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Boreal Community Media

At last, the sounds of spring are on the horizon

Mar 28, 2019 08:01AM ● By Editor
Wings ablur, a male ruffed grouse holds court on a log as he drums for a mate May 1, 2017 near Norris Camp, headquarters of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area. The drumming of a ruffed grouse is one of the most anticipated sounds of spring in the Northwoods. Photo/ Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald

By Brad Dokken of the Grand Forks Herald - March 28, 2019

Someday in the not-too-distant future—and it can't come soon enough after this winter—I'll pull into the yard at the northern Minnesota getaway on a spring evening and be greeted by a sound that will be absolute music to my ears.

Chorus frogs, hundreds of them, croaking away out there somewhere; heard but not seen.

The sound—imagine running your fingers over the teeth of a comb and you'll get the idea—will tell me that spring finally has arrived.

Nothing says spring to me louder than the joyous music of chorus frogs.

Chances are there'll still be patches of snow on the ground and perhaps even ice in the ditches, but that won't stop the chorus frogs.

I can't wait.

The winter of 2018-19 has been a meat grinder, for lack of a better description. Freezeup came early, and I was ice fishing on Lake of the Woods in early December, but snow was relatively scarce until mid-January.

After that, we were subjected to a barrage of storms and subzero temperatures. Snow removal was an almost daily occurrence, and those of us with driveways and sidewalks to clear—and roofs to shovel—found ourselves running out of places to put it all. As much as I enjoy winter and staying active by snowmobiling, ice fishing and occasionally strapping on the snowshoes, I'm so ready for open water and green grass.

I'm so ready for the chorus frogs.

As I often do when I hear chorus frogs for the first time of the spring, I'll probably take a long walk through a nearby wildlife management area the next day to see what I can see and hear. This I prefer to do alone, because it allows me to go at my own pace, to stop and listen, to fully take in my surroundings.

Male ruffed grouse will be drumming away—hopefully, at least—holding court on their chosen logs and rapidly beating their wings in the annual spring quest for a mate. The hollow sound seems to come from nowhere and everywhere at once.

Raucously loud Canada geese likely will be passing overhead or hanging out near the edge of a slough. Ditches, filled with the runoff from deep snows, will be gurgling as they move their watery contents off the land.

Especially if it's later in the day, there'll be a good chance to hear "winnowing" snipe as they perform their mating displays far up in the sky. To do this, the birds go into power dives and fan their tails, producing an eerie sound as the air rushes through their tail feathers.

From the subtle to not so subtle, the woods will be alive with sounds.

As familiar as I am with the sound of drumming ruffed grouse, I'd never actually witnessed the spectacle up close and personal until two years ago, when I spent a few hours in each of the two blinds the staff at Norris Camp, headquarters of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area, sets up in the woods for watching and photographing the birds.

Patience isn't one of my strong suits, and the star attraction didn't show up on schedule, but he did make his appearance eventually.

He didn't seem to be the least bit camera shy, but judging by the sounds emanating from other parts of the woods that day, the drumming grouse had plenty of competition from other males also seeking a mate; the woods were downright percussive.

Walking back to where I'd parked that morning, I'd just gotten back to the car when I saw a black bear standing at the edge of the clearing maybe 100 yards away. I'm sure the bear noticed me but it didn't show any concern before lumbering off into the trees.

A return visit to the drumming blinds is high on my priority list.

Despite the welcome springlike weather we've experienced in recent days, the occasional setback is inevitable before winter finally loosens its grip. Flooding will be an issue for many people, and those of us who experienced the Flood of 1997 likely have caught ourselves making comparisons between this year and the disaster we endured that spring.

In the meantime, though, I'll look forward to the sounds.

The sounds of spring.

To read the original article and more of Brad Dokken's outdoors coverage, follow this link to theGrand Forks Herald website. 

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