Winged signs of spring

I’m neither a birder nor a photographer, but I got a real show when I visited my parents in Minnesota recently.

Some people mark the beginning of spring by sighting a robin, but in my parents’ neck of the woods, one might see all kinds of springtime birds. There are 442 species of birds on the official list of Minnesota inhabitants, but I’m not talking about sorts of everyday chirping birds just about everyone has visiting their backyard bird feeder. My parents’ home is remote enough to be nestled on the edge of river, or you might call it a “crik” or possibly a swamp, all depending on the time of year and inches of precipitation. A number of large birds also inhabit the area, apparently because it’s well stocked in fish and small game and whatever else birds eat.

Most of the time, the photos I take of birds (of any size) look something like this:

birds sandhill

See those two blobs in the middle there? Those are two sandhill cranes. You’re just going to have to trust me.

As we drove up to my parents house the first afternoon we arrived, a solemn looking bald eagle observed us from his perch in the middle of a field. Of course, I didn’t have my camera at the ready; I just swiveled my head as I engaged in a staring match driving by. The nest he shared with his mate was clearly visible in the leafless tree bordering the creek, and we saw him frequently during the course of the week as we drove by into town. Eventually, I figured out to have my cell phone camera in hand.

birds eagle

His head is white. Again, trust me.

The bald eagle, once an endangered species, now flourishes across the United States. Even if you’re not all that interested in birds, he’s quite a sight, frequently appearing on lists of the world’s most beautiful birds.

birds eagle flying

This bald eagle wasn’t much for photo shoots. He flew away when I got out of the car.

I also saw a red tail hawk and a pheasant. I’m pretty sure I saw a turkey vulture, too. Here’s my shot of the pheasant.

birds pheasant

Yup, he’s there in the middle, walking away from me.

The birds that put on the most fantastic show were the wild turkeys. Dad lent me his binoculars to observe the males fluffing up their feathers in order to get laid. When they’re strutting about, they look just like they do in those handprint paintings kids do at Thanksgiving with their tail feathers spreading up vertically, sort of like a less colorful peacock. Lots of drama in that mating dance.

The large bird I saw most closely was attracted to the bird feeder in my parents’ yard. I heard it before I saw it though: The pileated woodpecker.

birds woodpecker

I wouldn’t describe myself as a nature girl, but I was amazed to see all these distinctive large birds within a mile of my parents’ house. They were quite beautiful and impressive, bright spots on the otherwise brown not-quite-spring-yet landscape. Signs of more colorful days to come.

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