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Not seeing red
Q: I got used to seeing cardinals at my feeders all winter long, but now they’re gone. I really miss these beautiful birds and wonder what the explanation might be.
A: Sorry to hear your cardinals have put on a disappearing act, but this is not unusual in the early spring. The birds aren’t as territorial in winter and gather freely in groups around feeders without conflict. But they’re now feeling more aggressive toward each other as they re-establish territories, and will drive off other cardinals that encroach. Your back yard probably has been claimed by a male and female, and I’ll bet you’ll see them soon. Just to show that there’s nothing wrong with the Northern cardinal population, early reports from February’s Great Backyard Bird Count show that cardinals were the most frequently reported bird by participants. This annual citizen science project is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Q: I can barely wait for the hummingbirds to come back. When should I put out my feeders?
A: You might want to fill those nectar feeders as early as the last week in April, because some of the earliest ruby-throats start arriving about then. The little birds begin flooding into our state in mid- to late May. You’ll increase your chances of seeing hummingbirds if your back yard features early-flowering plants, too, such as in hanging baskets. [And try not to dig up every dandelion in the lawn, because these are an important early-spring nectar source for bees.]
Q: I heard that the bald eagles were back on their nest and that the Department of Natural Resources has a webcam featuring them. How can I view this?
A: The DNR’s eagle nest cam was very popular last year, although the eggs in that nest didn’t hatch — the female laid her eggs so early in the season they apparently froze. A pair of eagles, maybe the same birds as last year, are again using the nest located somewhere in St. Paul, and everyone is hopeful that this year’s eggs will hatch. See the eagles live on camera at www.webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/eagle.
Val Cunningham, who volunteers with the St. Paul Audubon Society and writes about nature for local, regional and national newspapers and magazines, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.