October 29-November 4, 2018 (Week 44 of 52): Fill Your Feeders – A Winter Finch Irruption is Upon Us

 

Once every several years, we experience an irruption of “winter finches” where significant numbers of songbirds that typically overwinter in Canada migrate south into the Buffalo-Niagara Region and across much of the rest of the northeastern United States. This year is one of those exciting times for birdwatchers! Pine siskins and purple finches have already arrived in the Region in large numbers over the past few weeks. Red-breasted nuthatches, while not finches, have also settled in our Region in larger than average numbers. Common redpolls and evening grosbeaks are close behind, and a few white-winged and red crossbills are starting to reach the Toronto area and will likely arrive here soon. Significant southern flights of these birds are made in response to scarce seed and fruit crops (e.g., spruce, fir, and hemlock cones; birch seeds, mountain-ash berries) across much of northeastern Canada.

If you would like to greatly improve your chances to observe winter finches and related birds, consider establishing a bird feeding station near your home. If a feeding station is not a good option for you, visit a local nature center (see the 2nd to last column in the tables of nature viewing sites found under the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page). Nyjer (AKA thistle) and black oil sunflower are the best seeds for attracting winter finches, evening grosbeaks, and red-breasted nuthatches. Even during non-irruption years, feeding is a good way to attract a diversity and abundance of songbirds for closer observation (including species in your neighborhood that you might otherwise not see).  It helps to bring them out of the woodwork, so to speak, especially during cold and snowy weather. Start feeding in early autumn to attract species that primarily migrate through the area (versus overwintering), such as white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, and fox sparrow. These species are currently passing through our Region.

Another noteworthy natural phenomenon happening this week is prolonged fall color. We have been fortunate this autumn to experience an especially long period of bright leaf color, extending about two weeks later than normal so far. An important factor has been the lack of a hard frost to date. While leaf color is a now past peak across most of the Region, near peak brightness still radiates in some areas – particularly upland forest habitats dominated by sugar maple and lowland forests dominated by silver and/or Freeman maple (hybrid of red and silver maples). This is an excellent time to explore the forest understory to experience bright leaf colors, both on trees/shrubs and on the ground. To find public properties that offer both forest habitats and trails, check the 6th and 10th columns of the tables of nature viewing sites found under the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this week. Those in bold/italics are new or substantially revised 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):

  • 7:50 AM/6:07 PM EDT (10 Hours, 17 Minutes)
  • 5 Hours, 4 minutes of daylight shorter than at Summer Solstice

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 53.3° F  Normal Low Temperature: 38.1° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru October 31, 2018: 3196 (>10% above normal)
  • Light frost is likely this week.

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo dropped to 53°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) dropped to 50°F as of October 30, 2018.
  • Water levels in most interior wetlands and vernal pools remain low but continue to rise in response to recent rainfall and reduced evapotranspiration rates.
  • Similarly, the water level in most ponds is low but continuing to rise.
  • Most streams will exhibit high flow levels this week in light of forecasts for significant rainfall.

Fungi:

  • A few late season species of fungi may still be observed in rich woodlands this week: giant puffball, hen of-the-woods, oyster, bear’s head tooth fungus, and bearded tooth.
  • Shaggy mane mushrooms can be found in lawns and along wood chip trails, often in fairy rings.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • An often overlooked fall color change occurs with ferns in the forest understory. The following ferns often exhibit striking color changes, albeit briefly, at this time: New York, lady, bracken, royal, cinnamon, interrupted, and ostrich ferns.
  • A few species of grass will continue to exhibit showy color changes this week, especially rice cut-grass, white grass, and witch grass found in wetlands and other poorly drained areas.
  • Wool-grass, a native species of bulrush, is still evident in wet meadows and marsh edges as a result of its abundant rusty brown and wooly fruits.
  • Broad-leaf and narrow-leaf cattail stems are now mostly brown and laden with fruit in marshes, pond edges, ditches, and other wet habitats. Many fruits are starting to disintegrate, releasing thousands of tiny fluffy seeds to the wind.

Wildflowers:

  • One non-native summer wildflower, butter-and-eggs, will continue to bloom in open field and roadside environments this week.
  • A few individuals of late season asters will continue to bloom this week: heath aster, calico aster, crooked-stem aster, and New England aster.
  • Golden yellow leaves of native common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and Indian hemp may still be seen in old fields and wet meadows.
  • Common milkweed pods are bursting and releasing hundreds of seeds to the wind, each equipped with fluffy “parachutes” to aid dispersal.
  • This is bur season so be watchful where you (and your dog(s)) walk. Several local plants have adapted a hitch-a-ride strategy that capitalizes on animal disbursal. Those currently in fruit include common burdock and multiple species of bur marigold and avens.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • While leaf color is past peak over most of the Buffalo-Niagara Region, near peak color can still be found in certain habitats, particularly upland forests dominated by sugar maple and wetland forests dominated by silver and/or Freeman maple (hybrid of red and silver maples).
  • The following trees and shrubs continue to exhibit some bright red leaf color: sugar maple (some individuals), Freeman maple (hybrid of red and silver maples), arrow-wood, cranberry viburnum, and maple-leaf viburnum. Some pin oak leaves have now changed to a bright red-brown.
  • Many shrubland areas and forest edges continue to be colored reddish-purple at this time as a result of the abundance of Region’s three species of dogwood (gray, silky, and red-osier) which are now joined by similar leaf colors of arrow-wood, nannyberry, and blackberry.
  • Some brilliant orange leaves can still be seen on sugar maple (some individuals), American hornbeam, serviceberry, and shadbush.
  • The following trees and shrubs display gold and yellow leaf color: tamarack (AKA larch, a deciduous species of conifer), silver maple, Freeman maple (hybrid of red and silver maples), many sugar maples, American basswood, quaking aspen, big-toothed aspen, eastern hop-hornbeam, shagbark hickory, bitternut hickory, American beech, tulip poplar, sassafras, witch-hazel, and spicebush.
  • Wind and rain will shed leaves soon, especially after we receive a hard frost, so enjoy the color while you can.
  • Leaf color for some species of trees and shrubs stays green late into autumn, including most oaks, willows, Tartarian and Morrow’s honeysuckles (both non-native), and common and glossy buckthorn (both non-native).
  • Eastern white pine and red pine have shed old needles as new needles take their place. The shed needles have created golden blankets beneath the pines.
  • Be on the lookout for stringy yellow petals of witch-hazel flowers. Also watch and listen for seeds being explosively ejected from ripe (but woody) fruits (from last year’s flowers).
  • The availability of hard and soft mast is noticeably less abundant this week as squirrels, chipmunks, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and other wildlife have consumed a large amount over the past several weeks.
  • Some hard mast (acorns, hickory nuts, etc.) continues to be available, on and off trees, for consumption by many mammals and some birds (e.g., wild turkey, blue jay). Sources at this time include northern red oak, pin oak, bitternut hickory, and black walnut.
  • Several native trees, shrubs, and vines continue to provide some ripe fruit (soft mast) that is an important source of food for a variety of birds and mammals: cucumber magnolia, gray dogwood, cranberry viburnum, winterberry, staghorn sumac, poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and wild grape.
  • In addition, the following non-native species provide ripe fruit (soft mast) consumed by wildlife: multiflora rose, autumn olive, and common buckthorn.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Adult stage ticks become especially abundant in early October and remain active as long as temperatures stay above freezing and the ground is not covered with snow. Therefore, be especially careful to wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • A few late season butterflies may still be active during relatively warm periods this week, including orange sulphur and clouded sulphur.
  • Included among the late season butterflies are individuals of three species that will overwinter as adults and be the first butterflies on the wind next spring: mourning cloak, eastern comma, and question mark butterflies.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars will continue to be active. This species will overwinter beneath leaf litter and ultimately metamorphose into Isabella tiger moth next spring.
  • A few late season dragonflies may still be active during relatively warm periods this week, including shadow darner and autumn meadowhawk.

Fish:

  • Many species of fish are moving into shallower areas and are feeding more heavily as water temperatures have cooled, including muskellunge, walleye, and smallmouth bass.
  • Schools of yellow perch are now moving into progressively shallower water as fall advances.
  • Chinook salmon (AKA king salmon) are continuing to run up Great Lakes tributary streams and the Lower Niagara River for spawning, which usually peaks in mid-October and continues through early November. Spawning runs for coho salmon typically peak a couple weeks after chinook. Both species are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Historically, Atlantic salmon (AKA landlocked salmon) followed a similar spawning pattern in the Lake Ontario. This native and one-time abundant species was nearly extirpated in the late 1800’s. Restoration efforts have had limited success to date.
  • Another native species, lake trout, continues to spawn in shallow rocky/gravelly shoals of the Great Lakes and Lower Niagara River.
  • Steelhead are also running up Great Lakes tributaries and the Lower Niagara River at this time. Spawning does not occur until late winter and early spring. 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.
  • Native brook trout (our state fish species) typically begin to spawn in riffles and shallow areas of small headwater streams at about this time. Male brook trout develop a hook on the lower jaw and are ornately colored at this time of year.
  • Brown trout are beginning to run up Great Lakes tributaries and the Lower Niagara River. Spawning typically occurs from late October to December in these tributaries. In headwater streams, where brown trout have been stocked, they typically spawn a little later than brook trout. Brown trout were introduced from Europe.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Northern leopard frogs have migrated to flooded wetlands and ponds where they will hibernate, similar to most other aquatic species of frogs (e.g., green frog, bullfrog).
  • Some American toads will still remain active in upland environments this week, at least during relatively warm periods. Soon they will all dig-in and enter hibernation.
  • Listen for occasional single-syllabled “peeps” from spring peepers during relatively warm periods.
  • This is still a good time of year to inspect areas around outdoor lights for spring peepers that feed on moths and other insect attracted to the lights. This species has suction-cups on its toes that allow it to cling to windows and siding. Some may still be moving toward upland hibernation areas.
  • Eastern garter snakes remain active at this time but will soon enter hibernation. Watch for them basking in sunny spots.
  • Midland painted turtles may still be seen basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • As Canadian waterbodies freeze, noticeably larger numbers of ducks and other waterbirds will begin to arrive in the Region. Check ponds and wetlands for mallard, American black duck, wood duck, American wigeon, northern shoveler, gadwall, ruddy duck, ring-necked duck, green-winged teal, northern pintail, hooded merganser, and American coot.
  • Watch and listen for migrant Canada goose flocks passing overhead. Some will stop-over in our region to rest and feed on their journey south.
  • This is a good time to scout for migrant brant resting and feeding in parkland and other open habitats bordering Lakes Erie and Ontario. Brant is a relatively small species of goose that nests in the tundra and into the Arctic Circle.
  • The annual buildup of “sea ducks” and similar waterbirds that overwinter in the Great Lakes and Niagara River continues with the arrival of common loon, red-throated loon, red-necked grebe, horned grebe, greater scaup, lesser scaup, canvasback, redhead, common goldeneye, bufflehead, white-winged scoter, surf scoter, black scoter, long-tailed duck, common merganser, and red-breasted merganser.
  • Watch for migrant tundra swans to start passing over and congregating along the upper Niagara River and at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and adjoining state WMA’s.
  • Bonaparte’s gull numbers will continue to build in the region this week, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route south. This species will reach its peak fall numbers in the region in November and December when thousands may be observed along the Niagara River.
  • This is an excellent time to watch for rare species of gulls such as Franklin’s gull, little gull, black-headed gull, Iceland gull, lesser black-backed gull, Sabine’s gull, and black-legged kittiwake among more common species such as recent arrivals of Bonaparte’s and greater black-backed gulls. Such rarities add to the remarkable diversity of gull species – 19 species total – that have been observed along the Niagara River and bordering Great Lakes. The peak time is typically between mid-November and mid-January.

Birds of Prey:

  • Migrant turkey vultures and hawks are continuing to pass through the Buffalo-Niagara Region, including red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, red-shouldered hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and northern harrier.
  • Bald eagles are starting to be seen more frequently along the Niagara River at this time. Good numbers will over-winter along the upper and lower rivers.
  • Winter resident raptors, in particular northern harriers and rough-legged hawks, will continue to arrive in the region, especially in areas with extensive open grassland habitat. A few snowy owls, short-eared owls, and long-eared owls may begin to join them starting this week.
  • Northern saw-whet owls will continue to migrate through the Region in large numbers, as documented by Project Owlnet and ebird.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey flocks have started to form. Watch for them in farm fields, along forest edges, and near bird feeders.

Songbirds:

  • Watch bird feeders for the following songbird species that are part of this year’s “winter finch” irruption: purple finch, red crossbill, white-winged crossbill, common redpoll, hoary redpoll, pine siskin, evening grosbeak, and red-breasted nuthatch. Nyjer (AKA thistle) and black oil sunflower are the best seeds for attracting these species.
  • Bird feeders are also excellent locations to watch for arrivals of more typical migrant and overwintering feeder birds such as dark-eyed junco, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, song sparrow, and American tree sparrow.   Place seed such as white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract many of these migrants.
  • 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.
  • Good tips for feeding birds are available from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, at: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/notes/BirdNote01_WinterFeeding.pdf
  • If you don’t have a feeder of your own, consider visiting a local nature center (see the 2nd to last column in the tables of nature viewing sites found under the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page).
  • The following “short-distance” migrant songbirds are now passing through our region on their journey south: brown creeper, red-breasted nuthatch, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, eastern phoebe, winter wren, yellow-bellied sapsucker, American pipit, hermit thrush, yellow-rumped warbler, rusty blackbird, dark-eyed junco, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, song sparrow, American tree sparrow, purple finch, and pine siskin.
  • The northern shrike, a predatory passerine that breeds in Canada and Alaska, will continue to arrive in the Region. Watch for them on prominent perches overlooking open and brushy habitats.
  • Small flocks and family groups of eastern bluebirds may be seen this time of year, as well as small to medium sized flocks of American robins.
  • Watch for large flocks of blackbirds consisting of red-winged blackbird, rusty blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, and/or European starling.
  • Small flocks of horned larks are being joined in open farmland and other tundra-like habitats by snow buntings and Lapland longspurs. Many will overwinter in our 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).

Mammals:

  • Resident species of cave bats (big brown, little brown, and eastern pipistrelle [tri-colored] bats) have entered hibernation. Most woodchucks have also started their winter hibernation. Two other species of true hibernators, meadow jumping mouse and woodland jumping mouse, have also begun hibernation.
  • Eastern chipmunks, gray squirrels, and southern flying squirrels continue to actively gather and store acorns and other mast for winter.
  • White-footed mice and deer mice prepare for winter by building nests in woodpecker holes, bird houses, and squirrel leaf-nests. Some rehab old bird nests by adding a roof and insulation. These mice often cross paths with homeowners this time of year as they seek shelter in sheds, garages, and houses – along with non-native house mice.
  • Beavers cut more trees this time of year, in preparation for winter. They will cut, transport, and cache cut branches in shallow water near their lodges for wintertime feeding.
  • Continue to watch for white-tailed deer buck rubs. Bucks actively rub saplings and small trees, depositing scent from forehead glands.
  • Bucks are also making scrapes by pawing away leaves to expose soil, then urinating over the scraped area to deposit scent from tarsal glands. They typically mouth and rub their antlers on an overhanging branch, depositing even more scent.
  • Deer courtship (the “rut”) is well underway. Does become more active as they start estrus and bucks are often seen following them. As a result, the frequency of deer-car collisions increases sharply during the rut, from mid-October through December.

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

Chuck Rosenburg

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October 15-21, 2018 (Week 42 of 52): Fall Color Will Reach Peak This Week

Cooler than average temperatures will advance fall leaf color to a peak across most of the Buffalo-Niagara Region late this week, particularly in upland forest habitats dominated by sugar maple. Forests dominated by oaks and American beech will remain mostly green. This is an excellent time to explore forest understory habitats to experience bright leaf colors, both on trees/shrubs and on the ground, as well as fall-colored ferns and grasses, late season woodland asters and goldenrods, and an impressive variety of fungi (both in color and form). Cool temperatures will limit insect activity, which will be especially pronounced with the loss of cricket and katydid “calls” after dark. However, many species will reactivate when temperatures normalize. Similarly, activity by herptiles (reptiles and amphibians) will be limited, but this is a good time to spot turtles and snakes basking in sunny sites.

Also of note this week, several species of trout and salmon have started their annual spawning runs up Great Lakes tributaries and the Lower Niagara River. Migrant and winter-resident waterfowl are arriving in the Region in good numbers within the Great Lakes/Niagara River and especially within inland wetlands and ponds. A good abundance and fair diversity of short-distance migrant songbirds (e.g., kinglets, blackbirds, sparrows) will continue to visit and pass through the Region. Several species of mammals will enter hibernation this week, and white-tailed deer will enter the annual rut with zeal.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this week. Those in bold/italics are new or substantially revised 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):

  • 7:33 AM/6:27 PM EDT (10 Hours, 54 Minutes)
  • 4 Hours, 27 minutes of daylight shorter than at Summer Solstice

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 58.1° F  Normal Low Temperature: 41.9° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru October 14, 2018: 3159
  • Light frost is likely this week.

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo dropped to 63°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) dropped to 62°F as of October 15, 2018.
  • Water levels in most interior wetlands and vernal pools remain low but continue to rise in response to recent rainfall and reduced evapotranspiration rates.
  • Similarly, the water level in most ponds is low but continuing to rise.
  • Most streams will exhibit moderate flow levels this week, with the potential for locally higher levels if areas experience significant rain events.

Fungi:

  • Eruptions of mushrooms and other fungi will continue this week. Rich woodlands continue to support an abundance of fungi in an amazing variety of shapes and colors.
  • The following species of fungi may be observed in rich woodlands this week: giant puffball, chicken of-the-woods, hen of-the-woods, oyster, honey, fly agaric, hemlock varnish shelf, bear’s head tooth fungus, bearded tooth, and multiple species (and colors) of coral fungi and bolete and chanterelle mushrooms.
  • Shaggy mane mushrooms can be found in lawns and along wood chip trails, often in fairy rings.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • An often overlooked fall color change occurs with ferns in the forest understory. The following ferns often exhibit striking color changes, albeit briefly, at this time: sensitive, New York, lady, bracken, royal, cinnamon, interrupted, and ostrich ferns.
  • A number of grass species will also exhibit showy color changes this week, especially rice cut-grass, white grass, and witch grass found in wetlands and other poorly drained areas.
  • Wool-grass, a native species of bulrush, is still evident in wet meadows and marsh edges as a result of its abundant rusty brown and wooly fruits.
  • Broad-leaf and narrow-leaf cattail stems are now golden brown and laden with fruit in marshes, pond edges, ditches, and other wet habitats. Some fruits are just starting to disintegrate, which will release thousands of tiny fluffy seeds to the wind.

Wildflowers:

  • A few species of woodland wildflower will continue to bloom this week: white wood aster, rough-stemmed goldenrod, zigzag goldenrod, blue-stemmed goldenrod, and herb Robert.
  • Watch for bright orange (but acrid) fruits of Jack-in-the-pulpit as well as white baneberry’s “dolls-eye” fruits (poisonous) in rich woodlands.
  • One non-native summer wildflower, butter-and-eggs, will continue to bloom commonly in open field and roadside environments this week.
  • While most field goldenrod species have faded to brown, a few aster species continue to bloom: heath aster, calico aster, crooked-stem aster, and New England aster.
  • Pokeweed, a native herbaceous plant found in disturbed sites, is continuing to produce large volumes of fleshy purple fruits relished by birds and small mammals.
  • Lady’s thumb and other smartweeds will continue to bloom in swamps and marshes.
  • Japanese knotweed, an invasive species that thrives in riparian habitats, is currently exhibiting brilliant yellow leaves – one positive feature of this aggressive alien species.
  • Similarly, golden yellow leaves of native common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and Indian hemp can be seen in old fields and wet meadows.
  • Common milkweed pods are bursting and releasing hundreds of seeds to the wind, each equipped with fluffy “parachutes” to aid dispersal.
  • This is bur season so be watchful where you (and your dog(s)) walk. Several local plants have adapted a hitch-a-ride strategy that capitalizes on animal disbursal. Those currently in fruit include common burdock, enchanter’s nightshade, tick trefoil, cocklebur, and multiple species of bur marigold, avens, and agrimony.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Fall leaf color will reach its peak across most of the Region late this week, particularly in upland forest habitats dominated by sugar maple. While some species of trees, shrubs, and woody vines have already peaked and dropped some or all their leaves, leaf color will peak in most upland forest habitats (excluding those dominated by oaks and American beech).
  • The following trees and shrubs are providing bright red leaf color: some sugar maple trees, cranberry viburnum, and maple-leaf viburnum.
  • Many shrubland areas and forest edges continue to be colored reddish-purple at this time as a result of the abundance of Region’s three species of dogwood (gray, silky, and red-osier) which are now joined by similar leaf colors of arrow-wood, nannyberry, and blackberry.
  • Brilliant orange leaves can be now be seen on many sugar maples, as well as American hornbeam, serviceberry, and shadbush.
  • The following trees and shrubs display bright gold and yellow leaf color: silver maple, some sugar maples, American basswood, quaking aspen, big-toothed aspen, black walnut, shagbark hickory, bitternut hickory, tulip poplar, sassafras, witch-hazel, and spicebush.
  • Wind and rain have stripped many or all leaves from the following tree, shrub, and woody vine species: eastern cottonwood, American elm, box-elder, black cherry, green ash, white ash, red maple, staghorn sumac, poison ivy, wild grape, and Virginia creeper.
  • Eastern white pine and red pine will continue to shed “golden oldie” needles as brand new green needles take their place.
  • Many native pines are also dropping seeds from cones at this time.
  • Watch closely for stringy yellow petals of witch-hazel flowers. Also note the presence of nearly ripe (but woody) fruits from last year’s flowers.
  • An abundance of hard mast (acorns, hickory nuts, etc.) continues to be available, on and off trees, for consumption by many mammals and some birds (e.g., wild turkey, blue jay). Sources include northern red oak, pin oak, bur oak, swamp white oak, shagbark hickory, bitternut hickory, black walnut, and American hornbeam.
  • Several native trees, shrubs, and vines continue to provide ripe fruit (soft mast) that is an important source of food for a variety of birds and mammals: cucumber magnolia, gray dogwood, silky dogwood, red osier dogwood, nannyberry, arrow-wood, cranberry viburnum, spicebush, winterberry, hawthorn, staghorn sumac, poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and wild grape.
  • In addition, the following non-native species provide ripe fruit (soft mast) consumed by wildlife: multiflora rose, autumn olive, and common buckthorn.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Adult stage ticks become especially abundant in early October and remain active as long as temperatures stay above freezing and the ground is not covered with snow. Therefore, be especially careful to wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • Cricket song will continue (albeit with reduced intensity) during brief warmer periods this week, primarily by fall field crickets and Carolina ground crickets.
  • A walk through any grassy field or roadside will encounter large numbers of grasshoppers this time of year. The most common species in our region include Carolina grasshopper and spur-throated grasshopper.
  • This is still a good time to search for praying mantises as they have grown to full size. Local species include the Carolina mantis (native to North America), praying mantis (native to Europe), and Chinese mantid (native to Asia).
  • Late season butterflies to watch for this week include monarch, orange sulphur, clouded sulphur, and cabbage white.
  • Included among the late season butterflies are individuals of three species that will overwinter as adults and be the first butterflies on the wind next spring: mourning cloak, eastern comma, and question mark butterflies.
  • Watch for a few straggler monarch butterflies to migrate south across our region, often concentrated along the Niagara River and Great Lakes shorelines.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars will continue to be active. This species will overwinter beneath leaf litter and ultimately metamorphose into Isabella tiger moth next spring.
  • Late season dragonfly species (e.g., common green darner, shadow darner, autumn meadowhawk, and black saddlebags) will remain active this week.
  • A few migrant dragonflies such as common green darners and black saddlebags may still be found along the Niagara River and Great Lakes shorelines.

Fish:

  • Most species of fish migrated to deeper cooler waters in early summer, as inshore waters warmed. Many have started moving into shallower areas and to feed more heavily as water temperatures have moderated including muskellunge, walleye, and smallmouth bass.
  • Perch typically begin to reform into schools around Labor Day, often at water depths of 40-60 ft or deeper. These schools are now moving into progressively shallower water as fall advances.
  • Large numbers of chinook salmon (AKA king salmon) are running up Great Lakes tributary streams and the Lower Niagara River for spawning, which usually peaks in mid-October. Spawning runs for coho salmon typically peak a couple weeks after chinook. Both species are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Historically, Atlantic salmon (AKA landlocked salmon) followed a similar spawning pattern in the Lake Ontario. This native and one-time abundant species was nearly extirpated in the late 1800’s. Restoration efforts have had limited success to date.
  • Another native species, lake trout, is beginning to spawn in shallow rocky/gravelly shoals of the Great Lakes and Lower Niagara River.
  • Native brook trout (our state fish species) are preparing to spawn in riffles and shallow areas of small headwater streams starting later this month. Male brook trout develop a hook on the lower jaw and are ornately colored at this time of year.
  • Steelhead are also running up Great Lakes tributaries and the Lower Niagara River at this time. Spawning does not occur until late winter and early spring. 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.
  • Brown trout are beginning to run up Great Lakes tributaries and the Lower Niagara River. Spawning typically occurs from late October to December in these tributaries, as well as in headwater streams where brown trout have been stocked. Brown trout were introduced from Europe.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Northern leopard frogs have moved from foraging areas in upland fields and wet meadows to flooded wetlands and ponds where they will hibernate, similar to most other aquatic species of frogs (e.g., green frog, bullfrog).
  • American toads will still remain active in upland environments, at least during relatively warm periods.
  • Listen for occasional single-syllabled “peeps” from spring peepers during relatively warm periods.
  • This is a good time of year to inspect areas around outdoor lights for spring peepers and gray treefrogs that feed on moths and other insect attracted to the lights. Both species have suction-cup adaptations that allow them to cling to windows and siding.
  • Plethodon salamanders, such as the red-backed and slimy salamanders, mate at this time. Females lay eggs during spring in rotting wood and duff.
  • Eastern garter snakes remain active at this time but will soon enter hibernation. Watch for them basking in sunny spots.
  • Midland painted turtles can still be seen basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Early migrant waterfowl and related waterbirds will continue to arrive in the Region. Check ponds and wetlands for pied-billed grebe, mallard, American black duck, wood duck, American wigeon, northern shoveler, gadwall, ruddy duck, ring-necked duck, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, northern pintail, hooded merganser, and American coot.
  • Watch and listen for migrant Canada goose flocks passing overhead. Some will stop-over in our region to rest and feed on their journey south.
  • This is a good time to scout for migrant brant resting and feeding in parkland and other open habitats bordering Lakes Erie and Ontario. Brant is a relatively small species of goose that nests in the tundra and into the Arctic Circle.
  • The annual buildup of “sea ducks” and similar waterbirds that overwinter in the Great Lakes and Niagara River continues with the arrival of common loon, red-throated loon, red-necked grebe, horned grebe, greater scaup, lesser scaup, canvasback, redhead, common goldeneye, bufflehead, white-winged scoter, surf scoter, black scoter, long-tailed duck, common merganser, and red-breasted merganser.
  • Watch for migrant tundra swans to start passing over and congregating along the upper Niagara River.
  • Early fall continues to be a good time to see vagrant great egrets that appear in wetlands and other waterbodies, sometimes several at a time.
  • Bonaparte’s gulls will continue to enter the region at this time, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route south. This species will reach its peak fall numbers in the region in November and December when thousands may be observed along the Niagara River.
  • This is the time to start watching for rare species of gulls such as the little gull, Sabine’s gull, and lesser black-backed gull among more common gulls such as recent arrivals of Bonaparte’s and greater black-backed gulls. Such rarities add to the remarkable diversity of gull species – 19 species total – that have been observed along the Niagara River and bordering Great Lakes. The peak time is typically between mid-November and mid-January.

Birds of Prey:

  • Migrant turkey vultures and hawks are continuing to pass through the Buffalo-Niagara Region, including red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, red-shouldered hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, peregrine falcon, and northern harrier.
  • Winter resident raptors, in particular northern harriers and rough-legged hawks, will begin to arrive in the region, especially in areas with extensive open grassland habitat.
  • Northern saw-whet owls are migrating through the Region in large numbers at this time, as documented by Project Owlnet and ebird.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and ring-necked pheasant numbers are near annual peaks at this time, bolstered by young-of-the-year and supported by an abundance of food.

Songbirds:

  • Watch bird feeders for arrivals of migrant and overwintering feeder birds such as red-breasted nuthatch, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, dark-eyed junco, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, song sparrow, American tree sparrow, purple finch, and pine siskin. Place seed such as white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract many of these migrants.
  • The following “short-distance” migrant songbirds are now passing through our region on their journey south: brown creeper, red-breasted nuthatch, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, eastern phoebe, winter wren, yellow-bellied sapsucker, American pipit, hermit thrush, yellow-rumped warbler, rusty blackbird, eastern meadowlark, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, dark-eyed junco, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, swamp sparrow, American tree sparrow, purple finch, and pine siskin.
  • The northern shrike, a predatory songbird that breeds in Canada and Alaska, is now starting to arrive in the Region. Watch for them on prominent perches overlooking open and brushy habitats.
  • Small flocks and family groups of eastern bluebirds and northern flickers may be seen this time of year, as well as small to medium sized flocks of American robins.
  • Watch for large flocks of blackbirds consisting of red-winged blackbird, rusty blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, and/or European starling.
  • Small flocks of horned larks are now being joined in open farmland and other tundra-like habitats by snow buntings and Lapland longspurs. Many will overwinter in our region.
  • Experience migrant passage by listening for songbird contact calls after dark. Monitor movements on Doppler radar or at http://birdcast.info/.
  • 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:

  • Two species of tree bats, silver-haired and hoary bats, will continue to move out of our region and/or pass through our region this week.
  • Big brown, little brown, and eastern pipistrelle (tri-colored) bats have begun hibernation or will do so very soon. Most woodchucks have also started hibernation. Two other species of true hibernators, meadow jumping mouse and woodland jumping mouse, have likely begun hibernation.
  • Eastern chipmunks, gray squirrels, and southern flying squirrels continue to actively gather and store acorns and other mast for winter.
  • Chipmunks are very vocal at this time, emitting territorial “chuck-chuck-chuck” calls.
  • Flying squirrels are also vocal now, emitting high-pitched chirps and squeaks after dark. Listen for them calling from oak, hickory, and American beech trees.
  • White-footed mice and deer mice prepare for winter by building nests in woodpecker holes, bird houses, and squirrel leaf-nests. Some rehab old bird nests by adding a roof and insulation. These mice often cross paths with homeowners this time of year as they seek shelter in sheds, garages, and houses – along with non-native house mice.
  • Beavers cut more trees this time of year, in preparation for winter. They will cut, transport, and cache cut branches in shallow water near their lodges for wintertime feeding.
  • White-tailed deer are essentially done shedding their summer coats, transitioning from red-brown to gray-brown pelage. Spots are now faint on most fawns.
  • Continue to watch for white-tailed deer buck rubs. Bucks actively rub saplings and small trees, depositing scent from forehead glands.
  • Bucks are also making scrapes by pawing away leaves to expose soil, then urinating over the scraped area to deposit scent from tarsal glands. They typically mouth and rub their antlers on an overhanging branch, depositing even more scent.
  • Deer courtship typically begins in mid-October. Does become more active as they start estrus and bucks are often seen following them. As a result, the frequency of deer-car collisions increases sharply during the rut, from mid-October through December.

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

Chuck Rosenburg

October 1-7, 2018 (Week 40 of 52): Autumn Colors are Finally Starting to Shine

Now that the Buffalo-Niagara Region has witnessed a period of seasonal temperatures, autumn conditions are finally beginning to show. Fall leaf color is now evident across the Region, albeit spotty. While overall peak leaf color is a couple weeks away, some species are fully colored now and leaf color is near peak in certain habitats (e.g., shrublands, forested wetlands). Goldenrod and aster blooms are abundant and just beyond peak, covering much of the natural landscape in yellow, white, purple, and lavender. Several species of trout and salmon are preparing to spawn. The bulk of neotropical migrant songbirds are now well south of our region and the primary species passing through at this time are short-distance migrants such as ruby-crowned kinglet, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and white-throated sparrow. Most year-round resident mammals continue to prepare for winter, storing mast and/or building up fat reserves. Several species will enter hibernation soon. Finally, white-tailed deer continue to show signs of preparing for the rut (e.g., buck rubs, scrapes).

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region this week. Those in bold/italics are new or substantially revised 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):

  • 7:17 AM/6:51 PM EDT (11 Hours, 34 Minutes)
  • 3 Hours, 47 minutes of daylight shorter than at Summer Solstice

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 63.5° F  Normal Low Temperature: 46.5° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru October 1, 2018: 3019

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo dropped to 67°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) was 63°F as of September 30, 2018.
  • Water levels in most interior wetlands and vernal pools remain low but are starting to rise in response to recent rainfall and reduced evapotranspiration rates.
  • Similarly, the water level in most ponds is low but starting to rise.
  • Most streams will exhibit moderate flow levels this week, with the potential for locally higher levels if areas experience thunderstorms or other significant rain events.

Fungi:

  • Eruptions of mushrooms and other fungi will continue this week. Rich woodlands continue to support an abundance of fungi in an amazing variety of shapes and colors.
  • The following species of fungi may be observed in rich woodlands this week: giant puffball, chicken of-the-woods, hen of-the-woods, oyster, honey, fly agaric, jack-o-lantern, turkey-tail, hemlock varnish shelf, bear’s head tooth fungus, bearded tooth, and multiple species (and colors) of coral fungi and bolete and chanterelle mushrooms.
  • Shaggy mane mushrooms can be found in lawns and along wood chip trails, often in fairy rings

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • An often overlooked fall color change occurs with ferns in the forest understory. The following ferns often exhibit striking color changes, albeit briefly, at this time: sensitive, New York, bracken, royal, cinnamon, interrupted, and ostrich ferns.
  • Yellow foxtail grass is ripe with large seeds that provide a valuable food source for upland game birds, songbirds, mice, and other wildlife.
  • Wool-grass, a native species of bulrush, is now evident in wet meadows and marsh edges as a result of its abundant rusty brown and wooly fruits.
  • Broad-leaf and narrow-leaf cattail stems are rapidly turning brown and are laden with fruit in marshes, pond edges, ditches, and other wet habitats. Some fruits are just starting to disintegrate, which will release thousands of tiny fluffy seeds to the wind.

Wildflowers:

  • The fall resurgence of woodland wildflower blooming continues this week with the following species in bloom: white wood aster, lance-leaved aster, sharp-leaved aster, heart-leaved aster, large-leaved aster, rough-stemmed goldenrod, zigzag goldenrod, and blue-stemmed goldenrod.
  • The following woodland wildflowers will also continue to bloom this week: herb Robert, white snakeroot, and beech-drops (a wildflower that is a parasite on American beech roots).
  • Watch for brilliant orange (but acrid) fruits of Jack-in-the-pulpit as well as white “dolls-eye” fruits (poisonous) in rich woodlands.
  • Bittersweet nightshade will continue to flower, and red fruits will also be evident.
  • Spotted jewelweed will continue to bloom within and along the edges of swamps, and yellow flowers of pale jewelweed can be found in well-drained areas at this time. Both bear spring-loaded “touch-me-not” fruits that explode upon contact.
  • Watch for closed gentian (bottle gentian) and fringed gentian blooming in wetland habitats, along with great blue lobelia, and white turtlehead.
  • Many non-native summer wildflowers continue to bloom in open field and roadside environments, albeit in fading numbers. Among them are chicory, Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot), birds-foot trefoil, red clover, yellow goatsbeard, black-eyed Susan, heal-all, butter-and-eggs, and multiple species (and hybrids) of knapweeds.
  • Our native open field/woodland edge goldenrods and asters will continue to flower this week: Canada goldenrod, tall goldenrod, giant goldenrod, lance-leaved goldenrod, panicled aster, heath aster, calico aster, crooked-stem aster, purple-stemmed aster, and New England aster. While many field goldenrods are now fading to brown, most asters remain vibrant.
  • Some bur marigolds and beggar ticks (genus Bidens) continue to bloom in wet meadows, marshes, and swamp edges. The most vibrant species, tickseed sunflower, transforms large areas to yellow at this time.
  • Jerusalem artichoke, a non-native wild sunflower will continue to bloom this week.
  • Pokeweed, a native herbaceous plant found in disturbed sites, is currently producing large volumes of fleshy purple fruits relished by birds and small mammals.
  • Lady’s thumb and other smartweeds continue to bloom in swamps and marshes.
  • Japanese knotweed, an invasive species that thrives in riparian habitats, is currently exhibiting brilliant yellow leaves – one positive feature of this aggressive alien species.
  • Similarly, golden yellow leaves of native common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and Indian hemp can be seen in old fields and wet meadows.
  • Swamp milkweed pods are bursting and releasing hundreds of seeds to the wind, each equipped with fluffy “parachutes” to aid dispersal.
  • This is bur season so be watchful where you (and your dog(s)) walk. Several local plants have adapted a hitch-a-ride strategy that capitalizes on animal disbursal. Those currently in fruit include common burdock, enchanter’s nightshade, tick trefoil, cocklebur, and multiple species of bur marigold, avens, and agrimony.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Fall leaf color is now evident across the Region, albeit spotty. While overall peak color is a couple weeks away, some species are fully colored now and leaf color is near peak in certain habitats (e.g., shrublands, forested wetlands).
  • The following trees, shrubs, and woody vines are providing brilliant red leaf color: red maple, staghorn sumac, and Virginia creeper.
  • Many shrubland areas and forest edges are reddish-purple at this time as a result of the abundance of Region’s three species of dogwood: gray, silky, and red-osier.
  • Some green and white ash trees exhibit a remarkable purple-bronze leaf color at this time. Their previous abundance, prior to widespread infestation by emerald ash borer, is especially missed at this time of year.
  • Splashes of flame orange leaves can be now be found on a few sugar maples, as well as poison ivy and blackberry.
  • The following trees and shrubs display brilliant gold and yellow leaf color: American basswood, black walnut, silver maple, some green ash, a few quaking aspen and shagbark hickory, and spicebush. Several other tree species have yellow leaves that are a less attractive dull yellow-brown: eastern cottonwood, American elm, box-elder, and black cherry.
  • Eastern white pine and red pine are shedding “golden oldie” needles as brand new green needles take their place.
  • Many native pines are also dropping seeds from cones at this time.
  • An abundance of hard mast (acorns, hickory nuts, etc.) continues to be available, on and off trees, for consumption by many mammals and some birds (e.g., wild turkey, blue jay). Sources include northern red oak, pin oak, bur oak, swamp white oak, American beech, shagbark hickory, bitternut hickory, black walnut, American hornbeam, and American basswood.
  • Several native trees, shrubs, and vines continue to provide ripe fruit (soft mast) that is an important source of food for a variety of birds and mammals: black cherry, choke cherry, black chokeberry, cucumber magnolia, gray dogwood, silky dogwood, red osier dogwood, nannyberry, arrow-wood, cranberry viburnum, maple-leaf viburnum, spicebush, winterberry, hawthorn, staghorn sumac, multiflora rose, poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and wild grape.
  • Watch closely for stringy yellow petals of witch-hazel flowers. Also note the presence of nearly ripe (but woody) fruits from last year’s flowers.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Adult stage ticks become especially abundant in early October and remain active as long as temperatures stay above freezing and the ground is not covered with snow. Therefore, be especially careful to wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • While mosquitoes have been relatively scarce in most areas during dry summer weeks, some species become active during early autumn starting at about this time, so be prepared with protective clothing and/or repellent.
  • A few male katydids will continue to “sing” after dark, albeit at a slower pace during cooler nights. The most common species is the common true katydid. Listen for its “katy-did” call. Also listen for the short and buzzy “zeee-dik” calls of the less common (but more frequently seen) oblong-winged katydid.
  • Cricket song continues to be pervasive this time of year. Fall field crickets emit quintessential cricket chirps both day and night while Carolina ground crickets emit nearly continuous rapid trills, mostly after dark.
  • A walk through any grassy field or roadside will encounter large numbers of grasshoppers this time of year. The most common species in our region include Carolina grasshopper and spur-throated grasshopper.
  • This is a good time to search for praying mantises as they have grown to full size. Local species include the Carolina mantis (native to North America), praying mantis (native to Europe), and Chinese mantid (native to Asia).
  • Hornets such as the eastern yellowjacket and bald-faced hornet are abundant in early fall, congregating near sources of sugar and other foods to feed thousands of larvae still in their nests.
  • Watch for swarms of winged ants that emerge from the ground, climb and fly to high points on the landscape, and mate on the wing.
  • Abundant blooms of goldenrods and asters provide essential late season food (nectar and pollen) for native pollinators such as bumblebees and migrant monarch butterflies.
  • An impressive diversity of insects and other invertebrates is closely associated with goldenrods that are currently in bloom, including goldenrod crab spiders, goldenrod soldier beetles, jagged ambush bugs, and goldenrod gall fly (the species responsible for large marble-sized growths on goldenrod stems). Others are commonly found feeding on goldenrod pollen and nectar, including black locust borers, milkweed bugs, honey bees, bumblebees, wasps, hover flies, monarchs and other butterflies.
  • Early autumn butterflies to watch for this week include monarch, great spangled fritillary, painted lady, orange sulphur, clouded sulphur, and cabbage white.
  • Included among the early fall butterflies are individuals of three species that will overwinter as adults and be the first butterflies on the wind next spring: mourning cloak, eastern comma, and question mark butterflies.
  • Watch for migrant monarch butterflies that continue to move south across our region, often concentrated along the Niagara River and Great Lakes shorelines. Resting congregations may be found in these areas.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars are currently active. This species will overwinter beneath leaf litter and ultimately metamorphose into Isabella tiger moth next spring.
  • Early fall dragonfly species (e.g., common green darner, shadow darner, eastern pondhawk, ruby meadowhawk, autumn meadowhawk, and black saddlebags) and damselfly species (e.g., American rubyspot, slender spreadwing, familiar bluet, eastern forktail, and powdered dancer) will be active this week.
  • Migrant dragonflies such as common green darners and black saddlebags may congregate along the Niagara River and Great Lakes shorelines.

Fish:

  • Most species of fish migrated to deeper cooler waters in early summer, as inshore waters warmed. Many have started moving into shallower areas and begin to feed more heavily as water temperatures have moderated including muskellunge, walleye, and smallmouth bass.
  • Perch typically begin to reform into schools around Labor Day, often at water depths of 40-60 ft or deeper. These schools are moving into progressively shallower water as fall advances.
  • Large numbers of chinook salmon (AKA king salmon) are continuing to stage off Great Lakes tributaries and beginning to run up the creeks and the Lower Niagara River for spawning which usually peaks in mid-October. Staging and spawning runs for coho salmon typically peak a couple weeks after chinook. Both species are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Historically, Atlantic salmon (AKA landlocked salmon) followed a similar spawning pattern in the Lake Ontario. This native and one-time abundant species was nearly extirpated in the late 1800’s. Restoration efforts have had limited success to date.
  • Another native species, lake trout, are beginning to migrate to shallow rocky/gravelly shoals in preparation for spawning over the next few weeks.
  • Native brook trout (our state fish species) are preparing to spawn in riffles and shallow areas of small cold-water streams starting later this month. Male brook trout develop a hook on the lower jaw and are ornately colored at this time of year.
  • Steelhead are also staging off Great Lakes tributaries, preparing to run up the creeks which typically intensifies in mid-October. Spawning does not occur until late winter and early spring. 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.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Northern leopard frogs remain congregated in upland fields and wet meadows at this time, feeding on abundant insect prey found in those habitats.
  • American toads are often more active at this time of year, including small to medium sized young-of-the-year toads.
  • Listen for occasional single-syllabled “peeps” from spring peepers and, much less commonly, several-syllabled “croaks” of western chorus frogs and raucous calls of gray treefrogs. While the breeding period for these species has long since passed, current daylength is similar to that of the breeding season which may serve as a trigger for vocalizations.
  • This is a good time of year to inspect areas around outdoor lights for spring peepers and gray treefrogs that feed on moths and other insect attracted to the lights. Both species have suction-cup adaptations that allow them to cling to windows and siding.
  • Plethodon salamanders, such as the red-backed and slimy salamanders, mate at this time. Females lay eggs during spring in rotting wood and duff.
  • At this time, eastern (red-spotted) newts leave breeding ponds and metamorphose into red efts, a juvenile terrestrial stage. An eft may remain on land in this stage for two or more years before undergoing a second metamorphose into an aquatic breeding adult.
  • Midland painted turtles can still be seen basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Early migrant waterfowl and related waterbirds will continue to arrive in the Region. Check ponds and wetlands for pied-billed grebe, mallard, American black duck, wood duck, American wigeon, northern shoveler, gadwall, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, northern pintail, hooded merganser, and American coot.
  • Watch and listen for migrant Canada goose flocks passing overhead. Some will stop-over in our region to rest and feed on their journey south.
  • The annual buildup of “sea ducks” and similar waterbirds that overwinter in the Great Lakes and Niagara River begins at this time with the arrival of common loon, horned grebe, greater scaup, lesser scaup, white-winged scoter, surf scoter, common merganser, and red-breasted merganser.
  • Watch for migrant 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
  • Early fall continues to be a good time to see vagrant great egrets that appear in wetlands and other waterbodies, sometimes several at a time.
  • The trailing edge of shorebird migration will continue this week highlighted by greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, black-bellied plover, semi-palmated plover, American golden plover, killdeer, sanderling, dunlin, Wilson’s snipe, pectoral sandpiper, and white-rumped sandpiper. Look for them in shallow flooded areas and mudflats where invertebrate prey abounds.
  • Bonaparte’s gulls typically begin to enter the region at this time, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route south. This species will reach its peak fall numbers in the region in November and December when thousands may be observed along the Niagara River.
  • This is the time to start watching for rare species of gulls such as the little gull and Sabine’s gull. Such rarities add to the remarkable diversity of gull species – 19 species total – that have been observed along the Niagara River and bordering Great Lakes. The peak time is typically between mid-November and mid-January.

Birds of Prey:

  • Migrant turkey vultures and hawks are currently passing through the Buffalo-Niagara Region, including red-tailed hawk, broad-winged hawk, red-shouldered hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, peregrine falcon, merlin, northern harrier, osprey, and bald eagle.
  • Listen for barred owls and eastern screech owls calling more frequently this time of year, possibly in response to young-of-the-year dispersing and establishing territories.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and ring-necked pheasant numbers are near annual peaks at this time, bolstered by young-of-the-year and supported by an abundance of food.

Songbirds:

  • Watch bird feeders for arrivals of migrant and overwintering feeder birds such as red-breasted nuthatch, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, dark-eyed junco, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, song sparrow, purple finch, and pine siskin. Place seed such as white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract many of these migrants.
  • Relatively small numbers of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that breed in northern North America and overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) are now passing through the Region on their way south, including: Swainson’s thrush, gray-cheeked thrush, and the following species of warblers: Nashville, magnolia, black-throated blue, black-throated green, palm, orange-crowned, and blackpoll.
  • The following shorter-distance migrant songbirds are also passing through our region on their journey south: brown creeper, red-breasted nuthatch, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, eastern phoebe, winter wren, yellow-bellied sapsucker, American pipit, hermit thrush, brown thrasher, yellow-rumped warbler, rusty blackbird, eastern meadowlark, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, dark-eyed junco, field sparrow, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, swamp sparrow, purple finch, and pine siskin.
  • Small flocks and family groups of eastern bluebirds and northern flickers may be seen this time of year, as well as small to medium sized flocks of American robins.
  • Watch for large flocks of blackbirds consisting of red-winged blackbird, rusty blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, and/or European starling.
  • Small flocks of horned larks are being seen in open farmland. They will soon be joined by snow buntings and Lapland longspurs, with many overwintering in our region.
  • Experience migrant passage by listening for songbird contact calls after dark. Monitor movements on Doppler radar or at http://birdcast.info/.
  • 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 move out of our region and/or pass through our region this week: eastern red, silver-haired, and hoary bats.
  • Big brown, little brown, and eastern pipistrelle (tri-colored) bats congregate at hibernation sites at this time, swarming and mating. Hibernation will begin soon.
  • Two other species of true hibernator mammals, meadow jumping mouse and woodland jumping mouse, will begin hibernation soon.
  • Eastern chipmunks, gray squirrels, and southern flying squirrels are actively gathering and storing acorns and other mast for winter.
  • Chipmunks are very vocal at this time, emitting territorial “chuck-chuck-chuck” calls.
  • Flying squirrels are also very vocal now, emitting high-pitched chirps and squeaks after dark. Listen for them calling from oak, hickory, and American beech trees.
  • Beavers cut more trees this time of year, in preparation for winter. They will cut, transport, and cache cut branches in shallow water near their lodges for wintertime feeding.
  • Coyotes are often quite vocal at this time of year.
  • White-tailed deer are nearly done shedding their summer coats, transitioning from red-brown to gray-brown pelage. Spots are now faint on most fawns.
  • This is the time of year to watch for white-tailed deer buck rubs. As their antlers harden, bucks actively rub saplings and small trees to shed the outer layer of velvet and concurrently deposit scent from forehead glands.

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

Chuck Rosenburg

September 17-23, 2018 (Week 38 of 52): Summer’s Slow Transition to Autumn

The first day of autumn this year falls on September 22, when day and night will be nearly the same length (AKA autumnal equinox). It is noteworthy that daylength will be about 3 hours and 21 minutes shorter than at summer solstice (June 21). That disparity will continue to grow as we progress through autumn. Leaf color changes have been later than average this year as temperatures have been several degrees above normal so far this September. With that said, fall color is evident on gray, silky, and red osier dogwood shrubs at this time. Also, splashes of color are visible on a few red maple trees, staghorn sumac shrubs, and Virginia creeper vines. Goldenrods and asters are close to peak flowering, further brightening the landscape. Dog-day cicada “song” has tapered off conspicuously over the past couple weeks. Yet katydids and crickets continue to “sing” much of the night, albeit at a slower pace during cool nights. Raptor, waterbird, songbird, bat, butterfly, and dragonfly migration are well underway. Many of our summer resident bird species have already left for southern latitudes. Many year-round resident mammals continue to prepare for winter, storing mast and/or building up fat reserves, while white-tailed deer bucks begin to prepare for the fall rut by rubbing velvet off their fully formed antlers.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region 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):

  • 7:01 AM/7:15 PM EDT (12 Hours, 14 Minutes)
  • 3 Hours, 7 minutes of daylight shorter than at Summer Solstice

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 69.5° F  Normal Low Temperature: 51.9° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru September 21, 2018: 2,908

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo was 72°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) was 58°F as of September 21, 2018.
  • Most interior wetlands and vernal pools remain void of water in response to continued high evapotranspiration rates. This is typical for our region.
  • Similarly, the water level in most ponds is low.
  • Streams will continue to exhibit low to moderate flow levels this week, with the potential for locally higher levels if areas experience thunderstorms or other significant rain events.

Fungi:

  • Extensive eruptions of mushrooms and other fungi will continue this week. Rich woodlands now support an abundance of fungi in an amazing variety of shapes and colors.
  • The following species of fungi may be observed this week: giant puffball, pear puffball, chicken of-the-woods, hen of-the-woods, oyster, fly agaric, jack-o-lantern, blewit, birch polypore, white-egg bird’s nest, turkey-tail, hemlock varnish shelf, bear’s head tooth fungus, and multiple species (and colors) of coral fungi and bolete and chanterelle mushrooms.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Sensitive fern and ostrich fern leaves in the understory of forested wetlands and floodplains will begin to turn yellow, an often overlooked fall color change.
  • Common reed (Phragmites) will continue to flower this week. This tall (typically >6 feet) grass is an aggressive invasive species most commonly found in wet areas that have recently been disturbed. Phragmites pollen may contribute to allergy symptoms in areas with dense stands of this grass.
  • Wood reed-grass will continue to bloom in forest understories.
  • Yellow foxtail grass is ripe with large seeds that provide a valuable food source for upland game birds, songbirds, mice, and other wildlife.
  • Wool-grass, a native species of bulrush, is now evident in wet meadows and marsh edges as a result of its abundant rusty brown and wooly fruits.
  • Broad-leaf and narrow-leaf cattail stems are rapidly turning brown and are laden with fruit in marshes, pond edges, ditches, and other wet habitats. Some fruits are just starting to disintegrate, which will release thousands of tiny fluffy seeds to the wind.

Wildflowers:

  • The fall resurgence of woodland wildflower blooming continues to advance this week with the following species in bloom: white wood aster, lance-leaved aster, sharp-leaved aster, heart-leaved aster, large-leaved aster, rough-stemmed goldenrod, zigzag goldenrod, and blue-stemmed goldenrod.
  • The following woodland wildflowers will continue to bloom this week: herb Robert and white snakeroot.
  • Watch for brilliantly colored but acrid fruits of Jack-in-the-pulpit in rich woodlands.
  • Bittersweet nightshade will continue to flower, and red fruits will also be evident.
  • Spotted jewelweed will continue to bloom within and along the edges of swamps, and yellow flowers of pale jewelweed can be found in well-drained areas at this time.
  • Watch for closed gentian (bottle gentian) and fringed gentian blooming in wetland habitats, along with great blue lobelia, and white turtlehead.
  • Many non-native summer wildflowers continue to bloom in open field and roadside environments, albeit in fading numbers. Among them are chicory, Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot), birds-foot trefoil, red clover, yellow goatsbeard, black-eyed Susan, butter-and-eggs, and multiple species (and hybrids) of knapweeds.
  • Pollen production by common ragweed has tapered off substantially over the past two weeks. Regardless, wind-dispersed pollen from this native pioneer species remains the lead allergen in the Buffalo area. A related but non-native species, mugwort, is also blooming at this time and contributing to allergy symptoms.
  • Our native open field/woodland edge goldenrods and asters will continue to flower in abundance, including Canada goldenrod, tall goldenrod, giant goldenrod, lance-leaved goldenrod, panicled aster, heath aster, calico aster, crooked-stem aster, purple-stemmed aster, and New England aster. Note that goldenrod pollen is not a common allergen as it is dispersed by insects, not wind. Ragweed is the typical culprit for hay-fever symptoms this time of year.
  • Bur marigolds and beggar ticks (genus Bidens) continue to bloom in wet meadows, marshes, and swamp edges. The most vibrant species, tickseed sunflower, transforms large areas to yellow at this time.
  • Jerusalem artichoke, a non-native wild sunflower will continue to bloom this week.
  • Pokeweed, a native herbaceous plant found in disturbed sites, is currently producing large volumes of fleshy purple fruits relished by birds and small mammals.
  • Japanese knotweed, an invasive species that thrives in riparian habitats, will continue to flower this week.
  • This is bur season so be watchful where you (and your dog(s)) walk. Several local plants have adapted a hitch-a-ride strategy that capitalizes on animal disbursal. Those currently in fruit include common burdock, enchanter’s nightshade, tick trefoil, and multiple species of avens and agrimony.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Fall leaf color is now visible, especially with the Region’s three species of dogwood shrubs: gray, silky, and red-osier. Also watch for splashes of color on red maple, staghorn sumac, choke cherry, and Virginia creeper.
  • An abundance of hard mast (acorns, hickory nuts, etc.) continues to be available, on and off trees, for consumption by many mammals and some birds (e.g., wild turkey, blue jay). Sources include northern red oak, pin oak, bur oak, swamp white oak, American beech, shagbark hickory, bitternut hickory, black walnut, American hornbeam, and American basswood.
  • Several native trees, shrubs, and vines continue to provide ripe fruit (soft mast) that is an important source of food for a variety of birds and mammals: black cherry, cucumber magnolia, common elderberry, gray dogwood, silky dogwood, red osier dogwood, nannyberry, spicebush, hawthorn, staghorn sumac, multiflora rose, poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and wild grape.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Spiders webs are strikingly abundant at this time of year, best seen near dawn when accentuated by dew. Watch for large round webs constructed by orb spiders (e.g., yellow garden spider) as well as funnel-shaped webs constructed by funnel weavers (e.g., grass spider).
  • Ticks remain active so wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • While mosquitoes have been relatively scarce in most areas during dry summer weeks, some species become active during late summer and early autumn starting at about this time, so be prepared with protective clothing and/or repellent.
  • Various species of caddis flies (e.g., the large case-maker caddisfly) and mayflies (e.g., tricos from the genus Tricorythodes) will continue to emerge from streams, providing a valuable food source for trout and other fish, as well as birds and bats.
  • Male katydids will continue to “sing” after dark, albeit at a slower pace during cooler nights. The most common species is the common true katydid. Listen for its “katy-did” call. Also listen for the short and buzzy “zeee-dik” calls of the less common (but more frequently seen) oblong-winged katydid.
  • Cricket song continues to be pervasive this time of year. Fall field crickets emit quintessential cricket chirps both day and night while Carolina ground crickets emit nearly continuous rapid trills, mostly after dark.
  • A walk through any grassy field or roadside will encounter large numbers of grasshoppers this time of year. The most common species in our region include Carolina grasshopper and spur-throated grasshopper.
  • This is a good time to search for praying mantises as they have grown to full size. Local species include the Carolina mantis (native to North America), praying mantis (native to Europe), and Chinese mantid (native to Asia).
  • Hornets such as the eastern yellowjacket and bald-faced hornet are abundant late in the summer, congregating near sources of sugar and other foods to feed thousands of larvae still in their nests.
  • An impressive diversity of insects and other invertebrates is closely associated with goldenrods that are currently in bloom, including goldenrod crab spiders, goldenrod soldier beetles, jagged ambush bugs, and goldenrod gall fly (the species responsible for large marble-sized growths on goldenrod stems). Others are commonly found feeding on goldenrod pollen and nectar, including black locust borers, milkweed bugs, honey bees, bumblebees, wasps, hover flies, monarchs and other butterflies.
  • Late summer butterflies to watch for this week include monarch, viceroy, great spangled fritillary, red admiral, painted lady, pearl crescent, orange sulphur, clouded sulphur, and cabbage white.
  • Included among the late summer butterflies are individuals of three species that will overwinter as adults and be the first butterflies on the wind next spring: mourning cloak, eastern comma, and question mark butterflies.
  • Watch for migrant monarch butterflies moving generally south across our region, often concentrated along the Niagara River and Great Lakes shorelines. Resting congregations may be found in these areas.
  • Monarch caterpillars and chrysalises can still be found on common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly weed plants.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars are currently active. This species will overwinter beneath leaf litter and ultimately metamorphose into Isabella tiger moth next spring.
  • Late summer dragonfly species (e.g., common green darner, shadow darner, eastern pondhawk, ruby meadowhawk, autumn meadowhawk, black saddlebags, and twelve-spotted skimmer) and damselfly species (e.g., American rubyspot, slender spreadwing, familiar bluet, eastern forktail, and powdered dancer) will be active this week.
  • Migrant dragonflies such as common green darners, black saddlebags, and twelve-spotted skimmers may congregate along the Niagara River and Great Lakes shorelines.

Fish:

  • Many species of fish migrated to deeper cooler waters in early summer, as inshore waters warmed, and have remained there since water temperatures have not yet moderated.
  • Perch typically begin to reform into schools around Labor Day, often at water depths of 40-60 ft or deeper. These schools will move into progressively shallower water as fall advances.
  • Large numbers of chinook salmon (AKA king salmon) are continuing to stage off Great Lakes tributaries, preparing to run up the creeks for spawning which usually peaks in mid-October. Staging and spawning runs for coho salmon typically peak a couple weeks after chinook. Both species are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Historically, Atlantic salmon (AKA landlocked salmon) followed a similar spawning pattern in the Lake Ontario. This native and one-time abundant species was nearly extirpated in the late 1800’s. Restoration efforts have had limited success to date.
  • Steelhead are also staging off Great Lakes tributaries, preparing to run up the creeks for spawning which typically intensifies in mid-October. 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.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Northern leopard frogs remain congregated in upland fields and wet meadows at this time, feeding on abundant insect prey found in those habitats.
  • American toads are often more active at this time of year, including small to medium sized young-of-the-year toads.
  • Listen for occasional single-syllabled “peeps” from spring peepers and, much less commonly, several-syllabled “croaks” of western chorus frogs and raucous calls of gray treefrogs. While the breeding period for these species has long since passed, current daylength is similar to that of the breeding season which may serve as a trigger for vocalizations.
  • This is a good time of year to inspect areas around outdoor lights for spring peepers and gray treefrogs that feed on moths and other insect attracted to the lights. Both species have suction-cup adaptations that allow them to cling to windows and siding.
  • At this time, eastern (red-spotted) newts leave breeding ponds and metamorphose into red efts, a juvenile terrestrial stage. An eft may remain on land in this stage for two or more years before undergoing a second metamorphose into an aquatic breeding adult.
  • Watch for recently hatched common snapping turtles to emerge from nests of eggs laid in late May and early June. In contrast, many midland painted turtle juveniles will overwinter in buried eggs and emerge in late April and early May.
  • Midland painted turtles can often be seen basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Early migrant waterfowl and related waterbirds will continue to arrive in the Region. Check ponds, wetlands, and Great Lakes shorelines for common loon, horned grebe, wood duck, American wigeon, northern shoveler, gadwall, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, northern pintail, common merganser, and hooded merganser.
  • Late summer is a good time to see vagrant great egrets that appear in wetlands and other waterbodies, sometimes several at a time.
  • Watch for red-throated loons, red-necked grebes, and white-winged scoters in open water areas of the Great Lakes.
  • Most common terns that nested at Great Lakes and Niagara River colony sites have migrated out of the Buffalo-Niagara Region.
  • Watch for migrant 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.
  • Shorebird migration will continue this week highlighted by greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, black-bellied plover, semi-palmated plover, American golden plover, spotted sandpiper, solitary sandpiper, killdeer, ruddy turnstone, red knot, sanderling, semi-palmated sandpiper, least sandpiper, pectoral sandpiper, white-rumped sandpiper, and Baird’s sandpiper. Look for them in shallow flooded areas and mudflats where invertebrate prey abounds.

Birds of Prey:

  • Early migrant hawks such as broad-winged hawk, red-shouldered, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, peregrine falcon, merlin, and osprey are currently passing through the Buffalo-Niagara Region.
  • Listen for barred owls and eastern screech owls calling more frequently this time of year, possibly in response to young-of-the-year dispersing and establishing territories.
  • Most young-of-the-year great horned owls still rely on their parents for food. Listen for occasional food-begging calls (hissy squawks) after dark.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and ring-necked pheasant numbers are near annual peaks at this time, bolstered by young-of-the-year and supported by an abundance of food.

Songbirds:

  • Most summer resident ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles have left the Buffalo-Niagara Region for their southern wintering range.
  • Adult and young-of-the-year neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) are leaving the Buffalo-Niagara Region and Canadian birds are passing through the Region on their way south, including: least flycatcher, yellow-bellied flycatcher, eastern wood peewee, red-breasted nuthatch, blue-gray gnatcatcher, Philadelphia vireo, blue-headed vireo, red-eyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, veery, wood thrush, Swainson’s thrush, gray-cheeked thrush, and scarlet tanager.
  • Among these neotropical migrants are a couple dozen species of warblers. The second half of September is typically the peak period for migrant warblers in the Region. More than 20 species of warblers have been observed in the Region over the past week.
  • The following shorter-distance migrant songbirds are also passing through our region on their journey south: yellow-bellied sapsucker, winter wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, golden-crowned kinglet, hermit thrush, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, purple finch, white-throated sparrow, and Lincoln’s sparrow.
  • Experience migrant passage by listening for songbird contact calls after dark. Monitor movements on Doppler radar or at http://birdcast.info/.
  • Small flocks of eastern bluebirds and small to medium sized flocks of American robins may be seen this time of year.
  • Postnuptial molt, the replacement of colorful breeding season feathers with drab overwintering feathers, occurs at this time. It is most evident with American goldfinches visiting our feeders and “confusing fall warblers” migrating through 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).

Mammals:

  • The following tree bats, which migrate south for the winter, will continue to move out of our region and/or pass through our region this week: eastern red, silver-haired, and hoary bats.
  • Big brown and little brown bats congregate at hibernation sites at this time, swarming and mating.
  • Coyotes are often quite vocal at this time of year.
  • Eastern chipmunks, gray squirrels, and southern flying squirrels are actively gathering and storing acorns and other mast for winter.
  • Chipmunks are very vocal at this time, emitting territorial “chuck-chuck-chuck” calls.
  • Flying squirrels are also very vocal now, emitting high-pitched chirps and squeaks after dark. Listen for them calling from oak, hickory, and American beech trees.
  • Beavers cut more trees this time of year, in preparation for winter. They will cut, transport, and cache cut branches in shallow water near their lodges for wintertime feeding.
  • White-tailed deer are continuing to shed their summer coats, transitioning from red-brown to gray-brown pelage. Spots are now faint on most fawns.
  • This is the time of year to start watching for white-tailed deer buck rubs. As their antlers harden, bucks actively rub saplings and small trees to shed the outer layer of velvet and concurrently deposit scent from forehead glands.

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

Chuck Rosenburg

September 3-9, 2018 (Week 36 of 52): Season of Abundance

Cardinal Flower_Cropped

Cardinal Flower

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Joe-Pye Weed

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Boneset

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Canada Goldenrod

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White Wood Aster

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Wool-grass (a type of bulrush)

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Common Elderberry

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Silky Dogwood

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Monarch Caterpillar

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Viceroy Butterfly (Photo by Brittany Rowan)

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Widow Skimmer (Photo by Brittany Rowan)

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Oblong-winged Katydid (can you spot it?)

PUMA-Grass-Island-Buckhorn-Island-SP-Roost-September-‎8,-‎2012_Celeste Morien

Thousands of Purple Martins over Niagara River (Photo by Celeste Morien)

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White-tailed Deer transitioning from summer to winter pelage

Late summer is a season of abundance for wildlife of the Buffalo-Niagara Region. The availability of hard mast (acorns, beech nuts, hickory nuts, black walnuts) and soft mast (fleshy fruits of black cherry, elderberry, dogwoods, etc.) typically peaks at about this time. In addition, goldenrod and aster nectar and pollen rapidly become an important food source for native pollinator species of insects. Invertebrate and vertebrate animals are plentiful, providing an abundant prey base for predators. Still, many birds, bats, and some insects are already leaving the region to fly south for the winter and countless migrants from Canada pass through our region. This season of abundance and transition supports excellent nature viewing opportunities so get outdoors this week to take full advantage.

Below are highlights of what you can expect to find outdoors in the Buffalo-Niagara Region 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):

  • 6:46 AM/7:41 PM EDT (12 Hours, 55 Minutes)
  • 2 Hours, 26 minutes of daylight shorter than at Summer Solstice

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 74.7° F  Normal Low Temperature: 56.8° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru September 5, 2018: 2,610

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo was 76°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) was 74°F as of September 6, 2018.
  • Regardless of recent heavy rainfall in parts of the Niagara Frontier Region, most interior wetlands and vernal pools remain void of water in response to continued high evapotranspiration rates. This is typical for our region.
  • Similarly, the water level in most ponds is low.
  • Streams will continue to exhibit low to moderate flow levels this week, with the potential for locally higher levels if areas experience thunderstorms or other significant rain events.

Fungi:

  • Heavy rainfall over the past few weeks over portions of the Region triggered extensive eruptions of mushrooms and other fungi, which will continue this week. Rich woodlands now support an abundance of fungi in an amazing variety of shapes and colors.
  • The following species of fungi may be observed this week: giant puffball, chicken of-the-woods, old man of-the-woods, hen of-the-woods, oyster, lobster, fly agaric, jack-o-lantern, pheasant’s back, turkey-tail, stinkhorn, bear’s head tooth fungus, and multiple species (and colors) of coral fungi and bolete, chanterelle, rusulla, and milky (Lactarius spp.) mushrooms.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Common reed (Phragmites) will continue to flower this week. This tall (typically >6 feet tall) grass is an aggressive invasive species most commonly found in wet areas that have recently been disturbed. Phragmites pollen may contribute to allergy symptoms in areas with dense stands of this grass.
  • Wood reed-grass will continue to bloom in forest understories.
  • Yellow foxtail grass is ripe with large seeds that provide a valuable food source for upland game birds, songbirds, mice, and other wildlife.
  • Wool-grass, a native species of bulrush, is now very evident in wet meadows and marsh edges as a result of its abundant rusty brown and wooly fruits.
  • Broad-leaf and narrow-leaf cattails are laden with fruit in marshes, pond edges, ditches, and other wet habitats. Some fruits are just starting to disintegrate, which will release thousands of tiny fluffy seeds to the wind.

Wildflowers:

  • The beginning of a fall resurgence of woodland wildflower blooming advances this week with the following species in bloom: white wood aster, crooked-stem aster, purple-stemmed aster, lance-leaved aster, rough-stemmed goldenrod, zigzag goldenrod, and blue-stemmed goldenrod.
  • The following woodland wildflowers will continue to bloom this week: herb Robert, great blue lobelia, white turtlehead, and white snakeroot.
  • Cardinal flower, a vibrant red lobelia, and spotted jewelweed will continue to bloom within and along the edges of swamps. Watch for ruby-throated hummingbirds visiting these flowers to feed on nectar.
  • Watch for closed gentian (bottle gentian) and fringed gentian beginning to bloom in wetland habitats.
  • Many non-native summer wildflowers continue to bloom in open field and roadside environments, albeit in fading numbers. Among them are chicory, Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot), teasel, birds-foot trefoil, red clover, yellow goatsbeard, black-eyed Susan, butter-and-eggs, and multiple species (and hybrids) of knapweeds.
  • Common ragweed continues to bloom in open disturbed areas, disseminating copious amounts of pollen. Wind-dispersed pollen from this native pioneer species is currently the lead allergen in the Buffalo area. A related but non-native species, mugwort, is also blooming at this time and contributing to allergy symptoms.
  • Our native open field/woodland edge goldenrods and asters are now flowering in abundance, including Canada goldenrod, tall goldenrod, giant goldenrod, lance-leaved goldenrod, panicled aster, and New England aster. Note that goldenrod pollen is not a common allergen as it is dispersed by insects, not wind. Ragweed is the typical culprit for hay-fever symptoms this time of year.
  • Bur marigolds and beggar ticks (genus Bidens) are beginning to bloom in wet meadows, marshes, and swamp edges. The most vibrant species, tickseed sunflower, transforms large areas to yellow at this time.
  • Wild sunflowers are continuing to bloom including oxeye (native) and Jerusalem artichoke (non-native).
  • Boneset and Joe Pye weed continue to bloom abundantly in wet meadows, supporting large number of pollinator species, including butterflies. Blue vervain may often be found in association with these species.
  • An invasive species, purple loosestrife, will continue to flower this week within marshes, wet meadows, and ditches.
  • Japanese knotweed, an invasive species that thrives in riparian habitats, reaches peak flowering at this time.
  • This is the start of the bur season so be watchful where you (and your dog(s)) walk. Several local plants have adapted a hitch-a-ride strategy that capitalizes on animal disbursal. Those currently in fruit include common burdock, enchanter’s nightshade, tick trefoil, and multiple species of avens and agrimony.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Watch for splashes of fall color on trees, shrubs, and woody vines this week. The earliest leaf changes typically occur with red maple, gray and silky dogwood, staghorn sumac, choke cherry, and Virginia creeper.
  • An abundance of hard mast (acorns, hickory nuts, etc.) is currently available, on and off trees, for consumption by many mammals and some birds (e.g., wild turkey, blue jay). Sources include northern red oak, pin oak, bur oak, swamp white oak, American beech, shagbark hickory, bitternut hickory, and American basswood.
  • Several native trees, shrubs, and vines continue to provide ripe fruit (soft mast) that is an important source of food for a variety of birds and mammals: black cherry, common elderberry, gray dogwood, silky dogwood, red osier dogwood, nannyberry, hawthorn, staghorn sumac, poison ivy, and wild grape.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Spiders webs are strikingly abundant at this time of year, best seen near dawn when accentuated by dew. Watch for large round webs constructed by orb spiders (e.g., yellow garden spider) as well as funnel-shaped webs constructed by funnel weavers (e.g., grass spider).
  • Ticks remain active so wear protective clothing and/or repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • While mosquitoes have been relatively scarce in most areas during dry summer weeks, some species become active during late summer and early autumn starting at about this time. Above average rainfall in some parts of our region may augment this late season emergence so be prepared with protective clothing and/or repellent.
  • Various species of caddis flies (e.g., the large case-maker caddisfly) and mayflies (e.g., tricos from the genus Tricorythodes) will continue to emerge from streams, providing a valuable food source for trout and other fish, as well as birds and bats.
  • Male dog-day cicadas and other less common species that emerge annually (versus periodic cicadas such as 13- and 17-year cicadas) will continue to “call” frequently during the day and early evening. Their “song” is a high-pitched whining drone that lasts about 15 seconds per song
  • Male katydids will continue to “sing” after dark. The most common species is the common true katydid. Listen for its “katy-did” call. Also listen for the short and buzzy “zeee-dik” calls of the less common (but more frequently seen) oblong-winged katydid.
  • Cricket song is pervasive this time of year. Fall field crickets emit quintessential cricket chirps both day and night while Carolina ground crickets emit nearly continuous rapid trills, mostly after dark.
  • A walk through any grassy field or roadside will encounter large numbers of grasshoppers this time of year. The most common species in our region include Carolina grasshopper and spur-throated grasshopper.
  • This is a good time to search for praying mantises as they have grown to nearly full size. Local species include the Carolina mantis (native to North America), praying mantis (native to Europe), and Chinese mantid (native to Asia).
  • Hornets such as the eastern yellowjacket and bald-faced hornet are abundant late in the summer, congregating near sources of sugar and other foods to feed thousands of larvae still in their nests.
  • An impressive diversity of insects and other invertebrates is closely associated with goldenrods that are currently in bloom, including goldenrod crab spiders, goldenrod soldier beetles, jagged ambush bugs, and goldenrod gall fly (the species responsible for large marble-sized growths on goldenrod stems). Others are commonly found feeding on goldenrod pollen and nectar, including black locust borers, milkweed bugs, honey bees, bumblebees, wasps, hover flies, monarchs and other butterflies.
  • Late summer butterflies to watch for this week include eastern tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, black swallowtail, giant swallowtail, monarch, viceroy, great spangled fritillary, red admiral, painted lady, pearl crescent, orange sulphur, clouded sulphur, cabbage white, and silver-spotted skipper.
  • Included among the late summer butterflies are individuals of three species that will overwinter as adults and be the first butterflies on the wind next spring: mourning cloak, eastern comma, and question mark butterflies.
  • Watch for migrant monarch butterflies moving generally south across our region, often concentrated along the Niagara River and Great Lakes shorelines. Resting congregations may be found in these areas.
  • Monarch caterpillars and chrysalises can still be found on common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly weed plants.
  • Wooly bear caterpillars are currently active. This species will overwinter beneath leaf litter and ultimately metamorphose into Isabella tiger moth next spring.
  • Late summer dragonfly species (e.g., common green darner, shadow darner, eastern pondhawk, ruby meadowhawk, autumn meadowhawk, black saddlebags, twelve-spotted skimmer, widow skimmer) and damselfly species (e.g., American rubyspot, slender spreadwing, familiar bluet, eastern forktail, fragile forktail, blue-fronted dancer, and powdered dancer) will be active this week.
  • Migrant dragonflies such as common green darners, black saddlebags, and twelve-spotted skimmers may congregate along the Niagara River and Great Lakes shorelines.

Fish:

  • Many species of fish migrated to deeper cooler waters in early summer, as inshore waters warmed, and have remained there since water temperatures have not yet moderated.
  • Perch typically begin to reform into schools again around Labor Day, often at water depths of 40-60 ft or deeper. These schools will move into progressively shallower water as fall advances.
  • Large numbers of chinook salmon (AKA king salmon) are beginning to stage off Great Lakes tributaries, preparing to run up the creeks for spawning which usually peaks in mid October. Staging and spawning runs for coho salmon typically peak a couple weeks after chinook. Both species are native to Pacific coast watersheds.
  • Historically, Atlantic salmon (AKA landlocked salmon) followed a similar spawning pattern in the Lake Ontario. This native and one-time abundant species was nearly extirpated in the late 1800’s. Restoration efforts have had limited success to date.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Northern leopard frogs remain congregated in upland fields and wet meadows at this time, feeding on abundant insect prey found in those habitats.
  • American toads are often more active at this time of year, including small to medium sized young-of-the-year toads.
  • Listen for occasional single-syllabled “peeps” from spring peepers this week and, much less commonly, several-syllabled “croaks” of western chorus frogs and raucous calls of gray treefrogs. While the breeding period for these species has long since passed, current daylength is similar to that of the breeding season which may serve as a trigger for vocalizations.
  • At this time, eastern (red-spotted) newts leave breeding ponds and metamorphose into red efts, a juvenile terrestrial stage. An eft may remain on land in this stage for two or more years before undergoing a second metamorphose into an aquatic breeding adult newt.
  • Watch for recently hatched common snapping turtles to emerge from nests of eggs laid in late May and early June. In contrast, many midland painted turtle juveniles will overwinter in buried eggs and emerge in late April and early May.
  • Midland painted turtles can often be seen basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Early migrant waterfowl will continue to arrive in the Region. Check ponds, and wetlands for wood duck, American wigeon, northern shoveler, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, pintail, and hooded merganser.
  • Late summer is a good time to see vagrant great egrets that appear in wetlands and other waterbodies.
  • Watch for migrant 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.
  • Shorebird migration will continue this week highlighted by greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, black-bellied plover, semi-palmated plover, American golden plover, spotted sandpiper, solitary sandpiper, killdeer, ruddy turnstone, red knot, sanderling, semi-palmated sandpiper, least sandpiper, pectoral sandpiper, white-rumped sandpiper, Baird’s sandpiper, and short-billed dowitcher. Look for them in shallow flooded areas and mudflats where invertebrate prey abound.

Birds of Prey:

  • Early migrant hawks such as broad-winged hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and osprey are currently passing through the Buffalo-Niagara Region.
  • Listen for barred owls and eastern screech owls calling more frequently this time of year, possibly in response to young-of-the-year dispersing and establishing territories.
  • Most young-of-the-year great horned owls still rely on their parents for food. Listen for occasional food-begging calls (hissy squawks) after dark.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and ring-necked pheasant numbers are near annual peaks at this time, bolstered by young-of-the-year and supported by an abundance of food.

Songbirds:

  • Many summer resident ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles are still present in our region. They actively feed at “nectar” and fruit/jelly feeders, respectively, in preparation for migration which typically starts shortly after Labor Day.
  • Many American goldfinches are still feeding recently-fledged young. This species postpones breeding until early July through late August to coincide with fruiting of Canada and bull thistles.
  • Similarly, many cedar waxwings are still feeding recently-fledged young. The timing of this species’ nesting period coincides with the abundance of fruit from native trees and shrubs in late summer. Many insects are also consumed at this time of year.
  • Adult and young-of-the-year neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) are leaving the Buffalo-Niagara Region and Canadian birds are passing through the Region on their way south, including: common nighthawk, chimney swift, least flycatcher, eastern kingbird, yellow-bellied flycatcher alder flycatcher, willow flycatcher, eastern wood peewee, olive-sided flycatcher, red-breasted nuthatch, Philadelphia vireo, red-eyed vireo, veery, wood thrush, Swainson’s thrush, and scarlet tanager.
  • Among these neotropical migrants are the following warbler species: Nashville, Tennessee, magnolia, Blackburnian, northern parula, yellow, black-throated blue, black-throated green, black-and-white, American redstart, Cape May, ovenbird, hooded, bay-breasted, mourning, and Wilson’s warblers.
  • The following shorter-distance migrant songbirds are also passing through our region on their journey south: hermit thrush, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, and common yellowthroat.
  • Experience migrant passage by listening for songbird contact calls after dark. Monitor movements on Doppler radar or at http://birdcast.info/.
  • Small flocks of American robins and eastern bluebirds may be seen this time of year.
  • Watch for large flocks of migrant purple martins and swallows, especially along the Niagara River and Great Lakes shorelines. Upwards of 10,000 purple martins have been documented staging on Grass Island (off Buckhorn Island State Park) at about this time in recent years.
  • 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 move out of our region and/or pass through our region this week: eastern red, silver-haired, and hoary bats.
  • Big brown and little brown bats congregate at hibernation sites at this time, swarming and mating.
  • Coyotes are often quite vocal at this time of year.
  • Eastern chipmunks, gray squirrels, and southern flying squirrels are actively gathering and storing acorns and other mast for winter.
  • Chipmunks are very vocal at this time, emitting territorial “chuck-chuck-chuck” calls.
  • Beavers cut more trees this time of year, in preparation for winter. They will cut, transport, and cache cut branches in shallow water near their lodges for wintertime feeding.
  • White-tailed deer are beginning to shed their summer coats, transitioning from red-brown to gray-brown pelage. Spots are becoming faint on most fawns.
  • Antler growth is nearly complete for white-tailed deer bucks. As the antlers harden, the outer layer of velvet will be shed by rubbing.

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

Chuck Rosenburg

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

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