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Monarch Metamorphosis

I never tire of watching the transformation of the monarch butterfly. In Massachusetts, this population seems to be on the rise after several years of dwindling numbers. What a pleasure to marvel at monarchs in my own yard once again!

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Nike Up Close

A few days ago, I highlighted a beautiful Canada goose I named Nike in honor of its incredible wings. Yesterday, I was able to consider in more depth features of this prevalent New England bird.

Canada geese arrive at this pond at the Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary in early Spring and raise families before leaving in the Fall. Likeable and easy-going, they are comfortable co-existing with human visitors. I was able to easily photograph their famed “goose necks”, intricate layers of feathers, startling dark eyes, and bills that are perfectly attuned to their habitat. Because of my intimate visits with them, I no longer consider these engaging and attractive birds “just ordinary geese”!

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Make Way For Mallards

Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way For Ducklings” (1941) is a classic children’s story of a mallard couple who raise a family in a park in Boston, Massachusetts. When I was a primary school teacher, I read this imaginative book dozens of times to my students.

It was wonderful to pass a peaceful hour observing a real mallard couple at the Audubon. Their vibrant colors, patterns and serene presence were delightful. It was easy to understand why McCloskey chose to feature these creatures in his story.

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Nike: Winged Victory

Recently I was thrilled to witness a Canada Goose displaying its wings in a gorgeous and dramatic fashion. It reminded me of Nike, the goddess of Victory, the sister of Kratos (Strength), Bia (Force), and Zelus (Zeal). She was most often portrayed with wings and was known as a divine charioteer who flew over the battlefield bestowing laurels upon the victors. She was one of the most frequently portrayed symbols on Greek coins.

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Beware of Ticks!

Yesterday I overheard some hikers bemoaning the presence of deer ticks. I think this red squirrel concurs with them. After checking itself, it was ready to move on.

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Perfectly Wonderful Pussy Willows

I came upon my first pussy willows of the season yesterday while walking at the edge of a marsh. As a child I picked them in the early Spring and shared them with my classmates.

Pussy willow catkins are an early Spring nectar source for pollinators. The insects then provide food for songbirds.

Most charmingly, hummingbirds like to use the soft catkins to line their nests.

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Red-Winged Flash Mob

Bold red-winged blackbirds let you know when they are near! They most often travel in groups, chattering noisily to each other from tree-tops before abruptly swooping out to a new destination.

They startled me recently when I witnessed them suddenly plunge from the pines to join a few grackles in a flash mob at the bird feeder.

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Walking on Thin Ice

The adaptable Canada Geese are back on the pond, and don’t seem to mind that it is still partly frozen. After a bit of slip-sliding away on the ice, what could be better than a quick “polar dip”?

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Two More Spring Arrivals

Hurrah for two common birds: The house finch and the brown-headed cowbird. They arrived at the Audubon just a few days ago.

This single finch was easy to spot among the chickadees at the feeders, while the brown-headed cowbird was part of a large flock who alternated between the tall pines and the feeders. The cowbirds seemed perfectly happy to mingle with the red-winged blackbirds and grackles. I love the cowbirds’ songs, which are described as “a variety of whistles, clicking and chattering calls”.

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