A boggy spring, only minutes from my hutch. Visiting this gooey mire is a major spring ritual for me, and today was the day. Just as the famous groundhog Puxatawney Phil (or whatever his name is) is watched closely in a rather foolish shadow-watching ritual, I visit this spring in late winter to witness the botanical counterpart to the wedge-headed Pennsylvanian squirrel.
Take heart, plant-seekers. The appearance of Skunk-cabbage truly heralds the opening of spring's floodgates, and it won't be long before lots of other greenery shoots forth.
Not because goldeneyes emerge from the mud about this time after a long winter's hibernation, or are now just returning from some Caribbean vacation - they're tough as nails and overwinter in Ohio wherever open water can be found.
Goldeneyes herald spring because now is when they enter, hot and heavy, their truly insane courtship antics. This pack of studs was going at it full throttle today, and I spent quite some time watching and perhaps picking up pointers.
These boys really pull out all of the stops to woo the girls. Like desperate lounge lizards in a watery fern bar, the male goldeneyes throw their necks back and bill skyward, and emit comical nasal buzzes. Then, in a spectacular display of aquatic break-dancing, a displaying drake kicks his brilliant orange feet forward and out of the water.
While the males in courrtship mode emit buzzy calls that sound like a nighthawk being strangled, they sound really cool in flight. Their wings produce a loud clear whistling, hence the colloquial name "whistler". If you want to read more about goldeneyes, I wrote a piece on them HERE.
I hope that these positive reports on the signs of spring give you hope, fellow Tundra-people.