Wintering birds are biding their time in Maine as melting ice ushers in spring


R&I – FS

As I write this, the lake in front of my house is solid. But the ice is turning black, a sure sign that it will break up and disappear shortly. Perhaps by the time this column hits print, it already has.

If so, the loons are now calling in front of my house. I think it is one of nature’s miracles, that the loons know almost instantly when the ice goes out. I’ve fallen asleep at 9 p.m. with the lake still frozen, and awoken to the sound of loons calling at 3 a.m., minutes after the ice broke up in total darkness. How did they know?

But until then, there’s no point in hurrying. Many of Maine’s winter sea ducks will remain along our coast until Memorial Day. Purple sandpipers nest farther north than any other shorebird and they will mostly stick around the Maine coastline through May. Even a few snowy owls may linger here that long.

American woodcocks and Wilson’s snipes are shorebirds that prefer marshes over mudflats. Both return early, even up in the north woods where the snow lingers well into April. Even when the snow level is still measured in feet, they can find food around the watery melting edges of the snowdrifts.

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