When we bought this house seven years ago, one of the things I liked the best was the swamp in the backyard. It's a perfect place for animals. We might be in a developed suburban neighborhood, on a very busy street, 14 minutes from the new ball park or Orchestra Hall, but we own part of a 20-acre swamp. It hasn't disappointed me, helping to bring our yard list for bird sightings to well over 100, and attracting many mammals as well. We see deer, opossum, raccoon, Red, Gray, and flying squirrels, fox, a mink, muskrat (they live here), and an assortment of small creatures that recently included Minnesota's smallest mammal, a Masked Shrew, unfortunate victim of a mouse trap in our greenhouse. Last night topped it all, however. We had a regulation-size, willow-munching beaver out back. Where he came from I have no idea. There is no habitat near here you would point out as suitable for beavers. We hope he stays. We hope he doesn't want our trees for a lodge.

The Canada Goose pair that have taken our pond as theirs appear to be sitting on eggs.

Our trees  -- and yours -- are quickly leafing out. By the time songbird migrants get here it's going to be near impossible to see them. Some of the warbler species we're eager to see haven't left Central America yet.

We were in South Dakota for a long weekend. Lots of waterfowl on eastern ponds and puddles, no shorebirds but Killdeer, and very few migrants. We did find some Chestnut-collared Longspurs (362nd Ave. and SD Highway 34; go north up the gravel road). We like the grasslands east and south of Pierre. There is so much sky.

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Hawks with very long legs

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Free urban birding festival