May 28-June 3, 2015 (Week 22 of 52): Most Plants & Animals are Now Focused on Reproduction

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Golden ragwort blooming in forested wetland.                              Cinnamon fern with fertile fronds.

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Fish fly attracted to porch light.      Wild geranium, a native wildflower now blooming in our area.

Following an initial burst of vegetative growth, many Buffalo-Niagara plants are now devoting considerable energy toward reproduction. The species that flowered earlier this spring are producing seeds and fruit, sometimes in huge quantities (e.g., red and silver maple trees currently laden with a bumper crop of “helicopter” samaras). Many other species are just beginning to flower. A number of insect species have reached their adult form and are now intent on mating. Some species do not even stop to eat in their adult form. Most amphibians and reptiles have already bred. Frog and toad tadpoles, as well as mole salamander larvae can be found in ponds, pools, and wetlands (at least those that still hold water after several weeks of terribly dry weather). As bird migration rapidly trails off, local birds are actively breeding. Most year-round resident species (e.g., eastern screech owl, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker) have already fledged young. In contrast, many long-distance migrants (e.g., black-billed cuckoo, Acadian flycatcher, mourning warbler, scarlet tanager) are just beginning to establish territories, build nests, and/or incubate eggs. Most local mammals have already produced offspring and are currently caring for them, some still in dens while others have ventured out and about. 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. Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed to 56°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) warmed to 54°F as of May 28.
  • Many ponds are exhibiting low to moderate water levels and most inland wetlands continue to be void of surface water following unusually low precipitation levels for the latter half of April and most of May.
  • The unusually low precipitation levels have resulted in low to moderate water levels in most Buffalo-Niagara streams.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Some of our most striking fern species are now developing fertile fronds and/or producing spores, including cinnamon, interrupted, and royal ferns.
  • Hay fever sufferers beware: some of the most common grasses in our region are starting to produce pollen, including Kentucky bluegrass, timothy, orchard grass, and sweet vernal grass.
  • Most of our local sedge species are now flowering or have already gone to seed in wet meadows and other wetland habitats.

Wildflowers:

  • The following woodland wildflowers are currently blooming: Jack-in-the-pulpit, Canada mayflower, false Solomon’s seal, white baneberry, red baneberry, foam flower, blue phlox, herb Robert, Virginia waterleaf, and wild columbine.
  • Watch for blue flag iris, false hellebore, and golden ragwort now blooming in forested wetlands.
  • Most non-native wildflowers that will soon dominate open field habitats are just beginning to flower. Among them are birds-foot trefoil, oxeye daisy, daisy fleabane, tall buttercup, yellow rocket, king devil, and Dame’s rocket. Don’t confuse Dame’s rocket with our native blue phlox, which is nearly done flowering in forest habitats. Dame’s rocket has just four petals versus five for phlox.
  • Watch for the following native open field wildflowers flowering at this time: bluets, wild geranium, and Canada anemone.
  • Yellow iris is an aggressive non-native species that is now flowering in wetland and stream habitats, both forested and open.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Eastern white pine and red pine will continue to release copious amounts of pollen this week.
  • Red-osier dogwood will continue to flower (beyond peak in most places) in wooded wetlands during the coming week, with pagoda (alternate-leaf) and silky dogwoods close behind (near peak this week).
  • Nannyberry and maple-leaf viburnum will rapidly approach peak flowering this week.
  • Tartarian honeysuckle, an invasive non-native shrub that has infested many woodland habitats in our region, continues to flower. Its flowers are fragrant.
  • Black locust, a non-native species that is naturalized throughout the region, is blooming with very showy and sweet-smelling flowers.
  • The cotton-like fluff and seeds of eastern cottonwood will likely begin to fill the air later this week.

Insects & Other Terrestrial Invertebrates:

  • Ticks are currently active so wear protective clothing and repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • Blackflies and mosquitoes will continue this week to search for blood meals to nourish eggs. Blackfly activity should taper off over the next week or two but mosquitoes will likely continue to be an annoyance in some areas for several weeks or more.
  • No-see-ums, tiny biting midges, will be biting in some areas.
  • Aquatic insect larvae such as mayflies, stoneflies, caddis flies, and fish flies will continue to emerge from streams and some wetlands/ponds to enter a brief adult breeding phase.
  • Adult male fireflies are just beginning their aerial courtship displays designed to attract females, occasionally flashing their bioluminescent abdomens. Firefly activity typically peaks in late June. The best displays are usually seen over open meadows and streams, but they can be observed in woodland habitats too.
  • Spittlebugs are now active – look for their foamy “spittle” on plant stems.
  • Some of the relatively common butterflies active this week include tiger swallowtail, black swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, viceroy, red admiral, spring azure, and cabbage white. Most are searching for mates (and nectar).
  • Adult giant silk moths (e.g., luna, promethea, and cecropia moths) and a variety of large sphinx moths are emerging and ready to mate.

Fish:

  • The following fish species are moving into or have already entered spawning habitats (relatively shallow and still water): brown bullhead, channel catfish, rock bass, pumpkinseed & bluegill sunfish, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and lake sturgeon.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • Breeding choruses of gray tree frogs will continue from some wetlands and ponds this week.
  • Frog and toad tadpoles, as well as mole salamander larvae, can be found in ponds, pools, and wetlands (at least those that still hold water after several weeks of terribly dry weather).
  • Red efts (juvenile terrestrial phase of the eastern/red-spotted newt) may be found roaming the forest floor, especially following rain.
  • Watch for common snapping and midland painted turtles crossing roads in the general vicinity of ponds and wetlands. Females are venturing into uplands to lay eggs.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

  • Expansive marshes such as those found at Tifft Nature Preserve and Alabama Swamps (i.e., Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and the adjoining Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas) are alive with bird life at this time. Listen and watch for American bittern, least bittern, pied-billed grebe, American coot, common moorhen, sora, and Virginia rail broadcasting their distinctive (and often peculiar) songs.
  • 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 are feeding nestlings at various inland and Great Lakes coastal rookery sites. Great egrets and black-crowned night-herons are doing the same at certain coastal rookery sites. Green herons are now incubating eggs or brooding small nestlings at individual nest sites near ponds and wetlands.
  • Large numbers of common terns are attempting to nest at their typical Great Lakes and Niagara River colony sites.
  • See the “Great Lakes/Niagara River” column in the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page for sites that provide public access to these areas.

Birds of Prey:

  • As the trailing edge of hawk migration (consisting primarily broad-winged hawks) passes through the Buffalo-Niagara Region, most year-round and summer resident birds of prey are incubating eggs or feeding nestlings.
  • Great horned owls, some of which laid eggs as early as February, are now caring for fledglings.

Upland Game Birds:

  • Most wild turkey and ruffed grouse hens are now incubating eggs or brooding small chicks.

Shorebirds & Songbirds:

    • Late migrant shorebird species such as whimbrel, ruddy turnstone, red knot, semi-palmated sandpiper, least sandpiper, white-rumped sandpiper, and dunlin will continue to stop-over across our region this week during their northward migration.  This marks the end of the spring migration season.
    • Killdeer and spotted sandpipers 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.  Watch your step!
    • 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, olive-sided flycatcher, gray-cheeked and Swainson’s thrushes, Philadelphia vireo, blackpoll warbler, and Connecticut warbler.
    • This is the peak of the songbird nesting season. Watch for nests as well as bird behaviors that suggest birds 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 cacophony of bird song that may peak 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.  Some may be incubating second clutches, especially where the first clutch failed.
    • Most short-distance migrants (e.g., northern flicker, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, 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 thistle in early July.
    • In contrast, most long-distance migrants (e.g., black-billed cuckoo, Acadian flycatcher, ruby-throated hummingbird, wood thrush, mourning warbler, scarlet tanager) are just establishing territories, nest building, or incubating eggs.
    • For a complete list of migrant and nesting species of songbirds that can be observed in the Buffalo-Niagara Region, select “Birds” under the “Species Lists” tab on this web page.
    • 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:

  • Year-round resident bat species (e.g., little brown, eastern pipistrelle, and big brown bats) and summer resident species (e.g., red, hoary, and silver-haired bats) are raising young.
  • Many coyote, red fox, and gray fox pups are now venturing out of their dens, as are raccoon and striped skunk.
  • Watch for young gray squirrels, eastern chipmunks, and woodchucks out-and-about. They grow rapidly and will soon be similar in size to their parents.

Find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of the season. Chuck Rosenburg

100_2968 (2)  Allegany Fawn 2015 - Kimberly Adriaansen
Red efts are on the move.                   White-tailed deer fawn (photo by Kimberly Adriaansen).
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Blue flag iris now blooming in forested wetlands.                   Spring peepers are emerging.

April 30-May 6, 2015 (Week 18 of 52): Neotropical Migrant Songbirds & Spring Ephemeral Wildflowers are Trending Now

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Red trillium, yellow trout lily, and fern fiddleheads.                 Spring beauty in full bloom.

With warming temperatures and southerly winds, the first substantial wave of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) is finally reaching the Buffalo-Niagara Region and spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that bloom fleetingly before trees leaf-out) are blooming abundantly. Many other animal and plant activities have also kicked into action. 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.

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed to 39°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) warmed to 42°F as of May 1.
  • Inland ponds and wetlands continue to exhibit close to annual high water levels. If there is no substantial rainfall over the next week, the levels will begin to drop measurably.
  • After nine days of essentially no precipitation (as of April 30), water levels in most Buffalo-Niagara streams will be low to moderate for at least the first half of the coming week.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) can now be found for many species of ferns, including Christmas, ostrich, cinnamon, royal, sensitive, and spinulose wood ferns.
  • Soft rush and a variety of bulrush and sedge species are growing rapidly (some reaching a foot tall) in wet meadow and other wetland habitats – the most evident green growth in natural habitats at this time.
  • Broad-leaf and narrow-leaf cattails as well as burred and Phragmites (a non-native invasive species) are emerging in marsh habitats.

Wildflowers:

  • Most spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that bloom fleetingly before trees leaf-out) will reach peak flowering during the coming week, including yellow trout lily, spring cress, purple cress, spring beauty, Carolina spring beauty, northern blue violet, Canada white violet, downy yellow violet, wild ginger, red trillium, 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.
  • 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.
  • Lesser celandine, an invasive non-native species of buttercup, will continue to bloom abundantly this week.
  • 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. A very small percentage of yellow trout lilies bloom in any given year.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Spicebush will continue to flower (peaking in most places) in forested wetlands during the coming week – look for its small yellow blossoms.
  • Serviceberry trees and shadbush shrubs will begin to flower and will rapidly approach peak flowering this week.
  • Sugar maple trees will begin to flower this week, as evidenced by a burst of pastel green color in leafless sugar bushes and similar upland forests.
  • Eastern cottonwood will continue to flower during the coming week. Its cotton-like fluff and seeds will be fill the air in early June.
  • Tartarian honeysuckle, an invasive non-native shrub that has infested many woodland habitats in our region, is rapidly leafing-out. It typically leafs-out two weeks or more ahead of most of our native shrub species. One exception is choke cherry, which will pretty well keep pace with Tartarian honeysuckle.

Insects & Other Terrestrial Invertebrates:

  • Ticks are now active so wear protective clothing and repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • Blackflies became active last week and will continue to be an annoyance this week.
  • A surprising diversity and abundance of invertebrates will continue to flourish in vernal pool and wetland habitats: fingernail clams, amphipods, isopods, fairy shrimp, caddis fly larvae, dragonfly nymphs, damselfly nymphs, giant water bugs, an assortment of aquatic beetles, water striders, etc.
  • Glow-worms (firefly larvae) can now be found on the surface of the ground after dark, occasionally flashing their bioluminescent abdomens.
  • Common green darners have migrated back into our region over the past couple weeks.
  • A variety of native pollinators (e.g., bumble bees, hover flies, butterflies) are now active.
  • Watch for mourning cloak, eastern comma, and question mark butterflies (all of which overwinter as adults) during warmer periods this week. Cabbage white and spring azure butterflies (species that emerge from pupae in early spring) will also be active this week.
  • Wooly-bear caterpillars (a species that overwinters as a caterpillar) can still be seen, often hidden in leaf litter. The caterpillars will pupate and emerge from their cocoons as Isabella tiger moths.

Fish:

  • Early spawning fish species are moving into spawning grounds. Large numbers of white suckers continue to enter Great Lakes tributary streams. Walleye and yellow perch are moving into shallow waters to spawn.
  • Steelhead can still be found in Great Lakes tributary 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.
  • Huge schools of rainbow smelt are moving 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).

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • The breeding choruses of spring peepers, western chorus frogs, northern leopard frogs, and American toads will continue this week. An occasional gray tree frog may also be heard.
  • Lungless salamanders (e.g., red-backed, northern slimy, northern dusky, mountain dusky, and two-lined salamanders) are again active on the forest floor. They can be found under rocks and logs during the day.
  • Eastern garter snakes have emerged from hibernation. Watch for “snake balls” – breeding clusters consisting of multiple males attempting to mate with a single female.
  • Common snapping and midland painted turtles have been active the past few weeks. Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially on cool but sunny mornings.
  • 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. Some young goslings are now present with the adults. 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.
  • Green herons are now returning to breeding ponds and wetlands.
  • American bitterns, pied-billed grebes, American coots, and common moorhen can be heard broadcasting their distinctive (and peculiar) songs from expansive marshes (e.g., Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and Tifft Nature Preserve).
  • Large numbers of common terns are now present along the Great Lakes and Niagara River. They will start nesting at their typical colony sites soon.
  • Caspian terns are currently using the Great Lakes and Niagara River as stop-over feeding areas along their migration route north. It is a distinctively large and heavy-bodied species.
  • Large numbers of migrant common loons are now present along the Great Lakes and Niagara River.
  • See the “Great Lakes/Niagara River” column in the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page for sites that provide public access to these areas.

Birds of Prey:

  • Most birds of prey in our region are actively nesting.

Upland Game Birds and Rails:

  • Wild turkey toms can now be heard gobbling as they try to attract mates.
  • Male ruffed grouse are actively “drumming” 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.
  • American coots, common moorhens, sora, and Virginia rails are beginning to establish nesting territories in marsh habitats. Listen for their distinctive calls (songs).

Shorebirds & Songbirds:

    • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will continue their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract females. Woodcock perform primarily near dusk and dawn whereas Wilson’s snipe often display well into daylight hours. Many females are on-nest at this time.
    • Killdeer are actively nesting, typically in barren areas.
    • Early migrant shorebirds such as the greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, and spotted sandpipers will continue to stop-over across our region during northward migration. Some spotted sandpipers will breed here.
    • Early breeding songbirds (year-round residents and short-distance migrants) are continuing to establish territories and nest, including mourning dove, American crow, blue jay, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, eastern phoebe, horned lark, tree swallow, eastern bluebird, American robin, belted kingfisher, northern cardinal, brown-headed cowbird, red-winged blackbird, common grackle, chipping sparrow, and song sparrow.
    • The first substantial wave of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) is finally reaching the Buffalo-Niagara Region, including chimney swift, ruby-throated hummingbird, least flycatcher, great-crested flycatcher, eastern kingbird, yellow-throated vireo, blue-headed vireo, warbling vireo, cliff swallow, wood thrush, gray catbird, rose-breasted grosbeak, Baltimore oriole, and Lincoln’s sparrow.
    • Among the neotropical migrants are the following colorful warbler species: blue-winged, Nashville, northern parula, yellow, chestnut-sided, magnolia, 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 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, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, eastern (rufous-sided) towhee, field sparrow, savannah sparrow, fox sparrow, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, rusty blackbird, purple finch, and pine siskin.
    • With ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles returning to our region, have your feeders filled.
    • For a complete list of migrant songbirds that can be observed in the Buffalo-Niagara Region, select “Birds” under the “Species Lists” tab on this web page.
  • 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:

  • Bat species that hibernate locally (e.g., little brown, eastern pipistrelle, and big brown bats) as well as long-distant migrant species that are now returning to our region (e.g., red, hoary, and silver-haired bats) may be seen foraging after dark once temperatures return to normal.
  • Coyote, red fox, and gray fox are now denning, as are raccoon and striped skunk.
  • Gray squirrels are caring for recent litters in leaf nests and tree cavities. Eastern chipmunks and woodchucks are doing the same in underground burrows.

Find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover new signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

April 23-29, 2015 (Week 17 of 52): Despite the Recent Cold Snap, Spring is Advancing Just a Little Behind Schedule

I have to apologize (again) for not posting the past few weeks – family priorities took precedence.

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Cinnamon fern fiddlehead.                        American robin nest.

Spring progressed at a rapid clip since my last post three weeks ago, driven by above-average temperatures and southerly winds carrying northbound migrants. While the recent cold snap is slowing the progression, it will cause just a brief setback. In fact, a glance back through nature records from the past 30 years indicates that plant growth and animal activities are just a little behind schedule so far this spring. Early blooming trees and wildflowers are blooming about a week later than average. Steadily warming temperatures through the coming week will bring them out of their current state of suspended animation. Spring migrant songbirds are reaching the Buffalo-Niagara Region generally about a week later than normal. The forecast for the coming week indicates that the dominant wind direction will be out of the north; therefore, we likely will not see a major influx of northbound migrant birds in our region this week.

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.

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • Lake Erie ice cover finally diminished enough for the ice boom to be removed starting on April 20. The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed to 36°F as of April 21.
  • The Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) warmed to 39°F as of April 21.
  • Inland ponds and wetlands are exhibiting annual high water levels.
  • Moderate to heavy rainfall over the past week will keep water levels relatively high in many streams.

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) have emerged for a few species of wetland ferns (e.g., cinnamon, royal, and sensitive ferns).
  • While we’ve seen just slight grass growth in our lawns, wool-grass (a type of bulrush) and a variety of sedge species have grown several inches in wet meadow and other wetland habitats.

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.
  • Coltsfoot has been blooming across most of the region for the past couple weeks and will continue during the coming week. Look for its yellow, dandelion-like flowers.
  • The earliest of the spring ephemeral wildflowers, sharp-lobed hepatica and bloodroot, have been blooming in upland forest habitats across much of the region for the past week. They will continue blooming during the coming week.
  • Additional spring ephemeral wildflowers (e.g., spring cress, purple cress, spring beauty, blue violet, red trillium, blue cohosh, cut-leaved toothwort) have started blooming in some areas, but peak blooming for this assemblage of woodland wildflowers is a week to 10 days away.
  • Lesser celandine, an invasive non-native species of buttercup, will also continue to bloom this week. It is most common in floodplain forest habitats.
  • 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.

IMG_0623 (2)  20140418_113106 (2)Sharp-lobed hepatica in full bloom.                                             Large patch of coltsfoot in bloom.

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 willow flowers are pastel yellow and green as they produce an abundance of pollen.
  • Spicebush has started to flower in forested wetlands – look for its small yellow blossoms. Blooming will approach peak over the next week.
  • A few serviceberry trees and shadbush shrubs have broken bud in forest understory and edge habitats. Blooming will approach peak over the next week.
  • Eastern cottonwood has started to flower. Its cotton-like fluff and seeds will be fill the air in early June.
  • Leaves of Tartarian honeysuckle, an invasive non-native shrub that has infested many woodland habitats in our region, are already growing. It typically leafs-out two weeks or more ahead of most of our native shrub species. One exception is choke cherry, which o keep pace with Tartarian honeysuckle.

Insects & Other Terrestrial Invertebrates:

  • A surprising diversity and abundance of invertebrates are now flourishing in vernal pool and wetland habitats: fingernail clams, amphipods, isopods, fairy shrimp, caddis fly larvae, dragonfly nymphs, giant water bugs, an assortment of aquatic beetles, water striders, etc.
  • Ticks are now active so wear protective clothing and repellent, and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • Glow-worms (firefly larvae) can now be found on the surface of the ground after dark, occasionally flashing their bioluminescent abdomens.
  • Common green darners have migrated back into our region over the past couple weeks.
  • Watch for mourning cloak, eastern comma, and question mark butterflies (all of which overwinter as adults) during warmer periods this week.

Photo 016 Cropped  Photo 013 (2)Fairy shrimp from woodland vernal pool.                  Interesting caddis fly case in wooded wetland.

Fish:

  • Early spawning fish species are moving into spawning grounds. Large numbers of white suckers are entering Great Lakes tributary streams. Northern pike, grass pickerel, chain pickerel, and muskellunge have concentrated in tributary streams, ditches, and shoreline wetlands. Walleye and yellow perch are moving into shallow waters to spawn.
  • Steelhead are still concentrated in Great Lakes tributary streams where they will spawn over the next few weeks (when the water temperature approaches 50°F). Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast watersheds.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • The breeding choruses of spring peepers, western chorus frogs, northern leopard frogs, and American toads will continue this week, especially as temperatures warm later in the 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) are again active on the forest floor. They can be found under rocks and logs during the day.
  • Eastern garter snakes have emerged from hibernation. Watch for “snake balls” – breeding clusters consisting of multiple males attempting to mate with a single female.
  • Common snapping and midland painted turtles have been active the past few weeks. Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially on cool but sunny mornings.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

    • 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 have returned in large numbers to the Niagara River and Great Lakes.
    • Bonaparte’s gull migration through the region peaked in mid-April and their numbers have waned considerably since then. Unfortunately, substantially smaller numbers of these gulls were observed this year.
    • Large numbers of common terns are now present along the Great Lakes and Niagara River. They will start nesting at their typical colony sites soon.
    • Caspian terns are currently using the Great Lakes and Niagara River as stop-over feeding areas along their migration route north. It is a distinctively large and heavy-bodied species.
    • See the “Great Lakes/Niagara River” column in the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page for sites that provide public access to these areas.
  • 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, bald eagles, and turkey vultures have waned considerably over the past couple weeks, with one exception. Large flights of broad-winged hawks may still be possible over the next week or two. A flight of 7,454 broad-winged hawks was recorded at Braddock Bay (just east of our region) on April 21. Unfortunately, significantly fewer numbers of this species migrate past the Lakeside Cemetery hawk watch site in Hamburg.
  • Most birds of prey in our region are actively nesting.

Upland Game Birds and Rails:

  • Wild turkey toms can now be heard gobbling as they try to attract mates.
  • Male ruffed grouse are actively “drumming” 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 are already nesting.
  • American coots, common moorhens, and Virginia rails are returning to marsh habitats to nest.

Shorebirds & Songbirds:

  • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will continue their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract females. Woodcock perform primarily near dusk and dawn whereas Wilson’s snipe often display well into daylight hours. Some females are on-nest at this time.
  • Killdeer are actively nesting, typically in barren areas.
  • Early migrant shorebirds such as the greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, and spotted sandpiper are stopping over in our region.
  • 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, brown creeper, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, eastern phoebe, horned lark, eastern bluebird, American robin, belted kingfisher, northern cardinal, brown-headed cowbird, and common grackle.
  • Short-distance migrant songbirds will continue to trickle into the region: yellow-bellied sapsucker, northern flicker, purple martin, northern rough-winged swallow, barn swallow, ruby-crowned kinglet, golden-crowned kinglet, blue-gray gnatcatcher, hermit thrush, brown thrasher, yellow-rumped warbler, eastern towhee, chipping sparrow, field sparrow, savannah sparrow, fox sparrow, white-throated sparrow, swamp sparrow, and purple finch.
  • 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).

Mammals:

  • True hibernators (several species of bats, woodchuck, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) became active during the warm weather of the past two weeks.
  • Bat species that hibernate locally (e.g., little brown, eastern pipistrelle, and big brown bats) as well as long-distant migrant species that are now returning to our region (e.g., red, hoary, and silver-haired bats) may be seen foraging after dark once temperatures return to normal.
  • Coyote, red fox, and gray fox are now denning.
  • Gray squirrels are caring for recent litters in leaf nests and tree cavities. Eastern chipmunks are doing the same in underground burrows.

Find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover new signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

April 2-8, 2015 (Week 14 of 52): Warm & Wet Weather Will Get Things Hopping

Unfortunately, I was unable to post last week as I needed to revise the nature site table and had little additional time. My apologies.

20131004_211535_Cropped     Photo 064Spring peeper on patio door.                      Red maple flowers along edge of forested wetland.

YsSalamander1Male spotted salamander from Erie County vernal pool.

The brief period of warm and wet weather forecast for April 2-3 will be enough to trigger an evident response by plants and animals in the Buffalo-Niagara Region. Flower buds on many red and silver maple trees are already opening and the conditions will push those species toward peak flowering. Pussy willow buds will burst across much of the region, too. Skunk cabbage plants in unfrozen wetlands will start flowering.

If the weather forecast holds true, substantial rain overnight Thursday will be well timed to prompt nocturnal movements of frogs and mole salamanders (i.e., spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson salamanders) toward vernal pools and other pond/wetland breeding sites, except in areas still solidly covered with snow and/or frozen. Listen for breeding calls of spring peepers, western chorus frogs, and wood frogs both day and night, and watch for them crossing roads.

The warm temperatures and rainfall will accelerate the melting of ice that is still covering inland ponds and wetlands, providing more accessible stop-over habitat for migrant ducks, geese, and tundra swans passing through the region. Strong southerly winds associated with the warm-up will carry more northbound migrant birds into and through our region. Thursday will likely be an excellent day to watch migrant turkey vultures and hawks, especially in areas close to the shorelines of Lakes Erie and Ontario.

Get outdoors on Thursday or Friday if you can because the region is forecast to return to below average temperatures after that, which will put many of our plants and animals back into a period of suspended animation.

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.

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • While the west end of Lake Ontario is ice-free, the east end of Lake Erie will remain mostly ice-covered.
  • Open water areas will continue to expand within inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools, aided considerably by the warm rainy weather April 2-3.
  • Streams will remain ice-free and near bank-full.

Woodland Wildflowers:

  • Skunk cabbage will begin to flower, except in woodlands that remain snow-covered and/or frozen.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Sugar maple sap (as well as sap in other tree species) will continue to flow, especially during relatively warm days following nights with sub-freezing temperatures.
  • Flowering of red and silver maple trees will approach peak during the coming week.
  • Pussy willow flower buds will burst across most of the region.

Insects & Other Terrestrial Invertebrates:

  • A surprising diversity and abundance of vernal pool invertebrates will spring to life as the pools thaw: 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 gnats will continue to be active when air temperatures are about 40°F and warmer.
  • A few mourning cloak butterflies (which overwinter as adults) will likely become active during the brief warm spell this coming week.

Fish:

  • Northern pike will continue to concentrate near tributary streams, ditches, and shoreline wetlands in preparation for spawning, which will start shortly after ice disappears (when the water temperature exceeds about 40°F).
  • Steelhead that migrated from Lakes Erie and Ontario into tributary streams last fall and through the winter are now joined by fresh steelhead entering the tributaries in preparation for spring spawning (when the water temperature approaches 50°F). Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout are native to Pacific coast watersheds.

Amphibians & Reptiles:

  • The brief period of warm and rainy weather forecast for April 2-3 will trigger movements and singing by spring peepers, western chorus frogs, and wood frogs, except in woodlands that remain snow-covered and/or frozen. Listen for them calling from wetlands and ponds (both day and night), and watch for them crossing roads.
  • Male spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson salamanders will start their annual migrations to vernal pools, in preparation for breeding, during the warm and rainy period forecast for April 2-3. However, woodlands that remain snow-covered and/or frozen will see little if any activity until they warm up.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

    • Thousands of diving ducks will remain in their local wintering areas, primarily open water areas of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The primary species include common merganser, red-breasted merganser, common goldeneye, bufflehead, canvasback, scaup, and long-tailed duck. Many will be performing courtship displays and vocalizations.
    • See the “Great Lakes/Niagara River” column in the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page for sites that provide public access to these areas.
    • Red-throated loons, red-necked grebes, and horned grebes will continue to use open water areas as stop-over feeding areas along their migration route north.
    • “Puddle ducks” such as the northern pintail, American wigeon, mallard, American black, gadwall, redhead, ring-necked duck, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, ruddy duck, wood duck, and hooded merganser will continue to stop-over in the region as they migrate north, or return to local breeding areas such as Iroquois NWR.
    • Flocks of thousands of Canada geese, snow geese, and tundra swans will continue to stop-over in the region on their migration northward. The highest concentrations can be found in the vicinity of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and adjoining Tonawanda and Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Areas. See the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page for location details.
    • Pairs of Canada geese will continue to return to previously used nesting sites.
    • Great blue herons will continue to gather on Motor Island in the Niagara River to nest, as well as at inland rookeries.
    • Additional water birds such as the black-crowned night-heron, pied-billed grebe, and American bittern may begin returning to the region.
    • Bonaparte’s gulls will continue to trickle into the region, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route north. This species will reach its peak spring numbers in the region in mid-April when thousands will be present along the Niagara River.
  • 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, bald eagles, and turkey vultures will continue to follow the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north. An excellent observation area for seeing dozens or hundreds (sometimes thousands) of these migrants in a single day is Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg. See the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page for location details.
  • 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 year-round resident birds of prey are already on-nest. Recent arrivals such as the Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and osprey will be establishing nesting territories.

Upland Game Birds:

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

Shorebirds & Songbirds:

  • Typical winter songbirds such as the dark-eyed junco and American tree sparrow plus less common species such as the pine siskin and common redpoll will continue to visit local bird feeders.
  • Early breeding songbirds such as the American crow and horned lark will continue to establish territories and initiate nesting.
  • Additional early migrant shorebirds and songbirds will continue to trickle into the region: killdeer, American woodcock, Wilson’s snipe, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, winter wren, northern flicker, American pipit, belted kingfisher, eastern meadowlark, eastern bluebird, American robin, horned lark, red-winged blackbird, rusty blackbird, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, song sparrow, chipping sparrow, and American goldfinch.
  • Male American woodcock and Wilson’s snipe will begin their elaborate aerial displays designed to attract mates.

Mammals:

  • While the brief warm-up forecast for April 2-3 may trigger some limited activity, most true hibernators (several species of bats, woodchuck, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) will continue to be mostly inactive in the region during the coming week.
  • White-tailed deer will continue to travel mostly in herds. Finding food will continue to be difficult until the growing season begins.

Find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover new signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg

March 19-25, 2015 (Week 12 of 52): Winter’s Slow Transition to Spring

20150321_111032  Siskins & Goldfinch_IMG_1978_CroppedMaple sugaring sap bucket.            Pine siskins and American goldfinch.

This first week of spring is forecast to be mostly below average in temperature in the Buffalo-Niagara Region, so the drab landscape with residual snow cover in some areas won’t change substantially. Lake Erie as well as inland ponds and wetlands remain mostly ice-covered, so the flood of northbound ducks and geese that typically stop-over in the Buffalo-Niagara region this time of year will continue to just trickle in. Regardless, the region continues to support an abundance and diversity of life that can be observed by anyone eager to get outdoors. Most winter resident birds are still present, including thousands of diving ducks (e.g., common merganser, common goldeneye, scaup, and long-tailed duck) that spend the winter in open water areas such as the Niagara River. The next few weeks are an especially good time to observe these ducks as many are performing intriguing courtship displays and vocalizations. Winter raptors (e.g., snowy owl, short-eared owl, rough-legged hawk) are still present in the region, especially in areas with extensive grassland habitats. Typical winter songbirds such as the dark-eyed junco and American tree sparrows plus less common species such as the pine siskin and common redpoll continue to visit local bird feeders.

Moreover, signs of spring are evident across the region. In fact, subtle signs of spring have been visible for several weeks. Tree sap began to flow a couple weeks ago when daytime temperatures finally reached above freezing, as evidenced by maple sugaring operations in our region. Red and silver maple flower buds are swollen, and a few pussy willows have broken bud. The initial stages of breeding have begun for some species of fish, as they migrate toward spawning areas. Relatively small flocks of Canada geese and tundra swans have been migrating northward across the region, and pairs of geese are returning to previously used nesting sites (standing on ice-covered ponds in some cases). Puddle ducks such as the northern pintail, wood duck, and American wigeon have been seen in the limited areas of open water outside the Niagara River. Spring flights of hawks, bald eagles, and turkey vultures have been recorded along the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shorelines during the past few weeks. Great horned owls have been on-nest for a few weeks or more. Other raptors, including bald eagles and red-tailed hawks, have recently started nesting. A few early migrant shorebirds and songbirds (e.g., killdeer, American robin, red-winged blackbird, common grackle) have arrived in the region. Songbirds have initiated their pre-nuptial molt (most evident in male American goldfinches visiting feeders), and several year-round resident species have been singing and establishing territories since early to mid-February. Eastern chipmunks have emerged from their winter dens to feed and breed. Most large mammals bred during the fall or winter, so we can expect to see fawns, pups, and kits over the next several weeks.

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

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:
• While the west end of Lake Ontario is mostly ice-free, the east end of Lake Erie will remain ice-covered.
• Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools will stay mostly ice-covered, although small scattered open water areas may be present.
• Streams that were ice and snow-covered a few weeks ago will remain mostly ice-free.

Woodland Wildflowers:
• Skunk cabbage buds, which developed last autumn, will slowly advance toward a peak blooming period in the next two or three weeks.

Trees and Shrubs:
• Sugar maple sap (as well as sap in other tree species) will continue to flow, especially during relatively warm days following nights with sub-freezing temperatures.
• Red and silver maple flower buds will continue to swell but will not flower substantially during the coming week.
• Although a few pussy willows have broken bud, peak flowering is still over a week away.
• If you are impatient to see flowering trees and shrubs, try “forcing” branches to bloom by placing 12 to 18-inch cuttings (make sure each has flower buds) in a vase of water indoors. Flowers will appear after several days. Recommended species include red maple, silver maple, box-elder, pussy willow, and eastern hop-hornbeam. The following non-native species may also be “forced”: forsythia, lilac, and apple.

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

Fish:
• Most species of fish will remain relatively sedentary as water temperatures in most lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams hover at or just above freezing.
• Northern pike will begin to concentrate near tributary streams, ditches, and shoreline wetlands in preparation for spawning, which will start shortly after ice disappears (when the water temperature exceeds about 40°F).
• Steelhead that migrated from Lakes Erie and Ontario into tributary streams last fall and through the winter are now joined by fresh steelhead entering the tributaries in preparation for spring spawning (when the water temperature approaches 50°F). Steelhead are an anadromous form of rainbow trout that spawn in streams but live most of their lives in Lakes Erie and Ontario. All forms of rainbow trout were introduced to the region (they are native to Pacific coast watersheds).
• Stream-dwelling rainbow trout may spawn at a similar time as steelhead.
• The DEC will continue to stock local streams with hatchery-raised brown trout and rainbow trout in preparation for the opening of trout season on April 1.

Amphibians & Reptiles:
• Most of the early breeding frogs such as the western chorus frog and spring peeper will remain in hibernation (technically considered brumation for amphibians and reptiles) during the coming week.
• It is unlikely that spotted, blue-spotted, and Jefferson’s salamanders will make their annual migration to vernal pools to breed during the coming week, at least not in any large numbers.
• Most turtles and snakes will remain in a state of hibernation/brumation during the coming week.

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:
• Thousands of diving ducks will remain in their wintering areas, primarily open water areas of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The primary species include common merganser, red-breasted merganser, common goldeneye, bufflehead, canvasback, scaup, and long-tailed duck. Many will be performing courtship displays and vocalizations.
• Red-throated loons, red-necked grebes, and horned grebes will continue to use open water areas as stop-over feeding areas along their migration route north. See the “Great Lakes/Niagara River” column in the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page for sites that provide public access.
• Spring migrant puddle ducks and geese will continue to trickle into the region but the flood of migrants will not occur until inland ponds and wetlands are mostly ice-free.
• Puddle ducks such as the northern pintail, American wigeon, mallard, American black, gadwall, redhead, ring-necked duck, and wood duck will continue move into the region, seeking out scarce open water areas.
• Pairs of Canada geese will continue to return to previously used nesting sites (standing on ice-covered ponds in some cases).
• Great blue herons will continue to gather on Motor Island in the Niagara River to nest, whereas they are just returning in small numbers to inland areas.
• Some winter gulls, such as the glaucous, Iceland, and great black-backed gull may remain in the region over the coming week or two.
• Bonaparte’s gulls will continue to trickle into the region, using the Niagara River as a significant stop-over feeding area along their migration route north. This species will reach its peak spring numbers in the region in mid-April when thousands will be present along the Niagara River.
To stay abreast of bird sightings in the region, consult eBird, Genesee Birds, and Dial-a-Bird (see the “Resources” tab on this web page for more details).

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

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

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

Mammals:
• True hibernators (several species of bats, woodchuck, meadow jumping mouse, and woodland jumping mouse) will continue to be mostly inactive in the region during the coming week.
• Striped skunks emerged from winter dormancy following the thaw that started a couple weeks ago, and they will remain mostly active in the coming week. This is their breeding season.
• Opossum and raccoon, which became significantly more active following the thaw, will continue to be active (other than during any extremely cold periods).
• Eastern chipmunks will be actively feeding and breeding (other than during any extremely cold periods).
• Most large mammals bred during the fall or winter, so we can expect to see fawns, pups, and kits over the next several weeks.
• White-tailed deer continue to travel in herds. Finding food will continue to be difficult until the growing season begins.

Find an opportunity to get outside this week to discover signs of spring.

Chuck Rosenburg