April 1: Quite a good number of Dark-eyed Juncoes here today, and the males are singing so sweetly. Several Tree Sparrows join them under the conifers to feed, but they're usually chased off by squirrels.

April 2: Took a quick look at the *ice free* Henderson Lake today and we were delighted to see open water and 3 adult Common Loons- 2 males, 1 female. One is calling right now, what a beautiful sound - speaking of sounds, hearing spring peepers too. Also have our first chipping sparrow of the season joining the dozens of d.e. juncoes & tree sparrows. More R.W. Blackbirds/Common Grackles arriving daily and we still have at least 3 dozen Common Redpolls and a couple Hoary Redpolls. One finally ventured in closer to the house today, long enough for a quick photo.

April 3: Our first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker arrived today along with 2 chubby beautiful Fox Sparrows. Also sighted our first turtle of the season, near Long Lake.

April 4: Steelhead are spawning in the rifle river, and while gathering a few pussy willows I viewed a Winter Wren, skulking along the ground like a mouse.

April 6: While spreading feed around the east side of the property for the mallard pair that have returned to one of our vernal pools, a large black bird flew up from the ground to the south- looking up, I was surprised to see 6 Turkey Vultures roosting in one of our birch trees. Incredible birds.

April 7: Garry sighted a skipper species this morning- we have still yet to see any mourning cloaks, which are usually our first butterfly of spring. While cleaning out the pond, a large bumble-bee buzzed slowly around the rock garden- it had a large amount of orange colored hair & was moving pretty slow.

April 8: Just after dinner, Garry whispered urgently that we had a weasel off the side deck. What a remarkable animal! A beautiful long-tailed weasel; black/brown, with a wide white streak down its back, it hasn't completely come into its summer coat yet. Fast as lightening, it darted out from one end of the deck to the rock garden, raced to the other end then darted back out of sight. It didn't give us very long views, weasels never do.

April 10: It spit snow off and on all day, but the birdsongs were almost deafening at times. Sighted our first Northern Flicker on the property today & dozens of Red-winged Blackbirds and many Common Grackles are trying to outsing one another and emptying the suet feeders as fast as I can fill them. I think male Common Grackles are one of the most beautifully plumaged birds there is- especially on a gray snowy April day.

April 12: Quick run over to Prescott today, where more Great Blue Herons are sitting on the nests in the rookery, but the Osprey nest is still empty. The area lakes are teeming with ducks- many Common mergs, P.B. Grebes, Scaup, and Buffleheads. They're absolutely resplendant in their breeding plumage.

April 13: On the way home from Saginaw, we swung by Nayanquing point for a quick look around. The offshore winds were quite cold, but we enjoyed quite a few duck species, mute swans & our first Tree Swallows of the season. A good sized muskrat fed along the dikes and paid us very little attention while it fed on grass.

April 14: Spent some time in RRRA today, gathering data for our frog & marsh surveys- a very productive day with five species of frogs in one large vernal pool that is already quite full of new frog eggs. Wood frogs were the most abundant and vocal males chased each other from one area to the next. While I sat near the water, a car pulled up next to our jeep and a man got out with a large cooler. When I climbed back up the ridge, I learned that he had left behind a beautiful northern water snake- he related to Garry that he thought it was a rattle snake, so he hit it with his fishing pole, then put it in the cooler to take away from his campsite. Garry held it for a bit, and it went slack and released body fluids, so we thought it may be dead- but after placing it on the ground it moved through the brush swiftly and hopefully out of harms way.

April 16: Warm temperatures brought many insects out today, including a few mourning cloaks. Sprigs of green plants can be seen here and there and quite a few species of moths came to the lights after dusk.

April 18: After a very stormy morning, the weather cleared and warm southerly winds pushed a good number of birds through the property throughout the day. I'm really enjoying listening to our male sapsucker again, their calls are just so sweet. All of the woodpeckers are drumming and strutting their stuff and a flicker pair seem to be searching for a suitable nest. Our first comma butterfly of the season fluttered through the woods and the clearing is full of round-lobed hepaticas that popped open today.

April 19: While standing out on the deck photographing a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at dusk, I heard the chipnotes of a warbler- sure enough, two Yellow-rumped Warblers soon hopped through the tree tops on the west side of the house. Seeing them now is like seeing them for the first time- nothing is as delightful as watching a wood warbler gleaning insects right above your head.. except for listening to a warbler singing right above your head. I am always so moved by these birds and it's wonderful to see them again.

April 20: We checked the Osprey nest near Prescott today- it's now active.

Despite the cold winds, we enjoyed many Eastern Meadowlarks in full song and at home we had 2 Pine Siskins joining the many goldfinch at the feeders.

April 22: Good numbers of butter-butts moved through yesterday, at least 37. Health problems have been limiting my activities, but I wanted to visit Maltby hills today to check on the trout lilies. Am I ever glad we did, they are just starting to blossom.

The hills were covered in many round-lobed hepaticas and a few dutchmans breeches that haven't blossomed just yet. Within a week the entire understory should be covered in flowers. We also sighted our first White-throated sparrows of the season near the river access on Twin Lake road, where brilliant marsh marigolds are now abundant along the roadsides.

April 23: Yellow-rumps pushed north through the property all day. While standing near one of our vernal pools watching them gleaning insects, a pair of Northern Flickers landed quite close to me and I was treated to their loud vocalizations and displays. What a handsome woodpecker.

April 24: A sunny, yet cold, opening day of trout season. We searched many areas along the river, but if there were steelhead & browns on the beds they were spooked off by the hordes of people along the riverbanks today. Garry witnessed something pretty cool though- a pair of Sharp-shinned Hawks copulating. The whole deal was done pretty fast and without much ceremony, but that was a first for him.

April 25: Cold rain kept us indoors for most of the day, but when the clouds parted and the skies cleared at dusk, butter-butts arrived and sang their way north. What a joyful noise.

April 27: On the way back from Saginaw we stopped by Nayanquing Point, in hopes of locating Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The area where we have found them in past years has been burned off, and we didn't find them on this visit. Picked up quite a few species though, including a Virginia Rail that screeched right near my feet. I jumped a few inches on that one. Also had a mink race across the trail, this has been quite a good year so far for mink and weasel sightings.

April 29: We spent a wonderful day up in the Malty hill area- on the way up we encountered a Ruffed Grouse that stood in the road a bit too long- I got out of the jeep and walked within 10 feet of it before it flushed back into the woods. Grouse get silly during mating season and we find too many that are victims of passing cars.

While up in the hills we enjoyed many wildflowers- dutchmans breeches, trout lilies, hepaticas. The trillium are still closed up, but a couple more days with temps. like we had today should really get things going. Searched for morels but all we found were morel hunters. Birds were abundant, and we sighted our first Vesper Sparrows of the season while up in Kirtland Warbler habitat. Wild Turkey, additional Ruffed Grouse, Yellow rumps, Osprey and a host of other species made 6 hours in the hills pass by too quickly. Many large dragonflies were cruising along the sandy trails too.

April 30: A wonderful surprise visitor arrived today- a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. 3 days earlier than they arrived last spring, but who's complaining. Good numbers of butterbutts and Palm warblers feeding low to the ground today.

Additional 2004 Journals: