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

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

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Watch for fiddleheads of cinnamon and other ferns this week.

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Blooming of sharp-lobed hepatica will peak this week.

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Blooming of bloodroot will peak this week.

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Watch for spring cress flowers later this week.

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Pussy willow will continue to “flower” this week.

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

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

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

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

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

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

Typical Weather:

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

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

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

Fungi:

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

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

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

Woodland Wildflowers:

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

Trees and Shrubs:

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

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

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

Fish:

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

Amphibians & Reptiles:

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

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

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

Birds of Prey:

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

Upland Game Birds:

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

Songbirds:

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

Mammals:

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

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

Chuck Rosenburg

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Mink at Reinstein Woods Preserve.  Photo by Paul Bigelow.

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

 

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

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

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

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

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

Typical Weather:

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

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

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

Woodland Wildflowers:

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

Trees and Shrubs:

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

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

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

Fish:

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

Amphibians & Reptiles:

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

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

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

Birds of Prey:

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

Upland Game Birds:

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

Songbirds:

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

Mammals:

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

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

Chuck Rosenburg

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

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Flooded wetland, at annual high water mark.

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

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Spring peeper found along wetland edge (Erie County)

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Painted turtle on log.

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

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

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

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

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

Typical Weather:

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

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

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

Woodland Wildflowers:

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

Trees and Shrubs:

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

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

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

Fish:

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

Amphibians & Reptiles:

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

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

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

Birds of Prey:

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

Upland Game Birds:

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

Songbirds:

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

Mammals:

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

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

Chuck Rosenburg

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

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

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Pussy willow, shortly after bud burst.

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

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Spring peeper calling from edge of forested wetland.

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

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

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

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

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

Typical Weather:

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

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

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

Trees and Shrubs:

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

Woodland Wildflowers:

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

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

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

Fish:

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

Amphibians & Reptiles:

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

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

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

Birds of Prey:

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

Upland Game Birds:

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

Songbirds:

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

Mammals:

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

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

Chuck Rosenburg