The calendar says spring started weeks ago – and there has been a quiet explosion of new colour. As modelled by our migratory birds, the season’s first flashy hues run to black, white, and the whole gamut of earth tones.
The marsh, of course, hasn’t warmed enough to start sending up new vegetation.
But the restricted colour palette works beautifully for the secretive diving machine known as a Pied-Billed Grebe.
The Hooded Merganser uses similar colours to make a bolder statement.
And the female of the so-called “Red-Wing Blackbird” can achieve either perfect camouflage or stand-out beauty with this pattern of browns and golds. Who needs red or black?
Unlike most of the birds, the mammals in the marsh don’t migrate and most of them don’t change colours with the season. But they are getting out and about much more since the ice and snow has gone.
The muskrat and the beaver patrol the same banks at the junction of Bowmanville and Soper Creeks, and they wear the same rich colours. Do they tease each other, when we’re not listening, about their opposite choices in tail fashion? “Hey Beave, you must get strong muscles lugging around that massive rudder.” “I’ve been thinking, Rat, that your delicate little butt-rope must be great for doing a warning slap that won’t disturb anybody’s sleep.”
No doubt the beaver is as eager as the rest of us to see fresh green branches emerging from the drab mud. For the Eastern Phoebe, though, the creek banks are the colour of home – home being nests of mud and dried grass hidden near the edges of woods.
The Eastern Phoebe is one of the earliest returning migrants, along with the more numerous Red-Wings.
The even hardier Canada Geese have waited here all winter and many are now sitting on nests in the marsh – when they aren’t making spectacular landings. (Never mind a few missing tail feathers.)
Whether it’s touchdowns or liftoffs, the marsh is full of excitement.
The Common Mergansers, above, add a rare dash of green to this early-spring pallette. Likewise, in the right sunlight the otherwise black-and-white Bufflehead flashes an iridescent headdress with shades of maroon, blue and green.
And if you must see green to feel that it’s spring, the Mallard drake says “Look no further”.
Top photo: Common Mergansers in Misdirection (larger view)