Monday, March 10, 2014

Wings and water

Early March is when many water-loving birds return to the Northeast: Red-winged Blackbirds, Kingfishers, and several kinds of ducks, for instance. Swamps, streams, shorelines and ponds are a draw for the first migrants because they offer food from the earliest bits of new life as well as from some leftovers of old life.

As soon as the ice and snow begin to thaw, insects such as carrion-eating flies start to appear in the air and others emerge in the water. Fish, once protected by ice, become exposed, and amphibians like salamanders and spring peepers crawl out of their winter beds. Plants that like wet feet become accessible in the water and begin to grow in the swamps.

Wetlands also offer treats left from last season in the form of berries and seeds still held by plants like buttonbush. The bush’s aged but still tasty fruits are designed to attract the hungry migrants. The birds eat and soon “plant” the seeds, complete with fertilizer, far from the mother bush and just in time for a new growing season.

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