May 21-27, 2018 (Week 21 of 52): Shorebird Migration Will be at its Peak this Week

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Pheasant’s back mushroom (AKA Dryand’s saddle)

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Sweet vernal grass (non-native species) is flowering now

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Blue phlox blooming in native plant bed (Elma)

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Dame’s rocket (non-native species) will start flowering this week

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Watch for golden ragwort in rich forested wetlands

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Wild columbine blooming in native plant garden (Elma)

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Tartarian honeysuckle (non-native invasive species) is flowering now

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American robin nest

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Young raccoon very recently out of the nest

Allegany Fawn 2015 - Kimberly Adriaansen

White-tailed deer fawn (photo by Kimberly Adriaansen)

Shorebirds often dominate the tail end of spring bird migration in the Buffalo-Niagara Region, typically peaking during the last week of May. Dozens or even hundreds of migrant shorebirds can be seen at the most productive sites. You may be surprised to hear that over 30 species of shorebirds have been documented in the region. The best locations for seeing migrant shorebirds are typically mudflats bordering large emergent wetlands at sites such as Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and the two adjoining state wildlife management areas. However, wet farm fields can also be unexpectedly productive. Many other spring advances will be visible with the Region’s plants and animals this week.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this fourth full week of spring. Those in bold/italics are new highlights to watch for this week. Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

  • 5:44 AM/8:41 PM DST (14 Hours, 57 Minutes)
  • 5 Hours, 56 minutes of daylight longer than at Winter Solstice
  • 2 Hour, 57 minutes of daylight longer than at Vernal Equinox

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 69.0° F  Normal Low Temperature: 50.1° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru May 21, 2018: 305.5

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed to 50°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) warmed to 49°F as of May 23, 2018.
  • Water levels in interior wetlands and vernal pools will continue to drop noticeably in response to high evapotranspiration rates resulting from relatively high air temperatures and the rapid leafing-out of trees and shrubs.
  • Streams will exhibit moderate flow levels this week, with the potential for locally higher levels if the area experiences thunderstorms or other significant rain events.

Fungi:

  • Early species of fungi such as scarlet cup, pheasant’s back, and morels will continue to produce fruiting bodies.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fern fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) will finish unfurling this week for most fern species.
  • Watch for field horsetails growing in wet areas, resembling small pine seedlings, with fertile stems releasing an abundance of spores.
  • Sweet vernal grass will begin to flower this week, the first relatively common species of grass to do so. It is a non-native cool season grass.
  • New growth of broad- and narrow-leaf cattails in marshes is rapidly overtaking last year’s brown cattail stems.

Wildflowers:

  • A few spring ephemeral and similar early woodland wildflowers will continue to flower this week, albeit beyond peak, including northern blue violet, Canada white violet, downy yellow violet, and wild ginger.
  • The following woodland wildflowers will begin to bloom this week: blue phlox, Canada mayflower, miterwort, white baneberry, and red baneberry.
  • The following woodland wildflowers will continue to bloom this week: Jack-in-the-pulpit, May-apple, Solomon’s seal (smooth and hairy), false Solomon’s seal, large-flowered bellwort, Virginia waterleaf, foam flower, herb Robert, and wild columbine.
  • Virginia bluebells will continue to flower this week, primarily in rich floodplain forests.
  • Cuckoo flower will continue to bloom in wet meadows and along the edges of swamps and marshes.
  • Watch for golden ragwort beginning to bloom in rich forested wetlands, the first aster species to flower in our region.
  • Wild strawberry will continue to blossom this week. Make a mental note of their locations so you can plan to return in June to enjoy the fruits.
  • An invasive species, garlic mustard, will continue to flower this week, primarily in upland forests.
  • Dame’s rocket, a non-native but not necessarily invasive species, will begin to flower this week. Don’t confuse this 4-petaled flower with our native blue phlox which has five petals.
  • The abundant pale blue flowers of forget-me-not are evident in ditches, stream edges, and other wet places. The most common species, Myosotis scorpioides, is non-native.
  • Yellow rocket (AKA winter cress) will begin to flower in fallow farm fields and road edges this week. Profuse flowering of this non-native mustard completely transforms some fields to yellow.
  • Watch for the following native open field/woodland edge wildflowers flowering at this time: wild geranium and Canada anemone.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Leaf-out of trees and shrubs will essentially be completed by the end of this week for most species (excluding ashes, hickories, and walnuts).
  • Shagbark hickory and bitternut hickory will continue to flower this week, ultimately producing hickory nuts that will be an important component of our region’s mast crop this fall.
  • Watch for the showy flowers of tulip poplar and cucumber magnolia. Use binoculars as necessary.
  • Several native fruit-producing trees and shrubs will continue to flower this week: black cherry, choke cherry, black chokeberry, red elderberry, nannyberry, and hawthorn.
  • Red-osier dogwood will begin to flower this week in wooded wetlands, with silky dogwood (the more common of the two in our region) starting next week.
  • Tartarian honeysuckle, an invasive non-native shrub that has infested many woodland habitats in our region, will continue to flower later this week. Its flowers have a strong sweet fragrance.
  • Red and silver maple trees are rapidly producing a crop of samaras, “helicopter” fruits that will flutter to the ground starting this week. This “soft mast” is an important spring food source for a variety of animals including squirrels, chipmunks, and wild turkeys.
  • Quaking aspen, big-toothed aspen, and various willows will continue to release cotton-like fluff and seeds this week, although nothing close to the volume of cottonwood fluff that will fill the air in early June.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Ticks are now active so wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • Blackflies will continue to be active in some areas, creating an annoyance for outdoors people.
  • Mosquitoes are now biting so wear protective clothing and/or repellent.
  • Various species of caddis flies, stoneflies, midges, and mayflies (e.g., March brown, Hendrickson) will continue to emerge from streams, providing a valuable food source for trout and other fish, as well as birds and bats.
  • First broods of butterflies that overwinter as pupae will continue to emerge this week, likely including eastern tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, black swallowtail, giant swallowtail, viceroy, white admiral, little wood satyr, pearl crescent, orange sulphur, clouded sulphur, and cabbage white.
  • Watch for early migrant monarch butterflies to start reaching the Buffalo-Niagara Region this week.
  • Common green darners may continue to migrate back into our region from the south this week.
  • Early emergence dragonfly species (e.g., eastern pondhawk, four-spotted skimmer, common baskettail, common whitetail) and damselfly species (e.g., eastern forktail, fragile forktail, familiar bluet) will be active this week.

Fish:

  • Walleye and yellow perch will continue to move into shallow water areas of the Great Lakes to spawn.
  • Smallmouth bass will continue to migrate from Lakes Erie and Ontario into tributary streams, harbors, and bays in preparation for spawning.
  • As water temperatures in ponds and inland lakes warm, largemouth bass, sunfish (including bluegill and pumpkinseed), and black crappie will move into shallow water in preparation for spawning.
  • Rainbow darters and Iowa darters will be preparing to spawn in riffles and shallow areas of streams. Male darters are ornately colored at this time of year.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Breeding choruses of spring peepers and American toads (and possibly western chorus frogs) will continue this week, especially if we receive substantial rainfall.
  • Egg masses and tadpoles of the above listed species can be found in breeding pools.
  • The raucous calls of gray treefrogs (similar in quality to red-bellied woodpecker calls) will continue this week.
  • Green frogs and bullfrogs will continue to call from ponds and semi/permanent wetlands this week.
  • Watch for breeding clusters of northern water snakes around the edges of ponds and wetlands.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Goslings and ducklings of the following waterfowl species can now be seen in or near wetlands and other waterbodies: Canada goose, mallard, American black duck, wood duck, and hooded merganser.
  • Great blue herons, great egrets, and black-crowned night-herons are feeding nestlings at various inland and Great Lakes coastal rookery sites. Watch for frequent flights by adults between the rookery and feeding areas.
  • Common terns are now nesting at their typical Great Lakes and Niagara River colony sites.
  • Killdeer, spotted sandpipers, American woodcock, and Wilson’s snipe are incubating eggs and/or caring for “fledglings”. The young are precocial, leaving the nest shortly after hatching and well before being capable of flight.
  • Shorebird migration will peak this week highlighted by black-bellied plover, semipalmated plover, solitary sandpiper, whimbrel, ruddy turnstone, red knot, semipalmated sandpiper, least sandpiper, dunlin, and short-billed dowitcher.

Birds of Prey:

  • As the trailing edge of hawk migration passes through the Buffalo-Niagara Region, most year-round and summer resident birds of prey are incubating eggs or feeding nestlings.
  • Most great horned owl chicks have fledged from their nests already (typically flightless for a week or more) and some barred owl, eastern screech owl, and red-tailed hawk chicks will fledge this week.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Some hen wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, and ring-necked pheasants are incubating eggs while others may have precocial young that have already left the nest.

Songbirds:

  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles have returned to our region. They respond well to “nectar” and fruit/jelly feeders and can therefore be attracted close to houses for easy viewing.
  • The trailing edge of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) is passing through the Buffalo-Niagara Region, including: black- and yellow-billed cuckoos, common nighthawk, Acadian flycatcher, alder flycatcher, willow flycatcher, Philadelphia vireo, gray-cheeked thrush, and Swainson’s thrush.
  • Among these late neotropical migrants will be the following colorful warbler species: blue-winged, golden-winged, Tennessee, magnolia, Blackburnian, bay-breasted, blackpoll, mourning, Wilson’s, and Canada.
  • This is the peak of the songbird nesting season. Watch for nests as well as bird behaviors that suggest they are nesting nearby (e.g., nest defense or distraction displays such as a killdeer’s broken-wing spectacle). Get up early to witness dawn chorus, the raucous cacophony of bird song that peaks even before the sun rises.
  • Most year-round resident songbird species (e.g., mourning dove, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker) have already fledged young.
  • Most short-distance migrants (e.g., northern flicker, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, American robin, song sparrow) are well along with raising nestlings and may have already fledged young. One notable exception is the American goldfinch which postpones breeding to coincide with fruiting of Canada and bull thistle in early July.
  • In contrast, most long-distance migrants (e.g., alder flycatcher, ruby-throated hummingbird, wood thrush, scarlet tanager) are just establishing territories, nest building, or incubating eggs.
  • To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

Mammals:

  • The following tree bats, which migrate south for the winter, will continue to arrive back in our region this week: eastern red, silver-haired, and hoary bats.
  • Watch for young gray squirrels, eastern chipmunks, and woodchucks out-and-about. They grow rapidly and will soon be close to adult sized.
  • Beavers give birth to kits at about this time. Typical litter size is 2 to 5.
  • Many young eastern cottontail rabbits have already left their nests. Two more litters to go.
  • Many coyote, red fox, and gray fox pups are now venturing out of their dens, as are raccoon and striped skunk.
  • White-tailed deer typically give birth starting this week. Watch for very young fawns lying motionless in concealed (or not so well concealed) locations.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to shed their winter coats this week, transitioning from gray-brown to red-brown pelage. Antler growth is now evident on bucks.
  • While uncommon, black bears are most frequently encountered in Buff-Niagara area in late spring and early summer when yearling males from the southern tier disperse.

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of the season.

Chuck Rosenburg

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May 14-20, 2018 (Week 20 of 52): Rapid Transformation to a Vibrant Green Landscape

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Lush green wetland in Wyoming County, NY

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Rapid leafing-out of upland forest (Elma)

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Tulip poplar leafing-out in backyard (Elma)

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Drab, wind-pollinated flowers of pin oak (relatively common red oak in local forested wetlands)

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Choke cherry blossoms (Niagara County)

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Foam flower blooming in native rock garden (Elma)

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Wild geranium blooming in native wildflower garden (Elma)

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Cuckoo flower blooming in forested wetland (Clarence)

I am always amazed how rapidly our landscape changes from drab browns and grays to vibrant shades of green this time of year. Concurrently, and not by accident, our woods and fields come alive with a diversity and abundance of animal life. Insects and other invertebrates that rely on plants as food begin their life cycles in earnest. In turn, mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians capitalize on the abundance of invertebrates to feed young. Migrant birds and bats consume large numbers of invertebrates to fuel their continued passage north. A vast and complicated food web is quickly established and maintained throughout the growing season.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this fourth full week of spring. Those in bold/italics are new highlights to watch for this week. Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

  • 5:50 AM/8:34 PM DST (14 Hours, 44 Minutes)
  • 5 Hours, 43 minutes of daylight longer than at Winter Solstice
  • 2 Hour, 44 minutes of daylight longer than at Vernal Equinox

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 66.9° F  Normal Low Temperature: 47.7° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru May 12, 2018: 198

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed slightly to 45°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) cooled slightly to 44°F as of May 14, 2018.
  • Water levels in interior wetlands and vernal pools will continue to drop noticeably in response to high evapotranspiration rates resulting from relatively high air temperatures and the rapid leafing-out of trees and shrubs.
  • Streams will exhibit moderate flow levels this week, with the potential for locally higher levels if the area experiences thunderstorms with heavy downpours.

Fungi:

  • Early species of fungi such as scarlet cup, pheasant’s back, and morels will continue to produce fruiting bodies.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fern fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) will continue to unfurl for most fern species.
  • Watch for field horsetails growing in wet areas, resembling small pine seedlings, with fertile stems releasing an abundance of spores.
  • A variety of upland sedge species (e.g., Pennsylvania sedge, plantain-leaved sedge) will continue to flower, well ahead of most grass species.
  • New growth of broad- and narrow-leaf cattails in marshes is rapidly overtaking last year’s brown cattail stems.

Wildflowers:

  • Some spring ephemeral and similar early woodland wildflowers will continue to flower this week, albeit beyond peak, including northern blue violet, Canada white violet, downy yellow violet, wild ginger, and large-flowered (white) trillium.
  • The following woodland wildflowers will begin to bloom this week: Jack-in-the-pulpit, May-apple, Solomon’s seal (smooth and hairy), false Solomon’s seal, large-flowered bellwort, Virginia waterleaf, foam flower, herb Robert, and wild columbine.
  • Virginia bluebells will likely reach peak flowering this week, primarily in rich floodplain forests.
  • The rose-purple flowers of wild geranium can now be observed in woods and meadows.
  • Cuckoo flower will continue to bloom in wet meadows and along the edges of swamps and marshes.
  • Wild strawberry will continue to blossom this week. Make a mental note of their locations so you can plan to return in June to enjoy the fruits.
  • Lesser celandine, an invasive non-native species of buttercup, will continue to bloom in some areas this week. It is most common in floodplain forest habitats.
  • Another invasive species, garlic mustard, will continue to flower this week, primarily in upland forests.
  • The abundant pale blue flowers of forget-me-not are evident in ditches, stream edges, and other wet places. The most common species, Myosotis scorpioides, is non-native.
  • Yellow rocket (AKA winter cress) will begin to flower in fallow farm fields and road edges this week. Profuse flowering of this non-native mustard completely transforms some fields to yellow.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Leaves of most tree and shrub species will grow surprisingly fast this week. Leaf-out will be nearly completed by the end of this week for most species (excluding ashes, hickories, and walnuts).
  • Red and white oak trees will continue to flower this week, the first step in producing acorns that will be an important component of our region’s mast crop in Fall 2018 and Fall 2019. Acorns of white oak species (e.g., white oak, swamp white oak, bur oak) mature in one year but it takes two years for acorns of red oak species (e.g., northern red oak, pin oak).
  • Similarly, shagbark hickory and bitternut hickory will begin to flower this week, ultimately producing hickory nuts that will be an important component of our region’s mast crop this fall.
  • Watch for the showy flowers of tulip poplar and cucumber magnolia. Use binoculars as necessary.
  • Several native fruit-producing trees and shrubs will begin to flower late this week and early next week: black cherry, choke cherry, red elderberry, nannyberry, and hawthorn.
  • Tartarian honeysuckle, an invasive non-native shrub that has infested many woodland habitats in our region, will begin to flower later this week. Its flowers have a strong sweet fragrance.
  • Red and silver maple trees are rapidly producing a crop of “helicopter” samara fruits that will flutter to the ground over the next few weeks.
  • Quaking aspen, big-toothed aspen, and various willows will begin to release cotton-like fluff and seeds this week, although nothing close to the volume of cottonwood fluff that will fill the air in early June.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Ticks are now active so wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • Blackflies will continue to be active in some areas, creating an annoyance for outdoors people.
  • Some mosquitoes may start to bite this week. They will be out in full force by the end of next week.
  • Various species of caddis flies, stoneflies, midges, and mayflies (e.g., March brown, blue-winged olive, Hendrickson) will continue to emerge from streams, providing a valuable food source for trout and other fish, as well as birds and bats.
  • Watch for honeybees and native pollinators such as bumblebees and hover flies visiting newly blooming flowers this week.
  • Mourning cloak, eastern comma, and question mark butterflies (which overwinter as adults) will continue to be active this week.
  • First broods of butterflies that overwinter as pupae will continue to emerge this week, likely including spring azure, eastern tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, black swallowtail, giant swallowtail, little wood satyr, pearl crescent, clouded sulphur, and cabbage white butterflies.
  • Watch for American painted lady, painted lady, and red admiral butterflies that occasionally migrate on southerly winds into the Buffalo-Niagara Region at this time.
  • Common green darners may continue to migrate back into our region from the south this week.
  • Early emergence dragonfly species (e.g., eastern pondhawk, four-spotted skimmer) and damselfly species (e.g., eastern forktail, fragile forktail, familiar bluet) may be active this week.

Fish:

  • Muskellunge may still be concentrated in vegetated shallows for spawning.
  • Walleye and yellow perch will continue to move into shallow water areas to spawn.
  • Smallmouth bass will continue to migrate from Lakes Erie and Ontario into tributary streams, harbors, and bays in preparation for spawning.
  • Huge schools of rainbow smelt may continue to migrate from Lake Ontario into the Lower Niagara River to spawn. They may also be found in the lower segments of other large tributary streams (both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie).
  • Rainbow darters and Iowa darters will be preparing to spawn in riffles and shallow areas of streams. Male darters are ornately colored at this time of year.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Breeding choruses of spring peepers, western chorus frogs, northern leopard frogs, and American toads will continue this week.
  • Egg masses and tadpoles of the above listed species (as well as wood frog) can be found in breeding pools.
  • The raucous calls of gray treefrogs (similar in quality to red-bellied woodpecker calls) will continue this week.
  • Green frogs and bullfrogs will begin calling from ponds and semi/permanent wetlands this week.
  • Watch for breeding clusters of northern water snakes around the edges of ponds and wetlands.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Goslings and ducklings of the following waterfowl species can now be seen in or near wetlands and other waterbodies: Canada goose, mallard, American black duck, wood duck, and hooded merganser.
  • Great blue herons, great egrets, and black-crowned night-herons are feeding nestlings at various inland and Great Lakes coastal rookery sites.
  • Common terns are attempting to nest at their typical Great Lakes and Niagara River colony sites.
  • Killdeer, spotted sandpipers, American woodcock, and Wilson’s snipe are incubating eggs and/or caring for “fledglings”. The young are precocial – leaving the nest shortly after hatching and well before being capable of flight.
  • Migrant shorebirds will continue to arrive in our area this week, highlighted by semipalmated plover, solitary sandpiper, whimbrel, ruddy turnstone, semipalmated sandpiper, pectoral sandpiper, and dunlin.

Birds of Prey:

  • As the trailing edge of hawk migration passes through the Buffalo-Niagara Region, most year-round and summer resident birds of prey are incubating eggs or feeding nestlings.
  • Most great horned owl chicks have fledged from their nests already (typically flightless for a week or more) and some barred and eastern screech owl chicks will fledge this week.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey toms can be heard gobbling as they try to attract mates. Many hens are incubating eggs.
  • Listen for drumming displays by male ruffed grouse in the southern part of the Buffalo-Niagara region as well as the Alabama Swamps area.

Songbirds:

  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles have returned to our region. They respond well to “nectar” and fruit/jelly feeders and can therefore be attracted close to houses for easy viewing.
  • The wave of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) that started two weeks ago will continue this week. Watch for species such as chimney swift, ruby-throated hummingbird, least flycatcher, great-crested flycatcher, eastern kingbird, yellow-throated vireo, warbling vireo, cliff swallow, wood thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak, and Baltimore oriole.
  • The following neotropical migrant songbirds that typically mark the beginning of the end of spring migration will continue to arrive in the region this week: eastern wood-pewee, red-eyed vireo, veery, gray-cheeked thrush, Swainson’s thrush, indigo bunting, and scarlet tanager. Additional late migrant species to watch for this week include common nighthawk, black- and yellow-billed cuckoos, alder flycatcher, willow flycatcher, Acadian flycatcher, and Philadelphia vireo.
  • Among these neotropical migrants will be the following colorful warbler species: Nashville, northern parula, yellow, black-throated blue, black-throated green, palm, cerulean, black-and-white, American redstart, Cape May, ovenbird, northern waterthrush, Louisiana waterthrush, and hooded warblers.
  • The following neotropical migrant warblers that typically mark the beginning of the end of spring migration will continue to arrive in the region this week: blue-winged warbler, golden-winged, Tennessee, magnolia, Blackburnian, bay-breasted, blackpoll, mourning, Wilson’s, and Canada.
  • Bobolinks will continue to return to grassland nesting sites in our region this week from as far away as Argentina. Listen for their distinctive bubbly song that resembles R2D2 from Star Wars.
  • Most year-round resident songbird species (e.g., mourning dove, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker) have already fledged young.
  • Most short-distance migrants (e.g., northern flicker, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, American robin, song sparrow) are well along with raising nestlings and may have already fledged young. One notable exception is the American goldfinch which postpones breeding to coincide with fruiting of Canada and bull thistle in early July.
  • In contrast, most long-distance migrants (e.g., alder flycatcher, ruby-throated hummingbird, wood thrush, scarlet tanager) are just establishing territories, nest building, or incubating eggs.
  • To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

Mammals:

  • The following tree bats, which migrate south for the winter, will continue to arrive back in our region this week: eastern red, silver-haired, and hoary bats.
  • The last of the true hibernators will emerge this week, including little brown bat, eastern pipistrelle (tri-colored bat), meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse.
  • Watch for young gray squirrels, eastern chipmunks, and woodchucks out-and-about. They grow rapidly and will soon be close to adult sized.
  • Beavers give birth to kits at about this time. Typical litter size is 2 to 5.
  • Many young eastern cottontail rabbits have already left their nests. Two more litters to go.
  • Many coyote, red fox, and gray fox pups are now venturing out of their dens, as are raccoon and striped skunk.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to travel in herds. They typically stay together until shortly before fawns are born, starting over the next couple weeks.
  • White-tailed deer are shedding their winter coats now, transitioning from gray-brown to red-brown pelage. Antler growth is now evident on bucks.

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

May 7-13, 2018 (Week 19 of 52): Neotropical Migrant Songbird Diversity and Abundance may Peak this Week

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Wood horsetail with its sterile stems (that resemble a pine seedling) and fertile stems (referred to as cones) that are currently releasing spores

 

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Wild strawberry blossom

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Garlic mustard – an invasive species that can be easily removed by hand-pulling

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American redstart singing (photo by Brittany Rowan)

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Black-and-white warbler (photo by Brittany Rowan)

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Chestnut-sided warbler (photo by Brittany Rowan)

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Baltimore oriole (photo by Brittany Rowan)

Southerly winds will continue to bring neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) into the Buffalo-Niagara Region, along with tree bats that winter to the south. Many other spring advances will be visible with the Region’s plants and animals.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this fourth full week of spring. Those in bold/italics are new highlights to watch for this week. Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

  • 5:57 AM/8:27 PM DST (14 Hours, 30 Minutes)
  • 5 Hours, 29 minutes of daylight longer than at Winter Solstice
  • 2 Hour, 30 minutes of daylight longer than at Vernal Equinox

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 64.7° F  Normal Low Temperature: 45.4° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru May 6, 2018: 98.5

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed substantially to 44°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) warmed substantially to 46°F as of May 7, 2018.
  • Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools will begin to drop from annual high-water levels.
  • Streams will exhibit moderate flow levels this week, with the potential for locally higher levels if the area experiences thunderstorms with heavy downpours.

Fungi:

  • Early species of fungi such as scarlet cup, pheasant’s back, and morels will continue to produce fruiting bodies.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fern fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) will continue to emerge and unfurl for most fern species.
  • Watch for field and wood horsetails growing in wet areas, resembling small pine seedlings.
  • A variety of sedge species will flower this week, well ahead of most grass species.

Woodland Wildflowers:

  • Skunk cabbage is nearly done flowering. Its large skunky-smelling leaves are now evident in forested wetlands.
  • The large leaves of false hellebore are also evident in forested wetlands, but this species won’t flower until late May or early June.
  • Abundant yellow flowers of marsh marigold will continue to dominate some forested and emergent wetlands.
  • Most spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that bloom fleetingly before trees leaf-out then disappear from view, leaves and all) will be beyond peak flowering this week but nevertheless attractive. These species include spring cress, purple cress, yellow trout lily, spring beauty, Carolina spring beauty, early meadow rue, cut-leaved toothwort, two-leaved toothwort, Dutchman’s breeches, and squirrel corn. Rich upland forests, especially sites along the Niagara and Onondaga Escarpments, offer the greatest diversity and abundance of these species.
  • Similar woodland spring wildflowers that flower now but retain their leaves most of the growing season will also be at peak or beyond peak flowering this week, including northern blue violet, Canada white violet, downy yellow violet, wild ginger, red trillium, large-flowered (white) trillium, and blue cohosh.
  • Watch for the leaves and possibly early flowers of additional woodland wildflowers that will reach peak blooming soon: May apple, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomon’s seal (smooth and hairy), false Solomon’s seal, large-flowered bellwort, blue phlox, and Virginia waterleaf.
  • Cuckoo flower will start to bloom in wet meadows and along the edges of swamps and marshes.
  • Virginia bluebells may begin to bloom this week, primarily in floodplain forests. Peak blooming is more likely next week.
  • Watch for wild strawberry blossoms and make a mental note of their locations so you can return in June to enjoy the especially sweet fruits.
  • Lesser celandine, an invasive non-native species of buttercup, will continue to bloom in some areas this week. It is most common in floodplain forest habitats.
  • Another invasive species, garlic mustard, will begin to flower this week primarily in upland forests.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Serviceberry trees and shadbush shrubs will continue to bloom in forest understory and edge habitats.
  • Eastern cottonwood will continue to flower this week. Its cotton-like fluff and seeds will be fill the air in early June.
  • Northern red oak trees will flower this week, the first step in producing acorns that will be an important component of our region’s mast crop in late summer and early fall.
  • Most trees and shrubs have started to produce small leaves. Leaf-out will be mostly completed over the next two weeks.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Ticks are now active so wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • Blackflies will continue to be active in some areas, creating an annoyance for outdoors people.
  • Various species of caddis flies, stoneflies, midges, and mayflies (e.g., March brown, blue-winged olive, Hendrickson) will continue to emerge from streams, providing a valuable food source for trout and other fish.
  • A surprising diversity and abundance of invertebrates may continue to be found in vernal pools: fingernail clams, amphipods, isopods, fairy shrimp, caddis fly larvae, mosquito larvae, dragonfly nymphs, giant water bugs, an assortment of aquatic beetles, etc.
  • Watch for honeybees and native pollinators such as bumblebees and hover flies visiting newly blooming flowers this week.
  • Mourning cloak, eastern comma, and question mark butterflies (which overwinter as adults) will continue to be active this week.
  • First broods of butterflies that overwinter as pupae will continue to emerge this week, including spring azure, eastern tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, black swallowtail, and cabbage white butterflies.
  • Watch for American painted lady and red admiral butterflies that occasionally migrate on southerly winds into the Buffalo-Niagara Region at this time.
  • Common green darners will continue to migrate back into our region from the south this week.

Fish:

  • Muskellunge are concentrated in vegetated shallows for spawning.
  • Walleye and yellow perch are moving into shallow water areas to spawn.
  • Some smallmouth bass will begin migrating from Lakes Erie and Ontario into tributary streams, harbors, bays, and shoals in preparation for spawning.
  • Huge schools of rainbow smelt will continue to migrate from Lake Ontario into the Lower Niagara River to spawn. They may also be found in the lower segments of other large tributary streams (both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie).
  • Large schools of alewife will continue to move from cold depths of Lakes Erie and Ontario to nearshore areas in preparation for spawning.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Breeding choruses of spring peepers, western chorus frogs, northern leopard frogs, and American toads will continue this week.
  • Egg masses and tadpoles of the above listed species, as well as wood frog, can be found in breeding pools.
  • The raucous calls of gray treefrogs (similar in quality to red-bellied woodpecker calls) will join the fray this week.
  • Lungless salamanders (e.g., red-backed, northern slimy, northern dusky, mountain dusky, and two-lined salamanders) will continue to be active this week. They can be found under rocks and logs during the day.
  • Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.
  • While most midland painted turtle eggs hatch in August and September, some overwinter and hatch at about this time. Watch for 1- to 1.5-inch long turtles in the general vicinity of ponds and wetlands.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Most pairs of Canada geese now have goslings. Watch for family groups swimming and feeding in and near ponds and wetlands.
  • Most summer resident ducks are nesting at this time, including American black duck, mallard, wood duck, blue-winged teal, and hooded merganser.
  • Great blue herons, black-crowned night-herons, and a few great egrets are nesting in rookeries, both at inland and Great Lakes coastal sites.
  • Common terns have returned to their Great Lakes and Niagara River nesting colony sites.
  • Caspian terns, the largest of the tern species to commonly occur in the region, may still be observed along the Niagara River and Lakes Erie and Ontario this week.
  • Watch for highly mobile killdeer chicks as well as broken-wing displays by adults attempting to lure predators and/or people away from their young.
  • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will continue to perform their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract mates.
  • Early migrant shorebirds will continue to arrive in our area this week, including greater and lesser yellowlegs, dunlin, whimbrel, sanderling, pectoral sandpiper, least sandpiper, semi-palmated sandpiper, solitary sandpiper, and spotted sandpiper.
  • To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

Birds of Prey:

  • Spring flights of hawks, falcons, eagles, osprey, and turkey vultures will continue to follow the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north. While the vast majority of these migrant raptors have passed through our region, relatively large flights of broad-winged hawks may still be possible this week, especially at Braddock Bay.
  • Most summer and year-round resident birds of prey in our region are actively nesting.
  • Most great horned owl chicks have fledged from their nests already (typically flightless for a week or more) and some barred and eastern screech owl chicks will fledge this week.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey toms can be heard gobbling as they try to attract mates. Spring turkey season runs from May 1 to 31 so don’t be fooled by artificial gobbles as hunters try to call in territorial toms. Many hens are already incubating eggs.
  • Listen for drumming displays by male ruffed grouse in the southern part of the Buffalo-Niagara region as well as the Alabama Swamps area. They display from the tops of logs to attract mates. They beat their wings at an increasingly rapid rate, sounding like an engine trying to start. Many hens are already incubating eggs.
  • Male ring-necked pheasants that have become naturalized in the region will continue their rooster-like crowing to establish territories and attract mates. Many hens are incubating eggs or already have chicks.

Songbirds:

  • Watch bird feeders for spring migrant species such as rose-breasted grosbeak, white-throated sparrow, and white-crowned sparrow. Be sure to place sunflower seed in feeders and white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract these migrants.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles are returning to our region in large numbers now so fill your feeders.
  • The wave of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) that started last week will continue this week. Watch for species such as chimney swift, ruby-throated hummingbird, least flycatcher, great-crested flycatcher, eastern kingbird, yellow-throated vireo, warbling vireo, cliff swallow, wood thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak, and Baltimore oriole.
  • The following neotropical migrant songbirds that typically occur at the tail-end of spring migration may start to arrive in the region this week: eastern wood-pewee, red-eyed vireo, veery, gray-cheeked thrush, Swainson’s thrush, indigo bunting, and scarlet tanager.
  • Among these neotropical migrants will be the following colorful warbler species: Nashville, northern parula, yellow, black-throated blue, black-throated green, palm, cerulean, black-and-white, American redstart, Cape May, ovenbird, northern waterthrush, Louisiana waterthrush, and hooded warblers.
  • The following neotropical migrant warblers that typically mark the beginning-of-the-end of spring migration may start to arrive in the region this week: blue-winged warbler, golden-winged, Tennessee, magnolia, Blackburnian, bay-breasted, blackpoll, mourning, Wilson’s, and Canada.
  • Bobolinks will return to grassland nesting sites in our region this week. Listen for their distinctive bubbly song that resembles R2D2 from Star Wars.
  • The following shorter-distance migrant songbirds will continue to return to, pass through, and/or linger in the region: yellow-bellied sapsucker, purple martin, house wren, marsh wren, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, hermit thrush, gray catbird, blue-headed vireo, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, common yellowthroat, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, field sparrow, savannah sparrow, fox sparrow, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, rusty blackbird, purple finch, and pine siskin.
  • Most year-round resident songbird species (e.g., mourning dove, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker) are incubating eggs or brooding nestlings.
  • Most short-distance migrants (e.g., northern flicker, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, red-winged blackbird, song sparrow) are establishing territories and initiating nesting. One notable exception is the American goldfinch which postpones breeding to coincide with fruiting of Canada and bull thistle in early July.

Mammals:

  • The following tree bats, which migrate south for the winter, will begin to arrive back in our region this week: eastern red, silver-haired, and possibly some hoary bats (which typically arrive a little later in May).
  • The last of the true hibernators will emerge this week, including little brown bat, eastern pipistrelle (tri-colored bat), meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse.
  • Gray squirrels, red squirrels, and southern flying squirrels are caring for recent litters in leaf nests and tree cavities. Woodchucks and eastern chipmunks are doing the same in underground burrows.
  • Beavers give birth to kits at about this time. Typical litter size is 2 to 5.
  • Eastern cottontails will continue to give birth to the first of three litters of young. Many young rabbits have already left their nests.
  • Coyotes and red & gray fox have young, some still in dens while some are old enough to occasionally wander out into view.
  • Raccoons, striped skunk, and bobcat are also caring for young at this time.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to travel in herds. They typically stay together until shortly before fawns are born, starting over the next couple weeks.
  • White-tailed deer are shedding their winter coats now, transitioning from gray-brown to red-brown pelage.

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

April 30-May 6, 2018 (Week 18 of 52): Spring Ephemeral Wildflowers and Neotropical Migrant Songbirds Will be in the Forefront this Week

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One of the highly prized morel mushroom species.

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Red trillium flanked by yellow trout lily, with wood fern fiddleheads in background

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Carolina spring beauty in full bloom

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Marsh marigold blooms abundantly in some WNY wetlands

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Large-flowered (white) trillium

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Pollen-laden anthers on pussy willow

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Shadbush shrubs and serviceberry trees will reach peak flowering this week

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American robin nest

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Watch for young cottontail rabbits, some already venturing out of their nests and therefore vulnerable to dogs and cats (photo by Kristen Rosenburg)

With significantly warming temperatures forecast for most of this week, spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that flower fleetingly before trees leaf-out) will be blooming abundantly. Also, with southerly winds forecast for most of this week (albeit mixed with showers and possibly thunderstorms at times), the first substantial wave of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) will reach the Buffalo-Niagara Region later this week. Many other spring advances will be visible with the Region’s plants and animals.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this fourth full week of spring. Those in bold/italics are new highlights to watch for this week. Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

  • 6:06 AM/8:19 PM DST (14 Hours, 13 Minutes)
  • 5 Hours, 12 minutes of daylight longer than at Winter Solstice
  • 2 Hour, 13 minutes of daylight longer than at Vernal Equinox

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 62.3° F  Normal Low Temperature: 43.0° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru April 29, 2018:  30.5

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed slightly to 38°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) warmed slightly to 40°F as of April 23, 2018.
  • Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools will remain near annual high-water levels.
  • Streams will continue with moderate flow levels this week, with the potential for high levels if the Region experiences thunderstorms with heavy downpours.

Fungi:

  • Watch for early species of fungi such as scarlet cup, pheasant’s back, and morels.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) will emerge for a few species of wetland ferns (e.g., cinnamon, royal, and sensitive ferns) and Christmas fern this week.
  • Watch for field horsetails growing in wet areas, resembling small pine seedlings.
  • While we’ve seen just slight grass growth in our lawns, wool-grass (a type of bulrush), a variety of sedge species, and wetland grasses have grown several inches in wet meadows and the edges of marshes.

Woodland Wildflowers:

  • Skunk cabbage is nearly done flowering. Its large skunky-smelling leaves are now evident in forested wetlands.
  • The large leaves of false hellebore are also evident in forested wetlands, but this species won’t flower until late May or June.
  • Abundant yellow flowers of marsh marigold now dominate some forested and emergent wetlands.
  • Sharp-lobed hepatica and bloodroot, the earliest of our spring ephemeral wildflowers will continue to bloom in suitable areas this week.
  • Most other spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that bloom fleetingly before trees leaf-out then disappear from view, leaves and all) will reach peak flowering this week, including spring cress, purple cress, yellow trout lily, spring beauty, Carolina spring beauty, early meadow rue, cut-leaved toothwort, two-leaved toothwort, Dutchman’s breeches, and squirrel corn. Rich upland forests, especially sites along the Niagara and Onondaga Escarpments, offer the greatest diversity and abundance of these species.
  • Similar woodland spring wildflowers that flower now but retain their leaves most of the growing season will also reach peak flowering this week, including northern blue violet, Canada white violet, downy yellow violet, wild ginger, red trillium, large-flowered (white) trillium, and blue cohosh.
  • The leaves of wild leek (AKA ramps) and yellow trout lily adorn the forest floor of many of our woodlands. The former smells like onion and the latter is mottled, resembling a brook trout.
  • Watch for the leaves of additional woodland wildflowers that will bloom soon: May apple, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomon’s seal (smooth and hairy), false Solomon’s seal, large-flowered bellwort, blue phlox, and Virginia waterleaf.
  • Coltsfoot, a non-native species that has naturalized across the region, will continue to bloom this week. Look for its yellow, dandelion-like flowers.
  • Lesser celandine, an invasive non-native species of buttercup, will continue to bloom in some areas this week. It is most common in floodplain forest habitats.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • A patchwork of pastel yellow and green will brighten wetlands, stream edges, and ditches as pussy willow flowers have developed an abundance of pollen-laden stamens.
  • Spicebush will reach its peak of flowering in some forested wetlands this week. Look for its small, delicate, and slightly spicy-smelling yellow blossoms.
  • Serviceberry trees and shadbush shrubs will begin to bloom in forest understory and edge habitats.
  • Quaking aspen, big-toothed aspen, American elm, and eastern hophornbeam will continue to flower this week.
  • Eastern cottonwood may begin to flower this week. Its cotton-like fluff and seeds will be fill the air in early June.
  • Tartarian and Morrow’s honeysuckles will rapidly leaf-out this week. Early leaf-out of this non-native invasive shrub species helps to give it a competitive advantage over native shrubs.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Ticks are now active so wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • Blackflies will likely become active in some areas, creating an annoyance for outdoors people.
  • Various species of caddis flies, stoneflies, midges, and mayflies (e.g., March brown, blue-winged olive, Hendrickson) will emerge from streams, providing a valuable food source for trout and other fish.
  • A surprising diversity and abundance of vernal pool invertebrates will continue as pools warm: fingernail clams, amphipods, isopods, fairy shrimp, caddis fly larvae, dragonfly nymphs, giant water bugs, an assortment of aquatic beetles, etc.
  • Watch for honeybees and native pollinators such as bumblebees and hover flies visiting newly blooming flowers this week.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars that overwintered beneath leaf litter will continue to be active on warm days. After a brief feeding period, each will spin a cocoon of their orange and black hairs and develop into an Isabella tiger moth.
  • Mourning cloak and eastern comma butterflies (which overwinter as adults) will be active during the relatively warm weather forecast this week.
  • First broods of butterflies that overwinter as pupae may emerge this week, in particular spring azure and cabbage white butterflies.
  • Watch for American painted lady and red admiral butterflies that occasionally migrate on southerly winds into the Buffalo-Niagara Region at this time.
  • Common green darners may start migrating back into our region from the south this week, typically the earliest dragonflies to be seen here.

Fish:

  • Muskellunge are concentrated in vegetated shallows for spawning.
  • Steelhead can still be found in Great Lakes tributary spawning streams. Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Walleye and yellow perch are moving into shallow waters to spawn.
  • Huge schools of rainbow smelt will migrate from Lake Ontario into the Lower Niagara River to spawn. They may also be found in the lower segments of other large tributary streams (both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie).
  • Large schools of alewife will continue to move from cold depths of Lakes Erie and Ontario to nearshore areas in preparation for spawning.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • The breeding choruses of spring peepers, western chorus frogs, northern leopard frogs, and American toads will continue this week.
  • Mole salamanders (spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson salamanders) have now migrated out of the vernal pools, where they bred, and have returned to their mostly subterranean lifestyles in nearby upland forest habitats. Look for egg masses left behind in vernal pools.
  • Lungless salamanders (e.g., red-backed, northern slimy, northern dusky, mountain dusky, and two-lined salamanders) will become active this week. They can be found under rocks and logs during the day.
  • Eastern garter snakes have emerged from hibernation/brumation. Watch for “snake balls” – breeding clusters consisting of multiple males attempting to mate with a single female.
  • Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.
  • While most midland painted turtle eggs hatch in August and September, some overwinter and hatch at about this time. Watch for 1- to 1.5-inch long turtles in the general vicinity of ponds and wetlands.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Pairs of Canada geese are nesting in a variety of habitats in or near wetlands and other waterbodies. Other waterfowl nesting at this time include American black duck, mallard, wood duck, and hooded merganser.
  • Great blue herons, black-crowned night-herons, and a few great egrets are nesting in rookeries, both at inland and Great Lakes coastal sites.
  • Double-crested cormorants are returning in large numbers to the Niagara River and Great Lakes.
  • Watch for additional migrant and summer resident water birds such as pied-billed grebe, American bittern, least bittern, green heron, Virginia rail, sora, and common moorhen this week.
  • The numbers of common terns will continue to build along the Great Lakes and Niagara River this week. They will start nesting at their typical colony sites soon.
  • Watch for Caspian terns, the largest of the tern species to commonly occur in the region, along the Niagara River and Lakes Erie and Ontario this week.
  • Killdeer pairs are nesting and some mobile chicks may be present.
  • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will continue to perform their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract mates. Hen woodcock and snipe are incubating eggs.
  • Other early migrant shorebirds will continue to arrive in our area this week: greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, pectoral sandpiper, and spotted sandpiper.
  • To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

Birds of Prey:

  • Spring flights of hawks, falcons, eagles, osprey, and turkey vultures will continue to follow the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north. Large flights of broad-winged hawks are likely to dominate the hawk flight this week, especially at Braddock Bay. An excellent local observation area for seeing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of migrant birds of prey in a single day is Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg.
  • Most summer and year-round resident birds of prey in our region are actively nesting.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey toms can be heard gobbling as they try to attract mates. Spring turkey season runs from May 1 to 31 so don’t be fooled by artificial gobbles as hunters try to call in territorial toms. Some hens are already incubating eggs.
  • Listen for drumming displays by male ruffed grouse in the southern part of the Buffalo-Niagara region as well as the Alabama Swamps area. They display from the tops of logs to attract mates. They beat their wings at an increasingly rapid rate, sounding like an engine trying to start. Some hens are already incubating eggs.
  • Male ring-necked pheasants that have become naturalized in the region will continue their rooster-like crowing to establish territories and attract mates. Hens are incubating eggs at this time.

Songbirds:

  • Now that winter feeder birds such as dark-eyed junco and American tree sparrows have mostly left the region, watch for summer resident species such as chipping sparrow as well as spring migrant species such as purple finch, rose-breasted grosbeak, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, and fox sparrow. Be sure to place seed such as white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract many of these migrants.
  • The first substantial wave of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) will finally reach the Buffalo-Niagara Region later this week, including chimney swift, ruby-throated hummingbird, least flycatcher, great-crested flycatcher, eastern kingbird, yellow-throated vireo, warbling vireo, cliff swallow, wood thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak, and Baltimore oriole.
  • Among the neotropical migrants will be the following colorful warbler species: Nashville, northern parula, yellow, black-throated blue, black-throated green, palm, cerulean, black-and-white, American redstart, ovenbird, northern waterthrush, Louisiana waterthrush, and hooded warblers.
  • The following shorter-distance migrant songbirds will return to, pass through, and/or linger in the region: yellow-bellied sapsucker, purple martin, house wren, marsh wren, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, hermit thrush, gray catbird, blue-headed vireo, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, common yellowthroat, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, field sparrow, savannah sparrow, fox sparrow, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, rusty blackbird, purple finch, and pine siskin.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles are due to return to our region over the next week or two, so have your feeders ready (May 1st is typically a good target date).
  • Most year-round resident songbird species (e.g., mourning dove, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker) are incubating eggs or brooding nestlings.
  • Most short-distance migrant songbirds that nest in our region (e.g., northern flicker, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, red-winged blackbird, song sparrow) are establishing territories and initiating nesting. One notable exception is the American goldfinch which postpones breeding to coincide with fruiting of Canada and bull thistle in early July.

Mammals:

  • Big brown bats have emerged from hibernacula in local attics etc. and can now be seen foraging for insects.
  • Other true hibernators (several species of bats, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) will continue to be mostly inactive in the region during the coming week.
  • Gray squirrels, red squirrels, and southern flying squirrels are caring for recent litters in leaf nests and tree cavities. Eastern chipmunks are doing the same in underground burrows.
  • Yearling beavers disperse from natal ponds to establish their own territories at this time. Now is an especially good time to find scent mounds marking beaver territories, typically along edges of beaver ponds.
  • Eastern cottontails will continue to give birth to the first of three litters of young. Some young rabbits have already left their nests.
  • Coyotes and red & gray fox have young in their dens, some of which are old enough to occasionally wander out into view.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to travel in herds. They typically stay together until shortly before fawns are born, starting over the next few weeks.

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

April 23-29, 2018 (Week 17 of 52): Warm Weather Will Kick-Start Wildflower Blooming and More

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Growth of sedges, bulrushes, and wetland grasses is far ahead of that in uplands.

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Watch for fiddleheads of cinnamon and other ferns this week.

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Blooming of sharp-lobed hepatica will peak this week.

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Blooming of bloodroot will peak this week.

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Watch for spring cress flowers later this week.

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Pussy willow will continue to “flower” this week.

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Eastern garter snakes are now active.  Watch for “snake balls”, breeding clusters of snakes.

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Watch for newly hatched painted turtles in areas near ponds and wetlands (photo by Kristen Rosenburg).

With warmer than average temperatures forecast for this week, spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that bloom fleetingly before trees leaf-out) will begin to flower abundantly later this week, and will likely reach peak bloom next week. Southerly winds will facilitate the ongoing passage of migrant birds, some of which will nest in the Buffalo-Niagara Region and others which will continue north to breeding grounds in Canada. Many other animal and plant activities will also be kick-started. Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region during the coming week. Check out the list of nearly 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find sites to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this fourth full week of spring. Those in bold/italics are new highlights to watch for this week. Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

  • 6:16 AM/8:11 PM DST (13 Hours, 55 Minutes)
  • 4 Hours, 54 minutes of daylight longer than at Winter Solstice
  • 1 Hour, 55 minutes of daylight longer than at Vernal Equinox

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 59.6° F  Normal Low Temperature: 40.6° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru April 22, 2018: 14 (all were during February)

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed slightly to 36°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) warmed slightly to 39°F as of April 23, 2018.
  • Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools are near annual high-water levels.
  • Streams will continue with moderate flow levels this week.

Fungi:

  • Watch for early fungi such as scarlet cup fungus in hardwood forests.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) will emerge for a few species of wetland ferns (e.g., cinnamon, royal, and sensitive ferns) later this week.
  • Watch for field horsetail growing in wet areas, resembling a small pine seedling.
  • While we’ve seen just slight grass growth in our lawns, wool-grass (a type of bulrush), a variety of sedge species, and wetland grasses have grown several inches in wet meadows and the edges of marshes.

Woodland Wildflowers:

  • Skunk cabbage is nearly done flowering. Its large skunky-smelling leaves will become evident in forested wetlands over the next couple weeks.
  • The large leaves of false hellebore will also become evident in forested wetlands, but this species won’t flower until late May or June.
  • Sharp-lobed hepatica and bloodroot, the earliest of our spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that bloom fleetingly before trees leaf-out), will continue to bloom in suitable areas this week.
  • Watch for other early-flowering spring ephemerals such as spring cress, purple cress, and red trillium.
  • Most other spring ephemeral wildflowers will begin to bloom later this week and reach peak flowering next week, including yellow trout lily, spring beauty, Carolina spring beauty, northern blue violet, Canada white violet, downy yellow violet, wild ginger, large-flowered (white) trillium, blue cohosh, early meadow rue, cut-leaved toothwort, two-leaved toothwort, foam flower, Dutchman’s breeches, and squirrel corn. Sites along the Niagara and Onondaga Escarpments offer the greatest diversity and abundance of these species.
  • The leaves of wild leek and yellow trout lily adorn the forest floor of many of our woodlands. The former smells like onion and the latter is mottled, resembling a brook trout.
  • Coltsfoot, a non-native species that has naturalized across the region, will continue to bloom this week. Look for its yellow, dandelion-like flowers.
  • Lesser celandine, an invasive non-native species of buttercup, will continue to bloom in some areas this week. It is most common in floodplain forest habitats.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • The flowering of red and silver maple trees is now slightly beyond peak, but still adding subtle color to our leafless woodlands.
  • Pussy willows will continue to “flower” across most of the region, soon developing stamens that will produce pollen.
  • Spicebush will start to flower in some forested wetlands later this week. Look for its small yellow blossoms. Blooming will approach peak over the next week.
  • A few serviceberry trees and shadbush shrubs will begin to bloom in forest understory and edge habitats. Blooming will approach peak over the next week.
  • Quaking aspen, big-toothed aspen, American elm, and eastern hophornbeam will continue to flower this week.
  • Leaf buds on Tartarian and Morrow’s honeysuckles will produce small leaves this week. Early leaf-out of this non-native invasive shrub species helps to give it a competitive advantage over native shrubs.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Ticks are now active so wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • A surprising diversity and abundance of vernal pool invertebrates will continue as pools warm: fingernail clams, amphipods, isopods, fairy shrimp, caddis fly larvae, dragonfly nymphs, giant water bugs, an assortment of aquatic beetles, etc.
  • Early spring species of caddis flies, stoneflies, and midges will continue to emerge from streams and be active when air temperatures are about 40°F and warmer.
  • Watch for honeybees and native pollinators such as bumblebees and hover flies visiting newly blooming flowers this week.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars that overwintered beneath leaf litter will continue to be active on warm days. After a brief feeding period, each will spin a cocoon of their orange and black hairs and develop into an Isabella tiger moth.
  • Mourning cloak and eastern comma butterflies (which overwinter as adults) will be active during the relatively warm weather forecast this week.
  • Common green darners may start migrating back into our region from the south this week, typically the earliest dragonflies to be seen here.

Fish:

  • Northern pike are concentrated in tributary streams, ditches, and shoreline wetlands for spawning.
  • Muskellunge will concentrate in vegetated shallows for spawning.
  • White suckers will continue to migrate upstream within Great Lakes tributary streams to their spawning grounds.
  • Steelhead can still be found in Great Lakes tributary spawning streams. Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Walleye and yellow perch are moving into shallow waters to spawn.
  • Large schools of alewife will continue to move from cold depths of Lakes Erie and Ontario to nearshore areas in preparation for spawning.
  • Large runs of brown bullheads will continue to enter tributary streams and harbors.
  • The DEC will continue to stock some local streams with hatchery-raised brown, brook, and/or rainbow trout this week.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • The breeding choruses of spring peepers, western chorus frogs, northern leopard frogs, and American toads will continue this week.
  • Mole salamanders (spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson salamanders) have now migrated out of the vernal pools, where they bred, and have returned to their mostly subterranean lifestyles in nearby upland forest habitats. Look for egg masses left behind in vernal pools.
  • Eastern (red-spotted) newts will continue to migrate to breeding ponds this week where they join newts that overwintered in the ponds.
  • Lungless salamanders (e.g., red-backed, northern slimy, northern dusky, mountain dusky, and two-lined salamanders) will become active this week. They can be found under rocks and logs during the day.
  • Eastern garter snakes will emerge from hibernation/brumation. Watch for “snake balls” – breeding clusters consisting of multiple males attempting to mate with a single female.
  • Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.
  • While most midland painted turtle eggs hatch in August and September, some overwinter and hatch at about this time. Watch for 1- to 1.5-inch long turtles in the general vicinity of ponds and wetlands.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Larger numbers of American coots and “puddle ducks” such as the northern pintail, American wigeon, mallard, American black, gadwall, northern shoveler, redhead, ring-necked duck, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, ruddy duck, wood duck, and hooded merganser will continue to stop-over in the region as they migrate north, or return to local breeding areas.
  • Pairs of Canada geese are nesting (primarily incubating eggs) in a variety of habitats in or near wetlands and other waterbodies. Other waterfowl nesting at this time include American black duck, mallard, wood duck, and hooded merganser.
  • Great blue herons are nesting in rookeries, both at inland and Great Lakes coastal sites. Great egrets and black-crowned night-herons have now returned to certain coastal rookery sites to nest.
  • Double-crested cormorants are returning in large numbers to the Niagara River and Great Lakes.
  • Watch for additional migrant and summer resident water birds such as the common loon, pied-billed grebe, horned grebe, American bittern, green heron, Virginia rail, sora, common moorhen, and belted kingfisher this week.
  • Bonaparte’s gulls will continue to enter the region, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route north.
  • The numbers of common terns will continue to build along the Great Lakes and Niagara River this week. They will start nesting at their typical colony sites soon.
  • Watch for Caspian terns, the largest of the tern species to commonly occur in the region, along the Niagara River and Lakes Erie and Ontario this week.
  • Killdeer pairs are nesting and some mobile chicks may be present.
  • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will continue to perform their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract mates. Some hen woodcock and snipe are already incubating eggs.
  • Other early migrant shorebirds will arrive in our area this week: greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, and spotted sandpiper.
  • To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

Birds of Prey:

  • Spring flights of hawks, falcons, eagles, osprey, and turkey vultures will continue to follow the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north. Large flights of broad-winged hawks are likely to dominate the hawk flight this week and next, especially at Braddock Bay. An excellent local observation area for seeing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of migrant birds of prey in a single day is Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg.
  • Northbound long-eared owls and northern saw-whet owls will continue to arrive in the region, most notably near the southern shores of Lake Erie and (especially) Lake Ontario.
  • Most summer and year-round resident birds of prey in our region are actively nesting.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey toms can now be heard gobbling as they try to attract mates.
  • Listen for drumming displays by male ruffed grouse in the southern part of the Buffalo-Niagara region as well as the Alabama Swamps area. They display from the tops of logs to attract mates. They beat their wings at an increasingly rapid rate, sounding like an engine trying to start. Some are already nesting.
  • Male ring-necked pheasants that have become naturalized in the region will continue their rooster-like crowing to establish territories and attract mates. Some hens are incubating eggs.

Songbirds:

  • Watch for early migrant feeder birds such as red-winged blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, purple finch, song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, fox sparrow, and chipping sparrow. Be sure to place seed such as white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract many of these migrants.
  • Additional early migrant (short-distance migrants) songbirds will continue to arrive in the region: golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, blue-gray gnatcatcher, barn swallow, rough-winged swallow, bank swallow, purple martin, winter wren, house wren, northern flicker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, American pipit, hermit thrush, brown thrasher, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, white-throated sparrow, fox sparrow, chipping sparrow, field sparrow, swamp sparrow, and savannah sparrow.
  • Among the early migrant songbirds will be some warblers, including yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, palm warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, and northern waterthrush.
  • Early breeding songbirds (year-round residents and short-distance migrants) are establishing territories and initiating nesting: mourning dove, American crow, blue jay, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, brown creeper, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, eastern phoebe, horned lark, eastern bluebird, American robin, belted kingfisher, northern cardinal, brown-headed cowbird, common grackle, European starling, song sparrow, house finch, and house sparrow.

Mammals:

  • An occasional big brown bat may emerge this week from hibernacula in local attics etc. and be seen foraging for insects.
  • Other true hibernators (several species of bats, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) will continue to be mostly inactive in the region during the coming week.
  • Gray squirrels, red squirrels, and southern flying squirrels are caring for recent litters in leaf nests and tree cavities. Eastern chipmunks are doing the same in underground burrows.
  • Yearling beavers disperse from natal ponds to establish their own territories at this time. Now is an especially good time to find scent mounds marking beaver territories, typically along edges of beaver ponds.
  • Eastern cottontails will continue to give birth to the first of three litters of young. Some young rabbits have already left their nests.
  • Coyotes and red & gray fox have young in their dens, some of which are old enough to occasionally wander out into view.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to travel in herds. They typically stay together until shortly before fawns are born.

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

April 16-22, 2018 (Week 16 of 52): Watch for Wildlife as You Wait for Spring Weather & Plant Growth

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Five migrant common loons (of 16 total) at Reinstein Woods Preserve pond on April 17, 2018.  Photo by Brittany Rowan.

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Migrant osprey over Reinstein Woods Preserve pond on April 17, 2018.  Photo by Paul Bigelow.

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Red-headed woodpecker that has been a regular visitor to bird feeders at the Reinstein Woods Preserve this winter and spring.  Photo by Brittany Rowan.

 

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Migrant hermit thrush at Reinstein Woods Preserve on April 17, 2018.  Photo by Paul Bigelow.

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Migrant golden-crowned kinglet at Reinstein Woods Preserve.  Photo by Paul Bigelow.

Mink

Mink at Reinstein Woods Preserve.  Photo by Paul Bigelow.

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Beaver building a scent mound along the edge of a Reinstein Woods Preserve pond on April 18, 2018.  Photo by Brittany Rowan.

 

Western New Yorkers (myself included) are eager to break out of the March-like weather pattern we’ve been experiencing for several weeks. Sadly, the brief warming across the Buffalo-Niagara Region that started on April 12 was not sustained. In fact, conditions early this week are considerably colder than what we experienced last week, and much of the Region now has an inch or two of snow cover. As a result, this week’s list of nature highlights (below) is nearly identical to what I posted last week.

Regardless of the cold conditions, we can take heart in knowing there is no shortage of wildlife to view in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this week. The best viewing areas are Great Lakes/Niagara River shorelines, ponds, and large wetlands where water birds (some migrant and some resident) are congregated. Bird feeders can also be productive viewing areas as they attract both migrant and resident songbirds, especially during periods of snow cover. Hopefully the long-term forecast for warm temperatures late this week and early next week will materialize so plant growth and cold-blooded wildlife activities (e.g., frog calling and breeding) can soon return to seasonal norms.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this fourth full week of spring. Those in bold/italics are new highlights to watch for this week. Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

  • 6:27 AM/8:03 PM DST (13 Hours, 36 Minutes)
  • 4 Hours, 35 minutes of daylight longer than at Winter Solstice
  • 1 Hour, 36 minutes of daylight longer than at Vernal Equinox

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 56.6° F  Normal Low Temperature: 38.1° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru April 16, 2018: 14 (all were during February)

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The west end of Lake Ontario and the east end of Lake Erie are mostly ice-free.
  • The Niagara River was chock full of ice following removal of the ice boom.
  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo was 35°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) was 38°F as of April 16, 2018.
  • Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools are ice free and near annual high-water levels.
  • Streams will continue with moderate to high flow levels this week.

Woodland Wildflowers:

  • Skunk cabbage will continue to flower in forested wetlands.
  • The earliest of the spring ephemeral wildflowers, sharp-lobed hepatica and bloodroot, may start to bloom in some areas late this week.
  • Wild leek leaves may emerge in some upland forests late this week.
  • Coltsfoot, a non-native species that has naturalized across the region, will continue to bloom this week. Look for its yellow, dandelion-like flowers.
  • Lesser celandine, an invasive non-native species of buttercup, may begin to bloom in some areas late this week. It is most common in floodplain forest habitats.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Sap is flowing in trees and shrubs, as visualized by brighter yellow branches of crack and other willows and redder branches of red osier and silky dogwoods.
  • Red and silver maple trees will approach peak flowering late this week.
  • Pussy willows will continue to “flower” across most of the region, soon developing stamens that will produce pollen.
  • Some quaking aspen, big-toothed aspen, American elm, and eastern hophornbeam may start to flower late this week.
  • Leaf buds on Tartarian and Morrow’s honeysuckles will open this week. Early leaf-out of this non-native invasive shrub species helps to give it a competitive advantage over native shrubs.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • A surprising diversity and abundance of vernal pool invertebrates will continue as pools warm: fingernail clams, amphipods, isopods, fairy shrimp, caddis fly larvae, dragonfly nymphs, giant water bugs, an assortment of aquatic beetles, etc.
  • Early spring species of caddis flies, stoneflies, and midges will continue to emerge from streams and be active when air temperatures are about 40°F and warmer.
  • Watch for honeybees and native bumblebees visiting newly blooming flowers late this week.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars that overwintered beneath leaf litter will continue to be active on warm days. After a brief feeding period, each will spin a cocoon of their orange and black hairs and develop into an Isabella tiger moth.
  • Mourning cloak and eastern comma butterflies (which overwinter as adults) may become active during the relatively warm weather forecast late this week.
  • Common green darners may start migrating back into our region from the south late this week, typically the earliest dragonflies to be seen here.

Fish:

  • Northern pike are concentrated in tributary streams, ditches, and shoreline wetlands for spawning.
  • White suckers will continue to migrate upstream within Great Lakes tributary streams to their spawning grounds.
  • A few fresh steelhead may continue to enter tributaries for spawning when conditions are favorable. Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Walleye and yellow perch will be moving into shallow waters to spawn.
  • Large schools of alewife will continue to move from cold depths of Lakes Erie and Ontario to nearshore areas in preparation for spawning.
  • Large runs of brown bullheads will continue to enter tributary streams and harbors.
  • The DEC will continue to stock some local streams with hatchery-raised brown, brook, and/or rainbow trout this week.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Early breeding frogs such as the wood frog, western chorus frog, and spring peeper will continue to vocalize and breed in wetlands and vernal pools, especially late this week.
  • Northern leopard frogs and American toads may join the frog chorus late this week.
  • Spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson’s salamanders will continue to breed in vernal pools.
  • Eastern (red-spotted) newts will continue to migrate to breeding ponds this week where they join newts that overwintered in the ponds.
  • Lungless salamanders (e.g., red-backed, northern slimy, northern dusky, mountain dusky, and two-lined salamanders) may become active this week. They can be found under rocks and logs during the day.
  • Eastern garter snakes may emerge from hibernation/brumation. Watch for “snake balls” – breeding clusters consisting of multiple males attempting to mate with a single female.
  • Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Larger numbers of American coots and “puddle ducks” such as the northern pintail, American wigeon, mallard, American black, gadwall, northern shoveler, redhead, ring-necked duck, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, ruddy duck, wood duck, and hooded merganser will continue to stop-over in the region as they migrate north, or return to local breeding areas.
  • Some early breeding ducks such as mallard, American black duck, and wood duck may already be incubating eggs. Don’t be surprised to see wood ducks perched in trees, near nest cavities, this time of year.
  • Pairs of Canada geese will continue to nest in ponds and wetlands.
  • Great blue herons will continue to nest on Motor Island in the Niagara River, as well as inland nesting areas (rookeries).
  • Black-crowned night-herons will continue to nest at local rookeries, including a large one a small island just above the brink of the American Falls.
  • Watch for additional migrant and summer resident water birds such as the common loon (fantastic numbers in some lakes and ponds early this week), double-crested cormorant, pied-billed grebe, horned grebe, American bittern, green heron, Virginia rail, sora, common moorhen, and belted kingfisher this week.
  • Bonaparte’s gulls will continue to enter the region, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route north. This species will reach its peak spring numbers in the region in late April when thousands may be present along the Niagara River.
  • A few common terns may return this week to local nesting colonies on the Niagara River and Lake Erie.
  • Watch for Caspian terns, the largest of the tern species to commonly occur in the region, along the Niagara River and Lakes Erie and Ontario late this week.
  • Killdeer pairs are courting this week and some may be nesting.
  • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will continue to perform their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract mates. Some hen woodcock and snipe are already incubating eggs.
  • Other early migrant shorebirds may arrive in our area this week: greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, and spotted sandpiper.
  • To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

Birds of Prey:

  • Some winter resident raptors (e.g., snowy owl, short-eared owl, rough-legged hawk, northern harrier) will continue to linger in the region, especially in areas with extensive open grassland habitat. Most will leave for northern breeding grounds over the next week or two.
  • Spring flights of hawks, falcons, eagles, osprey, and turkey vultures will continue to follow the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north. An excellent observation area for seeing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of these migrants in a single day is Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg.
  • Northbound long-eared owls and northern saw-whet owls will continue to arrive in the region, most notably near the southern shores of Lake Erie and (especially) Lake Ontario.
  • Year-round resident raptors such as the great horned owl, barred owl, eastern screech owl, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and red-tailed hawk are paired up and most are already nesting.
  • Raptor species that recently returned to the area, such as the osprey, red-shouldered hawk, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and American kestrel will be establishing nesting territories.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey toms, with colorful heads and fanned tails, will intensify their courtship displays to hens.
  • Listen for drumming displays by male ruffed grouse in the southern part of the Buffalo-Niagara region as well as the Alabama Swamps area.
  • Male ring-necked pheasants that have become naturalized in the region will continue their rooster-like crowing to establish territories and attract mates. Some hens may be laying eggs at this time.

Songbirds:

  • Enjoy viewing dark-eyed juncos and American tree sparrowsback, scaup, common goldeneye, common merganser, long-tailed ducks at bird feeders as most will leave for northern breeding grounds over the next week or two.
  • Watch for early migrant feeder birds such as red-winged blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, purple finch, song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, fox sparrow, and chipping sparrow. Be sure to place seed such as white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract many of these migrants.
  • Additional early migrant songbirds will continue to arrive in the region:   brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, barn swallow, rough-winged swallow, bank swallow, purple martin, winter wren, northern flicker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, American pipit, hermit thrush, brown thrasher, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, rusty blackbird, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, white-throated sparrow, fox sparrow, chipping sparrow, field sparrow, swamp sparrow, and savannah sparrow.
  • Early breeding songbirds such as the mourning dove, blue jay, American crow, horned lark, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, American robin, eastern bluebird, European starling, song sparrow, northern cardinal, common grackle, house finch, and house sparrow may already be incubating eggs. Others will continue to sing, establish territories, and court as they prepare to nest.

Mammals:

  • Male woodchucks will continue to emerge from hibernation and seek to mate with females as they emerge from their winter dens.
  • An occasional big brown bat may emerge late this week from hibernacula in local attics etc. and be seen foraging for insects.
  • Other true hibernators (several species of bats, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) will continue to be mostly inactive in the region during the coming week.
  • Ermine (AKA short-tailed weasel) will continue to molt from white to brown pelage.
  • Newborn opossums will continue to suckle from the safety and warmth of their mother’s pouch. A single litter often consists of over a dozen young.
  • Most eastern chipmunks have emerged from winter torpor will continue to actively feed and breed this week.
  • Gray squirrels, red squirrels, and southern flying squirrels will give birth to the first of two litters of young at about this time.
  • Yearling beavers disperse from natal ponds to establish their own territories at this time. Now is an especially good time to find scent mounds marking beaver territories, typically along edges of beaver ponds.
  • Eastern cottontails will give birth to the first of three litters of young at about this time.
  • Coyotes and red & gray fox give birth to pups at about this time.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to travel in herds. Finding food will continue to be difficult until the growing season begins.

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

April 9-15, 2018 (Week 15 of 52): The Advance of Spring will Resume Later this Week

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Flooded wetland, at annual high water mark.

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Caddis fly case, found in forested wetland (Erie Co)

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Spring peeper found along wetland edge (Erie County)

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Painted turtle on log.

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Migrant northern saw-whet owl in daytime roost (Owl Woods, Braddock Bay)

While the Buffalo-Niagara Region is currently stuck in a rut of below average temperatures, the weather forecast of above average temperatures starting on Thursday assures a return to spring. Those warm temperatures will bring early blooming trees and shrubs (e.g., red maple, silver maple, pussy willow) and wildflowers (e.g., skunk cabbage, coltsfoot) out of their current state of suspended animation.  We may even see the earliest of our spring ephemeral wildflowers, sharp-lobed hepatica and bloodroot, starting to bloom in some areas later this week.  Early breeding species of frogs and salamanders will continue to migrate to and breed in vernal pools and other ponds/wetlands.  Southerly winds associated with the warm-up will carry more northbound migrant birds into and through our region.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this fourth full week of spring. Those in bold/italics are new highlights to watch for this week.  Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

  • 6:38 AM/7:55 PM DST (13 Hours, 17 Minutes)
  • 4 Hours, 16 minutes of daylight longer than at Winter Solstice
  • 1 Hour, 17 minutes of daylight longer than at Vernal Equinox

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 53.5° F   Normal Low Temperature: 35.6° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru April 2, 2018: 14

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The west end of Lake Ontario and the east end of Lake Erie are mostly ice-free.
  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo was 32°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) was 37°F as of April 9.
  • Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools are ice free and near annual high-water levels.
  • Streams will continue with moderate to high flow levels this week.

Woodland Wildflowers:

  • Skunk cabbage will continue to flower in forested wetlands, approaching its peak blooming period late this week.
  • The earliest of the spring ephemeral wildflowers, sharp-lobed hepatica and bloodroot, may start to bloom in some areas late this week.
  • Wild leek leaves will emerge in some upland forests late this week.
  • Coltsfoot, a non-native species that has naturalized across the region, will continue to bloom this week. Look for its yellow, dandelion-like flowers.
  • Lesser celandine, an invasive non-native species of buttercup, will begin to bloom in some areas late this week. It is most common in floodplain forest habitats.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Sap is flowing in trees and shrubs, as visualized by brighter yellow branches of crack and other willows and redder branches of red osier and silky dogwoods.
  • Red and silver maple trees will approach peak flowering late this week.
  • Pussy willows will continue to “flower” across most of the region, soon developing stamens that will produce pollen.
  • Some quaking aspen, big-toothed aspen, American elm, and eastern hophornbeam may start to flower late this week.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • A surprising diversity and abundance of vernal pool invertebrates will continue as pools warm: fingernail clams, amphipods, isopods, fairy shrimp, caddis fly larvae, dragonfly nymphs, giant water bugs, an assortment of aquatic beetles, etc.
  • Early spring species of caddis flies, stoneflies, and midges will continue to emerge from streams and be active when air temperatures are about 40°F and warmer.
  • Watch for honeybees and native bumblebees visiting newly blooming flowers late this week.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars that overwintered beneath leaf litter will continue to be active on warm days. After a brief feeding period, each will spin a cocoon of their orange and black hairs and develop into an Isabella tiger moth.
  • Mourning cloak and eastern comma butterflies (which overwinter as adults) may become active during the relatively warm weather forecast late this week.
  • Common green darners may start migrating back into our region from the south late this week, typically the earliest dragonflies to be seen here.

Fish:

  • Northern pike are concentrated in tributary streams, ditches, and shoreline wetlands for spawning.
  • White suckers will continue to migrate upstream within Great Lakes tributary streams to their spawning grounds.
  • Fresh steelhead will continue to enter tributaries for spawning when conditions are favorable. Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Walleye and yellow perch will be moving into shallow waters to spawn.
  • Large schools of alewife will continue to move from cold depths of Lakes Erie and Ontario to nearshore areas in preparation for spawning.
  • Large runs of brown bullheads will continue to enter tributary streams and harbors.
  • The DEC will continue to stock some local streams with hatchery-raised brown, brook, and/or rainbow trout this week.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Early breeding frogs such as the wood frog, western chorus frog, and spring peeper will continue to vocalize and breed in wetlands and vernal pools, especially late this week.
  • Northern leopard frogs and American toads may migrate to breeding pools following rain forecast late this week and join the frog chorus.
  • Spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson’s salamanders will continue to breed in vernal pools.
  • Eastern (red-spotted) newts will continue to migrate to breeding ponds this week where they join newts that overwintered in the ponds.
  • Lungless salamanders (e.g., red-backed, northern slimy, northern dusky, mountain dusky, and two-lined salamanders) will become active this week. They can be found under rocks and logs during the day.
  • Eastern garter snakes will emerge from hibernation/brumation. Watch for “snake balls” – breeding clusters consisting of multiple males attempting to mate with a single female.
  • Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Larger numbers of American coots and “puddle ducks” such as the northern pintail, American wigeon, mallard, American black, gadwall, northern shoveler, redhead, ring-necked duck, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, ruddy duck, wood duck, and hooded merganser will continue to stop-over in the region as they migrate north, or return to local breeding areas.
  • Some early breeding ducks such as mallard and wood duck may already be incubating eggs. Don’t be surprised to see wood ducks perched in trees, near nest cavities, this time of year.
  • Pairs of Canada geese will continue to nest in ponds and wetlands.
  • Great blue herons will continue to nest on Motor Island in the Niagara River, as well as inland nesting areas (rookeries).
  • Black-crowned night-herons will gather at nesting areas (rookeries), including a large rookery on one of the small islands just above the brink of Niagara Falls.
  • Watch for additional migrant and summer resident water birds such as the common loon, double-crested cormorant, American bittern, pied-billed grebe, and horned grebe this week.
  • Bonaparte’s gulls will continue to enter the region, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route north. This species will reach its peak spring numbers in the region in mid- to late April when thousands will be present along the Niagara River.
  • Watch for Caspian terns, the largest of the tern species to commonly occur in the region, along the Niagara River and Lakes Erie and Ontario late this week.
  • Killdeer pairs are courting this week and some may be nesting.
  • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will continue to perform their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract mates. Some hen woodcock and snipe are already incubating eggs.
  • Other early migrant shorebirds may arrive in our area this week: greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, and spotted sandpiper.
  • To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

Birds of Prey:

  • Some winter resident raptors (e.g., snowy owl, short-eared owl, rough-legged hawk, northern harrier) will continue to linger in the region, especially in areas with extensive open grassland habitat. Most will leave for northern breeding grounds over the next week or two.
  • Spring flights of hawks, falcons, eagles, osprey, and turkey vultures will continue to follow the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north. An excellent observation area for seeing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of these migrants in a single day is Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg.
  • Northbound long-eared owls and northern saw-whet owls will continue to arrive in the region, most notably near the southern shores of Lake Erie and (especially) Lake Ontario.
  • Year-round resident raptors such as the great horned owl, barred owl, eastern screech owl, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and red-tailed hawk are paired up and many are already on-nest. Red-shouldered hawks, a species that migrates south for the winter, may also have nests with eggs.
  • Most year-round resident birds of prey are already on-nest. Recent arrivals such as the red-shouldered hawk, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, American kestrel, and osprey will be establishing nesting territories.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey toms, with colorful heads and fanned tails, will intensify their courtship displays to hens.
  • Listen for drumming displays by male ruffed grouse in the southern part of the Buffalo-Niagara region as well as the Alabama Swamps area.
  • Male ring-necked pheasants that have become naturalized in the region will continue their rooster-like crowing to establish territories and attract mates. Some hens may be laying eggs at this time.

Songbirds:

  • Typical winter songbirds such as the dark-eyed junco and American tree sparrowsback, scaup, common goldeneye, common merganser, long-tailed duck plus less common species such as the pine siskin and common redpoll will continue to visit local bird feeders. Most will leave for northern breeding grounds over the next two or three weeks.
  • Watch for early migrant feeder birds such as red-winged blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, purple finch, song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, fox sparrow, and chipping sparrow. Be sure to place seed such as white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract these migrants.
  • Additional early migrant songbirds will continue to arrive in the region:   brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, barn swallow, rough-winged swallow, purple martin, winter wren, northern flicker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, American pipit, hermit thrush, brown thrasher, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, rusty blackbird, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, white-throated sparrow, fox sparrow, chipping sparrow, field sparrow, swamp sparrow, and savannah sparrow.
  • Early breeding songbirds such as the mourning dove, blue jay, American crow, horned lark, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, American robin, eastern bluebird, European starling, song sparrow, northern cardinal, common grackle, house finch, and house sparrow may already be incubating eggs. Others will continue to sing, establish territories, and court as they prepare to nest.

Mammals:

  • Male woodchucks will continue to emerge from hibernation and seek to mate with females as they emerge from their winter dens.
  • An occasional big brown bat may emerge late this week from hibernacula in local attics etc. and be seen foraging for insects.
  • Other true hibernators (several species of bats, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) will continue to be mostly inactive in the region during the coming week.
  • Ermine (AKA short-tailed weasel) will continue to molt from white to brown pelage.
  • Newborn opossums will continue to suckle from the safety and warmth of their mother’s pouch. A single litter often consists of over a dozen young.
  • Most eastern chipmunks have emerged from winter torpor will continue to actively feed and breed this week.
  • Gray squirrels, red squirrels, and southern flying squirrels will give birth to the first of two litters of young at about this time.
  • Yearling beavers disperse from natal ponds to establish their own territories at this time. Now is an especially good time to find scent mounds marking beaver territories, typically along edges of beaver ponds.
  • Eastern cottontails will give birth to the first of three litters of young at about this time.
  • Coyotes and red & gray fox give birth to pups at about this time.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to travel in herds. Finding food will continue to be difficult until the growing season begins.

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

April 2-8, 2018 (Week 14 of 52): Spring’s Advance will Stall this Week

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Coltsfoot buds and flower just starting to emerge in Erie County.

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Pussy willow, shortly after bud burst.

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Fairy shrimp (with eggs) from Erie County vernal pool.

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Spring peeper calling from edge of forested wetland.

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Spotted salamander captured and released at Erie County vernal pool (photo by Kristen Rosenburg).

Based on the weather forecast for the Buffalo-Niagara Region, the spring-time advancement by plants and animals that started last week will continue briefly into this week. Red and silver maples as well as pussy willows and skunk cabbage will continue to flower. Early breeding species of frogs and salamanders will continue to migrate to and breed in vernal pools and other pond/wetland breeding sites. Early migrant bird species will continue to trickle into the region, and early breeding species will continue to sing, display, and initiate nesting. However, from Wednesday through Sunday, the region is forecast to return to temperatures that are well below normal. That will put many of our plants and animals into a period of suspended animation. Regardless, an abundance and diversity of life that can still be found by anyone eager to get outdoors.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this second full week of spring. Those in bold/italics are new highlights to watch for this week. Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

  • 6:50 AM/7:47 PM DST (12 Hours, 57 Minutes)
  • 3 Hours, 56 minutes of daylight longer than at Winter Solstice
  • 57 minutes of daylight longer than at Vernal Equinox

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 50.3° F  Normal Low Temperature: 33.0° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru April 2, 2018: 14

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • While the west end of Lake Ontario is mostly ice-free, the east end of Lake Erie is still mostly ice-covered (albeit less concentrated).
  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo was 33°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) was 38°F as of April 3.
  • Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools are ice free and near annual high-water levels.
  • Streams will continue with moderate to high flow levels this week.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Sap is flowing in trees and shrubs, as visualized by brighter yellow branches of crack and other willows and redder branches of red osier and silky dogwoods.
  • Red and silver maple trees will continue to flower this week.
  • Pussy willows will continue to “flower” across most of the region, soon developing stamens that will produce pollen.

Woodland Wildflowers:

  • Skunk cabbage will continue to flower in forested wetlands, approaching its peak blooming period this week and next.
  • Coltsfoot, a non-native species that has naturalized across the region, is starting to bloom in some areas. Look for its yellow, dandelion-like flowers.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Flooded lawns will force earthworms to the surface and onto roads, driveways, and sidewalks where they are easily gleaned by American robins.
  • A surprising diversity and abundance of vernal pool invertebrates will continue as pools warm: fingernail clams, amphipods, isopods, fairy shrimp, caddis fly larvae, dragonfly nymphs, giant water bugs, an assortment of aquatic beetles, etc.
  • Early spring species of caddis flies, stoneflies, and midges will continue to emerge from streams and be active when air temperatures are about 40°F and warmer.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars that overwintered beneath leaf litter will continue to be active on warm days. After a brief feeding period, each will spin a cocoon of their orange and black hairs and develop into an Isabella tiger moth.

Fish:

  • Northern pike are concentrated in tributary streams, ditches, and shoreline wetlands for spawning.
  • White suckers will continue to migrate upstream within Great Lakes tributary streams to their spawning grounds.
  • Fresh steelhead will continue to enter tributaries for spawning when conditions are favorable. Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Large schools of alewife will continue to move from cold depths of Lakes Erie and Ontario to nearshore areas in preparation for spawning.
  • Large runs of brown bullhead may enter tributary streams and harbors.
  • The DEC will continue to stock some local streams with hatchery-raised brown, brook, and/or rainbow trout this week.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Early breeding frogs such as the wood frog, western chorus frog, and spring peeper will continue to vocalize and breed in wetlands and vernal pools.
  • Spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson’s salamanders will continue to make their annual migration to vernal pool breeding sites when conditions are favorable this week.
  • Some eastern (red-spotted) newts may migrate to breeding ponds this week where they join newts that overwintered in the ponds.
  • Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Larger numbers of “puddle ducks” such as the northern pintail, American wigeon, mallard, American black, gadwall, northern shoveler, redhead, ring-necked duck, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, ruddy duck, wood duck, and hooded merganser will continue to stop-over in the region as they migrate north, or return to local breeding areas.
  • Some early breeding ducks such as mallard and wood duck may already be incubating eggs.
  • Large flocks of Canada geese, snow geese, and tundra swans will continue to stop-over in the region on their migration northward. The highest concentrations can typically be found at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and adjoining Tonawanda and Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Areas.
  • Pairs of Canada geese will continue to occupy and defend nesting sites in ponds and wetlands.
  • Great blue herons will continue to nest on Motor Island in the Niagara River, as well as inland nesting areas (rookeries).
  • Watch for additional migrant and summer resident water birds such as the common loon, American bittern, black-crowned night-heron, pied-billed grebe, and horned grebe this week.
  • Bonaparte’s gulls will continue to enter the region, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route north. This species will reach its peak spring numbers in the region in mid- to late April when thousands will be present along the Niagara River.
  • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will continue to perform their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract mates. Some hen woodcock are already incubating eggs.

Birds of Prey:

  • Some winter resident raptors (e.g., snowy owl, short-eared owl, rough-legged hawk, northern harrier) will continue to linger in the region, especially in areas with extensive open grassland habitat.
  • Spring flights of hawks, falcons, eagles, and turkey vultures will continue to follow the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north. An excellent observation area for seeing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of these migrants in a single day is Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg.
  • Northbound long-eared owls and northern saw-whet owls will continue to arrive in the region, most notably near the southern shores of Lake Erie and (especially) Lake Ontario.
  • Year-round resident raptors such as the great horned owl, barred owl, eastern screech owl, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and red-tailed hawk are paired up and many are already on-nest. Red-shouldered hawks, a species that migrates south for the winter, may also have nests with eggs. Some great horned owl nests may have young chicks already.
  • Most year-round resident birds of prey are already on-nest. Recent arrivals such as the Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and osprey will be establishing nesting territories.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey toms, with colorful heads and fanned tails, will intensify their courtship displays to hens.
  • Male ring-necked pheasants that have become naturalized in the region will continue their rooster-like crowing to establish territories and attract mates.

Songbirds:

  • Typical winter songbirds such as the dark-eyed junco and American tree sparrowsback, scaup, common goldeneye, common merganser, long-tailed duck plus less common species such as the pine siskin and common redpoll will continue to visit local bird feeders.
  • Bird feeders will continue to be active with year-round resident birds such as mourning dove, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, blue jay, northern cardinal, house finch, and American goldfinch.
  • Watch for early migrant feeder birds such as red-winged blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, purple finch, song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, fox sparrow, and chipping sparrow. Be sure to place seed such as white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract these migrants.
  • Additional early migrant songbirds will continue to trickle into the region:   brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, winter wren, northern flicker, American pipit, belted kingfisher, eastern meadowlark, eastern bluebird, American robin, horned lark, red-winged blackbird, rusty blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, purple finch, song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, fox sparrow, chipping sparrow, and American goldfinch.
  • Early breeding songbirds such as the horned lark, mourning dove, American crow, American robin, and European starling may already be incubating eggs. Others will continue to sing, establish territories, and court as they prepare to nest.

Mammals:

  • Male woodchucks will continue to emerge from hibernation and seek to mate with females as they emerge from their winter dens.
  • Other true hibernators (several species of bats, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) will continue to be mostly inactive in the region during the coming week.
  • Ermine (AKA short-tailed weasel) will continue to molt from white to brown pelage.
  • Tiny newborn opossums will continue to suckle from the safety and warmth of their mother’s pouch. A single litter often consists of over a dozen young.
  • Most eastern chipmunks have emerged from winter torpor will continue to actively feed and breed this week.
  • Gray squirrels, red squirrels, and southern flying squirrels will give birth to the first of two litters of young at about this time.
  • Muskrat love is in the air. Male muskrats will continue to actively seek females and are therefore exposed to greater risks of predation and road kill.
  • Watch for elaborate courtship displays by eastern cottontail pairs, including “boxing matches” and high-jumping antics.
  • Coyotes and red & gray fox give birth to pups at about this time.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to travel in herds. Finding food will continue to be difficult until the growing season begins.

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

March 26-April 1, 2018 (Week 13 of 52): Warm & Wet Weather Will Get Things Hopping

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Red maple flowering along edge of forested wetland.

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Skunk cabbage flowering in forested wetland.

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Spring peeper hanging out on window.

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Spotted salamander briefly inspected at Erie County vernal pool (photo by Kristen Rosenburg).

The brief period of relatively wet and slightly warmer weather forecast for Tuesday through Thursday night this week will be sufficient to trigger an evident response by plants and animals in the Buffalo-Niagara Region. Flower buds on many red and silver maple trees are already opening and the conditions will push those species toward peak flowering. Pussy willow buds will burst across much of the region, too. Skunk cabbage plants in unfrozen wetlands will start flowering. If the weather forecast holds true, moderate rainfall during this period (Thursday night in particular) will prompt nocturnal movements of frogs and mole salamanders (i.e., spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson salamanders) toward vernal pools and other pond/wetland breeding sites, regardless of overnight temperatures in the low 40’s. Listen for breeding calls of spring peepers, western chorus frogs, and wood frogs both day and night, and watch for them crossing roads. Southerly winds that are forecast for a few days this week will carry more northbound migrant birds into and through our region. Bird song and courtship displays, including elaborate aerial displays by American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe, will continue to pick up in pace. Woodchucks will be the first of the true hibernator mammals to emerge from hibernation in large numbers this week. They and various other mammal species will be focused on mating.

 

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this second full week of spring. Those in bold/italics are new highlights to watch for this week. Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

  • 7:02 AM/7:39 PM DST (12 Hours, 37 Minutes)
  • 3 Hours, 36 minutes hours of daylight longer than at Winter Solstice
  • 37 minutes of daylight longer than at Vernal Equinox

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 47.2° F; Normal Low Temperature: 30.4° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru March 25, 2018: 14

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • While the west end of Lake Ontario is mostly ice-free, the east end of Lake Erie is still mostly ice-covered.
  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo was 32°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) was 37°F as of March 26.
  • Most inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools are ice free and near seasonal high water levels.
  • Streams will remain ice-free with moderate to high flow levels this week.

Woodland Wildflowers:

  • Skunk cabbage will begin to flower in some forested wetlands with peak blooming period over the next week or two.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Sugar maple sap will continue to flow (and be harvested within some sugar bushes).
  • Sap flow is occurring in other tree and shrub species, too, as visualized by brighter yellow branches of crack and other willows and redder branches of red osier and silky dogwoods.
  • Red and silver maple trees will begin to flower in full force this week.
  • Pussy willow flower buds will burst across most of the region.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Flooded lawns will force earthworms to the surface and onto roads, driveways, and sidewalks where they are easily gleaned by American robins.
  • A surprising diversity and abundance of vernal pool invertebrates will spring to life as pools warm: fingernail clams, amphipods, isopods, fairy shrimp, caddis fly larvae, dragonfly nymphs, giant water bugs, an assortment of aquatic beetles, etc.
  • Early spring species of caddis flies, stoneflies, and midges will continue to be active when air temperatures are about 40°F and warmer.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars that overwintered beneath leaf litter are now active. After a brief feeding period, each will spin a cocoon of their orange and black hairs and develop into an Isabella tiger moth.
  • A few mourning cloak and eastern comma butterflies (which overwintered as adults) may become active during the relatively warm weather forecast for the first half of this week.

Fish:

  • Northern pike are concentrated in tributary streams, ditches, and shoreline wetlands for spawning, which will start when the water temperature exceeds about 40°F.
  • White suckers have started to migrate upstream within Great Lakes tributary streams to their spawning grounds.
  • Steelhead that migrated from Lakes Erie and Ontario into tributary streams (including Niagara River) last fall are joined by fresh steelhead starting to enter tributaries in preparation for spring spawning (when water temperature approaches 42°F). Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • The DEC will continue to stock local streams with hatchery-raised brown, brook, and rainbow trout in preparation for the opening of trout season on April 1.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Early breeding frog species such as the wood frog, western chorus frog, and spring peeper will begin to vocalize from wetland breeding pools.
  • Some spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson’s salamanders will make their annual migration to vernal pool breeding sites this week.
  • Some common snapping and midland painted turtles have been active over the past week. Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Thousands of diving ducks will remain in their wintering areas, primarily open water areas of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The primary species at this time include red-breasted merganser, common goldeneye, bufflehead, scaup, and long-tailed duck. Many will be performing courtship displays and vocalizations.
  • Watch for red-throated loons, red-necked grebes, and white-winged scoters in open water areas of the Great Lakes.
  • Larger numbers of “puddle ducks” such as the northern pintail, American wigeon, mallard, American black, gadwall, redhead, ring-necked duck, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, ruddy duck, wood duck, and hooded merganser will stop-over in the region as they migrate north, or return to local breeding areas such as Iroquois NWR.
  • Large flocks of Canada geese, snow geese, and tundra swans will stop-over in the region on their migration northward. The highest concentrations can be found at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and adjoining Tonawanda and Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Areas.
  • Pairs of Canada geese will continue to occupy and defend nesting sites in ponds and wetlands.
  • Great blue herons will continue to nest on Motor Island in the Niagara River, as well as inland nesting areas (rookeries).
  • Watch for additional migrant and summer resident water birds such as the black-crowned night-heron, pied-billed grebe, and horned grebe this week.
  • Bonaparte’s gulls will begin to trickle into the region, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route north. This species will reach its peak spring numbers in the region in mid- to late April when thousands will be present along the Niagara River.
  • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will perform their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract mates. Woodcock perform mostly near dawn and dusk whereas snipe display mostly during daylight hours.
  • To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

Birds of Prey:

  • Some winter resident raptors (e.g., snowy owl, short-eared owl, rough-legged hawk, northern harrier) will continue to linger in the region, especially in areas with extensive open grassland habitat.
  • Spring flights of hawks, falcons, bald eagles, and turkey vultures will continue to follow the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north. An excellent observation area for seeing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of these migrants in a single day is Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg.
  • Northbound long-eared owls and northern saw-whet owls will continue to arrive in the region, most notably near the southern shores of Lake Erie and (especially) Lake Ontario.
  • Year-round resident raptors such as the great horned owl, barred owl, eastern screech owl, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and red-tailed hawk are paired up and many are already on-nest. Some great horned owl nests may have young chicks already.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkeys will continue to travel and feed in flocks. Some toms may start displaying to hens.
  • Male ring-necked pheasants that have become naturalized in the region will continue their rooster-like crowing to establish territories and attract mates.

Songbirds:

  • Typical winter songbirds such as the dark-eyed junco and American tree sparrow plus less common species such as the pine siskin will continue to visit local bird feeders.
  • Bird feeders will continue to be active with year-round resident birds such as mourning dove, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, blue jay, northern cardinal, house finch, and American goldfinch.
  • Watch for early migrant feeder birds such as red-winged blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, and song sparrow.
  • Early migrant songbirds (e.g., brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, northern flicker, eastern bluebird, American robin, eastern meadowlark, red-winged blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, and song sparrow) will continue to trickle into the region.
  • Early breeding songbirds such as the horned lark, mourning dove, American crow, and American robin may already be incubating eggs. Others will continue to sing, establish territories, and court including black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, blue jay, northern cardinal, and house finch.

Mammals:

  • Male woodchucks have emerged from hibernation and seek to mate with females as they emerge from their winter dens.
  • Other true hibernators (several species of bats, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) will continue to be mostly inactive in the region during the coming week.
  • Ermine (AKA short-tailed weasel) are molting from white to brown pelage at this time.
  • Tiny newborn opossums suckle from the safety and warmth of their mother’s pouch. A single litter often consists of over a dozen young.
  • Most eastern chipmunks have emerged from winter torpor will be actively feeding and breeding this week.
  • Muskrat love is in the air. Male muskrats actively seek females and are therefore exposed to greater risks of predation and road kill.
  • Watch for elaborate courtship displays by eastern cottontail pairs, including “boxing matches” and high-jumping antics.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to travel in herds. Finding food will continue to be difficult until the growing season begins.

 

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

March 19-25, 2018 (Week 12 of 52): Winter’s Slow Transition to Spring

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Forested wetland at annual high water level.

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Sap collection from sugar maple, Beaver Meadow Audubon Center.

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Red-bellied woodpecker visiting suet feeder, Town of Elma.

SEOW by Tom Poczciwinski

Short-eared owl in Niagara County (photo by Tom Poczciwinski).

 

This first week of spring is forecast to be below average in temperature in the Buffalo-Niagara Region, so the drab landscape with residual snow cover won’t change substantially. Regardless, the region supports an abundance and diversity of life that can be observed by anyone eager to get outdoors.  Most winter resident birds are still present, including thousands of diving ducks (e.g., common merganser, red-breasted merganser, canvasback, common goldeneye, greater scaup, and long-tailed duck) that spend the winter in open water areas such as the Niagara River.  The next couple weeks are an especially good time to observe these ducks as many are performing intriguing courtship displays and vocalizations.  Winter raptors (e.g., snowy owl, short-eared owl, rough-legged hawk) are still present in the region, especially in areas with extensive grassland habitat.  Typical winter songbirds such as the dark-eyed junco and American tree sparrowsback, scaup, common goldeneye, common merganser, long-tailed duck continue to visit local bird feeders.

Moreover, signs of spring are evident across the region. In fact, subtle signs of spring have been visible for several weeks.  Tree sap began to flow during the significant thaw in mid to late February when daytime temperatures reached well above freezing, as evidenced by abundant maple syrup production at sugaring operations in our region at that time.  Pussy willow and red and silver maple flower buds are swollen, ready to burst into flower.  Burbot, a large elongated fish in the cod family, has already spawned and the initial stages of breeding have begun by other fish species as they migrate toward spawning grounds.  Relatively small numbers of Canada geese and tundra swans have been migrating northward across the region, and pairs of geese are returning to previously used nesting sites.  Puddle ducks such as the northern pintail, wood duck, and American wigeon have been observed in open water areas.

Spring flights of hawks, bald eagles, and turkey vultures have been recorded along the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shorelines during the past few weeks. Great horned owls have been on-nest for a few weeks or more.  Other raptors, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and red-tailed hawks have recently laid eggs or started preparing nests.  A few early migrant shorebirds and songbirds (e.g., killdeer, American robin, red-winged blackbird, common grackle) have arrived in the region.  Songbirds have initiated their pre-nuptial molt (most evident in male American goldfinches visiting feeders), and several year-round resident species have been singing and establishing territories since early to mid-February.  A few eastern chipmunks have emerged from their winter dens to feed and breed.  Most large mammals bred during the fall or winter, so we can expect to see fawns, pups, and kits over the next few to several weeks.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this first week of spring. Check out the list of 300 publicly accessible sites (“B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page) to find areas to explore in your neighborhood and throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):          7:14 AM/7:31 PM DST (12 Hours, 17 Minutes)  3 Hours, 16 minutes longer than at winter solstice

Typical Weather:   Normal High Temperature: 44.2° F   Normal Low Temperature: 27.8° F

Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru March 18, 2018:   14

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • While the west end of Lake Ontario is mostly ice-free, the east end of Lake Erie will remain ice-covered this week.
  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo was 32°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) was 36°F as of Mach 19.
  • Most inland ponds have thawed and most wetlands and vernal pools are ice-free or have limited ice cover. Wetland water levels are at seasonal highs.
  • Streams will remain mostly ice-free with moderate flow this week.

Woodland Wildflowers:

  • Most woodlands are snow-covered. Thus, woodland wildflowers are mostly dormant.
  • Skunk cabbage buds, which developed last autumn and progressed during the February thaw, will slowly advance toward a peak blooming period over the next two or three weeks.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Sugar maple sap (as well as sap in other tree species) will continue to flow, especially during days with temperatures above freezing following nights with sub-freezing temperatures.
  • Red and silver maple flower buds will continue to swell but will not flower substantially during the coming week.
  • Pussy willow flower buds are swollen but will not burst during the coming week.
  • If you are impatient to see flowering trees and shrubs, try “forcing” branches to bloom by placing 12 to 18-inch cuttings (make sure each has flower buds) in a vase of water indoors. Flowers will appear after several days. Recommended species include red maple, silver maple, pussy willow, spicebush, shadbush, and hawthorn. The following non-native species may also be “forced”: forsythia, lilac, apple, and cherry.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Early spring species of caddis flies, stoneflies, and midges will continue to be active when air temperatures are about 40°F and warmer.
  • Over-wintering species such as the wooly bear caterpillar, mourning cloak butterfly, and eastern comma butterfly will remain inactive until normal temperatures return.

Fish:

  • Most species of fish will remain relatively sedentary as water temperatures in most lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams hover at or just above freezing.
  • Northern pike will begin to concentrate near tributary streams, ditches, and shoreline wetlands over the next week or two in preparation for spawning, which will start when water temperature exceeds about 40°F.
  • White suckers have started moving into Great Lakes tributary streams, preparing to migrate upstream to spawning grounds.
  • Steelhead that migrated from Lakes Erie and Ontario into tributary streams (including Niagara River) last fall are joined by fresh steelhead starting to enter tributaries in preparation for spring spawning (when water temperature approaches 42°F). Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • The DEC will stock local streams with hatchery-raised brown, brook, and rainbow trout in preparation for the opening of trout season on April 1.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Most of the early breeding frogs such as the wood frog, western chorus frog, and spring peeper will remain in hibernation (technically considered brumation for amphibians and reptiles) during the coming week.
  • It is unlikely that spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson’s salamanders will make their annual migration to vernal pools to breed during the coming week, considering temperature and snow conditions.
  • Turtles and snakes will remain in a state of hibernation/brumation during the coming week.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Thousands of diving ducks will remain in their wintering areas, primarily open water areas of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The primary species include common merganser, red-breasted merganser, common goldeneye, bufflehead, canvasback, scaup, and long-tailed duck. Many will be performing courtship displays and vocalizations.
  • Watch for red-throated loons, red-necked grebes, and white-winged scoters in open water areas of the Great Lakes.
  • Horned grebes will continue to use open water areas as stop-over feeding areas along their migration route north.
  • Wintering and migrant flocks of tundra swans will continue to be present in the region, especially in the Upper Niagara River and Alabama Swamps area.
  • See the “Great Lakes/Niagara River” column in the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page for sites that provide public access.
  • Spring migrant puddle ducks, Canada geese, and American coots will continue to trickle into the region but the usual flood of migrants will likely not occur this week. Puddle ducks to watch for include northern pintail, American wigeon, mallard, American black, gadwall, ring-necked duck, and wood duck.
  • Pairs of Canada geese will continue to return to previously used nesting sites.
  • Great blue herons are already nesting on Motor Island in the Niagara River whereas they are just returning to inland nesting areas (rookeries).
  • Some winter gulls, such as the glaucous, Iceland, and great black-backed gull may remain in the region over the coming week or two.
  • Bonaparte’s gulls will start to trickle into the region, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route north. This species will reach its peak spring numbers in the region in mid- to late April when thousands will be present along the Niagara River.
  • A few early migrant shorebirds (e.g., killdeer, American woodcock) will continue to trickle into the region.
  • To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

Birds of Prey:

  • Some winter resident raptors (e.g., snowy owl, short-eared owl, rough-legged hawk, northern harrier) will continue to linger in the region, especially in areas with extensive open grassland habitat.
  • Spring flights of hawks, bald eagles, and turkey vultures will continue at a relatively slow pace for now, following the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north.
  • Northbound long-eared owls and northern saw-whet owls will begin to arrive in the region, most notably near the southern shores of Lake Erie and (especially) Lake Ontario.
  • Year-round resident raptors such as the great horned owl, barred owl, eastern screech owl, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and red-tailed hawk are paired up and many are already on-nest. Some great horned owl nests may have young chicks already.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkeys will continue to travel and feed in flocks as winter-like weather continues.
  • Male ring-necked pheasants that have become naturalized in the region will continue their rooster-like crowing to establish territories and attract mates.

Songbirds:

  • Typical winter songbirds such as the dark-eyed junco and American tree sparrows plus less common species such as the pine siskin will continue to visit local bird feeders .
  • Bird feeders will also be active with year-round resident birds such as mourning dove, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, blue jay, northern cardinal, house finch, and American goldfinch.
  • Watch for early migrant feeder birds such as red-winged blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, and song sparrow.
  • If you don’t have a feeder of your own, consider visiting a local nature education center (see the last column of the site lists under the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page).
  • A few wintering and migrant snow buntings and horned larks may still be found in open farmland, although most that wintered in our region have migrated north already.
  • Local horned larks are establishing territories and some may be incubating eggs already.
  • Several species of songbirds have been singing and establishing territories since mid-February and will continue to do so over the coming week. Included are mourning dove, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, blue jay, northern cardinal, and house finch. Also included are downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers that use drumming as well as vocalizations.
  • A few early migrant songbirds (e.g., northern flicker, eastern bluebird, American robin, eastern meadowlark, red-winged blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, and song sparrow) will continue to trickle into the region.

Mammals:

  • True hibernators (several species of bats, woodchuck, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) will continue to be mostly inactive in the region during the coming week.
  • Striped skunks emerged from winter torpor during the February thaw and will remain mostly active in the coming week. This is their breeding season.
  • Virginia opossum and raccoon, which became significantly more active during the February thaw, will continue to be active (other than during extremely cold periods).
  • Tiny newborn opossums suckle from the safety and warmth of their mother’s pouch. A single litter often consists of over a dozen young.
  • The few eastern chipmunks that have emerged from winter torpor will be actively feeding (other than during extremely cold periods).
  • Muskrat love is in the air. Male muskrats actively seek females and are therefore exposed to greater risks of predation and road kill.
  • Watch for elaborate courtship displays by eastern cottontail pairs, including “boxing matches” and high-jumping antics.
  • Most large mammals bred during the fall or winter, so we can expect to see fawns, pups, and kits over the next few to several weeks.
  • White-tailed deer continue to travel in herds. Finding food will continue to be difficult until the growing season begins.

Be sure to find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg