Old Man Winter seems to be reluctant to go away despite the calendar telling us its spring.
Living in the state for a half of century I’ve learned that Ohio weather in the spring can have its own agenda and doesn’t pay attention to what the calendar says. Although the temperatures have been a yoyo the last few weeks, we at least know that warmer days are ahead. Some years, March and early April can offer some great stretches of weather and a chance to do some outdoor activities like fishing, but normal weather for this time of the year seems to be just a bit of a tease of warmth and mostly cold and dreary. Finding a fun activity outside this time of the year can be challenging but there are some neat things to do until more consistently warm days arrive.
One of my favorite things to do this time of the year is to get out and watch the migration of birds coming back from the south. The birds are in full plumage this time of the year to attract a mating partner and the show can be very awesome. It always seems like I see a lot more ducks and geese this time of the year than what I see heading south in the fall. Not only do I see more but I also see more variety of species as well.
The last weekend of February is when many of the early migrators started to arrive around here. I spent both a sunrise and a sunset that weekend at a local lake watching the show of ducks and geese trade through the sky. The birds were here in full force despite the fact that we still had a lot of winter left. Canada geese, mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, pintails, and gadwalls filled the sky. A pair of Bald Eagles graced me with their presence to top the morning off. Hard to beat a better view over a cup of coffee.
Now that the area lakes are fully open, the migration will hit full swing and it will be a great time for any one who enjoys birding. All you need is warm clothing and a decent pair of binoculars. Something warm to drink isn’t necessary but it sure is nice. If you really want to see the sky full of migrating wetland birds, take a ninety minute Sunday drive to Magee Marsh, Metzger Marsh, or Pickerel Creek along the south shores of Lake Erie. You are sure to see one of nature’s grandest shows.
Birding up there will give you a chance to see more variety of birds as well. All those marshes have very nice observation towers to help your view as well. Don’t think that you have to drive far to see some waterfowl, either. Many of the area farm fields are so saturated that they holding temporary water holes for the migrating birds. These part time wetlands are just want the long traveling birds need to stop over for a day or two of rest and find a great source of food to fill their stomachs before continuing on their journey to the north. A simple drive around any of the county roads is sure to provide a chance to see some of our feathered visitors.
• Another way to the pass the time on the warmer and sunnier days is to get out and hunt ground hogs. The whistle pigs are starting to wake from their winter slumber and come out for some sun and to find some food. Many of them came out a few weeks ago when the temperatures climbed into the upper 50’s. They are really easy to see this of the year without any vegetation to conceal them.
What a great time to use the rifles and get the heavily populated areas under control before the breeding season starts and they are difficult to see again in the new growth. Ohio doesn’t offer too many hunting seasons for those that prefer the long gun but ground hog season is one of them. Most farmers are more than glad to give permission to any one that wants to hunt these troublesome varmits.
• A lot of local hunters are getting excited about turkey season and I keep hearing reports about seeing large flocks out and about lately. I observed a bachelor flock of a dozen toms and jakes myself. Often times, the season will roll around and hunters will get frustrated because the birds they saw in March aren’t around on opening day. The reason is that right now food is scarce and the birds are moving around a lot. The guys are hanging together to find food and figure out who is dominant.
When breeding season rolls around, the hens will seek out the best nesting areas and the boys will follow. The large winter flocks you see how will split up and disperse. So, although it’s neat to see the big flocks of turkeys now, there is no guarantee they will be still using that same area when opening day rolls around. That is why I don’t get excited about scouting turkeys until a week or two before the season rolls around.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.