Spring has come to Bear Lake and, as the snow recedes and the ice begins to melt, the waterfowl are returning. The first were the goldeneyes, plopping down in the puddle of open water in front of the neighbor’s sauna. Twice I saw swans come and land on the ice as if trying to decide if the tiny pools of open water were worth the trouble. Eagles have returned and are already nesting, and Lucas, the eagle my grandson named, has taken his post on the cottonwood branch overlooking the muskrat tunnels. Usually by now, we are seeing muskrats squatting on the edge of the ice, sharing open water with the ducks. The muskrats have tunnels in the bank along the shore where we left a tangle of alder and willow growing in the wetlands. I imagine the muskrats find room and board among the roots and grass mats there beside dock, another place they hangout especially the young ones. I haven’t seen them yet this spring and I worry that our resident population didn’t make it through the winter.
Each day, more life shows itself along the lake border: the varied thrush and robins on the shore and mallards, scaups, and teal in the waters that open along the shore. Until the ice in the lake is reduced to small pans drifting mid-lake, the ducks parade for us in the narrow strip of lake along our part of the bank. Here, the north wind deposits tons of organics to build a rich food cache for these spring visitors, and we can anticipate several pairs of swans and dozens of migrating ducks to spend part of May with us. The golden-eyes and mergansers will spend the summer and raise their ducklings here as will some mallards. Last week the gulls — Mew gulls I think— showed up in a clamorous mob to play, court and feed in what little open water they could. The seem to have paired up and dispersed quietly across the south half of the lake. Any day we’ll hear the call of the loon, announcing their return from the open sea.
My dogs keep pointing their noses across narrow part of the lake, and I wonder if they smell a bear moving along the paths on the opposite bank. They are due back too as the snow clears away under the trees and warm long days wake the plants and signal the flurry of chlorophyll explosions that comes to our northern forest each year.
We have entered the month of May, and we count on lots of sunny days with temperatures in the sixties to dry and warm the soil and paint us green again, for May feels brand new every year.