry about any pets left outdoors in weather like this and hope people are kind-hearted enough to bring their cats and dogs inside. It doesn't take long at all for exposed skin to freeze in this kind of weather.

March 3: We're still seeing a few Horned Larks here and there and a Northern Shrike is still present on Henderson Lake Road. Returning from a feed run, I noticed two adult Bald Eagles circling high above our property- they slowly made their way down and no doubt spotted the road-kill deer that is laying in the ditch to the south of us. On a warmer note, our 'rescued' leopard frog has triped in size and appears healthy inside the humid aquarium habitat. There is definitely nothing wrong with it's appetite as it consumes 20+ mealworms a day.

March 6: Today was a great day for hawk viewing. We scoped many Red-taileds and Northern Harriers near Prescott and counted 9 Rough-leggeds.

Near Sage Lake we came across a flock of 14 Cedar Waxwings. I sat up my scope and camera once we returned home, to practice digiscoping and while sitting out on the deck I watched 7 American Crows chasing one very large Great Horned Owl. The White-breasted Nuthatch all seemed to be calling with that nasal honking in unison and there were woodpeckers just everywhere- Hairy, Downy and Red-belly, all displaying courtship behavior. A male Pileated worked the perimeter of the woods then decided to check out the suet feeder, something they don't often do here.

March 7: We received another couple inches of snow and birds were numerous throughout the day, including a couple Golden-crowned Kinglets. While sitting on the deck practicing with the scope and camera, I noticed a tiny deer mouse working it's way from a snowbank to some sunflower seeds- back and forth it went, carrying one seed at a time. At one point it was within just a couple inches of two gray squirrels, but it didn't seem to even notice them. At days end I counted 21 deer around the feeders- the larger does are standing on their hind legs and reaching into the tall bird feeders to get seed.

March 8: Returning from West Branch today, the rain/sleet mix changed over to blowing snow. The bird of the day was definitely American Crows. They were scattered around the area in large flocks- calling loud enough to hear over the howling winds. We sighted a few Horned Larks around the farmland area- I rolled down the window to listen to one lone male cheeping softly while it filled it's crop with gravel from the dirt roadside.

March 10: A quick nest-check at the Bald Eagle nest near Rose City left us puzzled. There was only one adult sitting in the large pine next to the tree that holds the nest. If there is a nesting female there, she is hunkered down well- usually we can see their head and part of their upper body while they incubate the eggs, but we couldn't make out a nesting female today from any angle. There could very well be a female there, but we keep our visits short so as not to stress out the birds. The temperatures were brutal and the winds were howling, but eagles will incubate eggs in horrific weather conditions.

Still practicing with the digiscope setup, but it was just too cold to be out for more than a few minutes at a time today.

March 11: A pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets zipped through the clearing to the south of the house this morning & our goldfinch numbers seem to be climbing daily. Also found something a bit unusual- right off the front porch I found a dead shrew this afternoon, half hidden under a snowbank. It didn't show any signs of trauma & and I'm not sure if it just got caught out in the cold for some reason and froze to death or just what happened.

March 12: When walking out to the garage this morning I spotted fresh blood drops around one of our ash trees.. no feathers or fur, just blood spattered around the base of the tree. I chalked it up to a possible owl kill since I heard a Barred calling nearby last evening, and put it out of my mind for the rest of the day. Later in the afternoon, I took the scope and camera out to the deck to practice digiscoping. I've been sitting out a bit each afternoon despite the cold temps, so I can get a bit of practice under my belt before the migrants arrive. (That and it gives me a good excuse to sit out and listen to the birdsongs and calls) While trying to train the scope on a Tufted Titmouse that was limb-hopping around, a larger bird landed in a pine and all the rest of them scattered. I have a good idea where the blood droplets came from now- for several seconds I had a Northern Shrike filling up the entire view of the scope. It flew off and the birdsong and feeding resumed.

March 13: A large female Northern Goshawk made the rounds through the backyard today while a lone adult Bald Eagle circled high overhead. We have 3 male Red-bellied woodpeckers calling from their vantage points around the property now.

March 15: Today was the first warm day we've had in months and it felt absolutely wonderful to sit out in the warm breezes. All of the birds are exhibiting courtship behavior now, chasing and displaying. I watched a male Purple Finch put on quite a dance for the females. He hopped about on a small limb, puffing out his chest while bobbing back and forth slightly & beating his wings rapidly- then he kinda goose-stepped forwards real quick, then backwards while fanning out his tailfeathers. Too cute! Another sure sign of spring: Natasha caught and ate her first fly. Ugh.

March 16: Another absolutely beautiful day. After doing a bit of yard and feeder clean-up duty, we headed to RRRA and did a bit of mud-bogging. The snow is melting off, but the ground is still frozen so the trails are pretty messy. A racoon made it's way across the entire width of grousehaven lake while we watched from a distance. The lake is still frozen, but has several inches of water lying on the surface now.

While sitting under the tall pines near ranch campground, we heard a small flock of Eastern bluebirds fly through the thick cover along the river. Although I noticed a couple micromoths near the mercury light last evening, I held my first moth tonight. So it's official- moth season 2003 has finally begun!

March 17: Spring wouldn't feel right, wouldn't begin right without our seasonal homage to that most wonderful and open ampitheatre of song and flight by the bay. Nayanquing has changed in many ways over the years, but the joy felt when hearing the returning waterfowl and migrants felt as wonderful as it did over 15 years ago. Red-winged Blackbirds, Tree & Song Sparrows were all composing a wonderful concerto with trills galore.

Sighted our first seasonal Buffleheads, Killdeer, Common Grackles and had a Northern Shrike while driving out of the refuge. A wonderful day.

March 20: I had the most fun watching the many different courtship displays of our resident woodpeckers today- at one point there were 11 woodpeckers all in one tall ironwood tree (5 Hairy, 3 Downy and 3 Red-bellied) They chase each other from tree to tree for most of the day, doing their head-swaying, tail fanning and 'wicka wicka wicka' squeaky calls. A male and female Pileated were also chasing each other around, but opted to stay further back in the woods out of the heavy traffic area. Red-bellieds are churring from each direction- their calls echo from down near the lakeshore and when one calls it's like a domino effect.. several more will follow suit and announce themselves, each one has just a slightly different pitch/tone than the previous crooner, then it starts all over again- the females don't seem very impressed just yet. And a few recent seasonal firsts on the property- Yesterday- Red-winged Blackbird Today- 2 American Robins 2 Killdeer (heard) 'Timberdoodle' (also heard) I'm also hearing at least 3 Sandhill Cranes on the property to our east- their low gutteral calls of 'caroooo, caroooo' can be heard through our woods from the general area they nested in last year.

March 21: Found 3 large diving beetles in front of the garage tonite.

March 22: Even though the temperatures have chilled off again considerably, the many different mating rituals continue around the property. The eastern chipmunks have really woke up with a bang, there is easily a dozen of them scampering around now. While tossing peanuts to a smaller one, it decided it didn't want to wait for a handout and raced right up to my feet. I forgot how fast a chipmunk can boogie. Hearing Common Ravens calling back and forth and Canadian Geese and duck species flying over- there is a sense of a gathering of power to March- not many migrants here yet, but the sense of things about to happen is definitely felt.

March 23: Heard a rooster Ring-necked Pheasant calling late this afternoon- right on schedule with last year's observation. It was wonderful to end the day listening to the 'cheerily, cheerily' song of the American Robins that always seem to be the first and the last songster of the day.

March 24:We had two Eastern Bluebirds checking out our pond early today, a male and a female. This is the longest any bluebird has stuck around the property & it was a treat to watch them feeding before they journeyed on. I was finally able to clean out the pond and get the pump going again, and was saddened to find a very large leopard frog that had frozen/died under the rocks from when the pump quit and the pond pretty much froze up. We had our first butterfly, a lone Mourning Cloak, and sighted 2 Turkey Vultures near West Branch. When I went out to check under the mercury light for moths, I found many large Forest Wolf Spiders hunting on the garage walls.

While outdoors I heard several Whistling Swans pass overhead as well as unknown duck species winging north in the darkness (no calls heard from the ducks, just very fast wingbeats).

March 25: The rookery near Prescott is teeming with G.B. Herons- we counted 34 at or on the nests and more were arriving when we left.

The Osprey nest is still empty but we heard/saw many Killdeer in the area as well as our first seasonal E. Meadowlarks. Also sighted quite a few hawk species and several Horned Larks. Garry sighted our first Painted Lady butterfly of the season today.

March 28: An adult female Bald Eagle is now inside the nest near Rose City- so many sticks have been added to the nest that she is quite hidden and only her head is visible. While sitting in the truck watching her with the scope, we were serenaded by a few Song Sparrows within the tall rushes/grasses that are already on territory- we also had our first arrive on our property today. A young Osprey flew high overhead not far from RRRA and further up the road we passed a flock of 60+ American Robins. American Kestrels are increasing in numbers, as are Turkey Vultures. Area lakes are still frozen, but many Canada Geese are taking advantage of any open water they can find & any large puddle or ditch is likely to have at least 2 geese sitting in it.

March 29: The temps have taken another plunge with snowshowers off/on most of the day. While watching 2 D.E. Juncoes and 1 Tree Sparrow (first of season here) scratching around where the deer feed, a larger sparrow flew in.. then another.. and another.. grabbed the bins and enjoyed 7 Fox Sparrows hopping from tree trunks to understory- it's been awhile since we've enjoyed these beautiful sparrows and they're just gorgeous. The deer came in looking for their daily meal and spooked them further back into the woods, but when I took out some chicken scratch to toss around for them I could hear their sharp call notes, so they didn't go far. Later in the day a Sharp-shinned hawk made several passes through the clearing.

March 30: I've often wondered if hawks would prey upon chipmunks if they were hungry enough, although I'd never seen it happen. Today that changed- a large Cooper's Hawk landed on a chipmunk that was feeding near it's burrow not far from the deck- the hawk easily picked it up and carried it away. For a couple hours afterwards another chipmunk sat by the burrow entrance making its 'chunk' noise- perhaps the ill-fated chipmunk's mate. More Red-winged blackbirds arriving each day, sounding like bottle rockets without the final bang. E. Starlings and Common Grackles are also more abundant each day, beautiful in their breeding plumage.

March 31: A chilly yet sunny day brought us our first Common Loon sightings of the season. We sighted one on cranberry lake and one on hardwood lake. Most lakes are still covered in ice but they're making their way back. Many Eastern Meadowlarks were singing in the fields near Prescott, but the Osprey nest is still empty. Quite a few hawk sightings and the heron rookery has more birds on the nest than last year.

Additional 2003 journals: January-February-April-May -June-July-August-September- October-November--December

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