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

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

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

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Blue phlox blooming in native plant bed (Elma)

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

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Watch for golden ragwort in rich forested wetlands

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Wild columbine blooming in native plant garden (Elma)

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

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American robin nest

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Young raccoon very recently out of the nest

Allegany Fawn 2015 - Kimberly Adriaansen

White-tailed deer fawn (photo by Kimberly Adriaansen)

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

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

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

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

Typical Weather:

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

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

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

Fungi:

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

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

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

Wildflowers:

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

Trees and Shrubs:

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

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

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

Fish:

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

Amphibians & Reptiles:

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

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

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

Birds of Prey:

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

Upland Game Birds:

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

Songbirds:

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

Mammals:

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

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

Chuck Rosenburg

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

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Lush green wetland in Wyoming County, NY

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Rapid leafing-out of upland forest (Elma)

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Tulip poplar leafing-out in backyard (Elma)

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

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Choke cherry blossoms (Niagara County)

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Foam flower blooming in native rock garden (Elma)

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Wild geranium blooming in native wildflower garden (Elma)

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Cuckoo flower blooming in forested wetland (Clarence)

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

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

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

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

Typical Weather:

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

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

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

Fungi:

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

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

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

Wildflowers:

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

Trees and Shrubs:

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

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

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

Fish:

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

Amphibians & Reptiles:

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

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

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

Birds of Prey:

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

Upland Game Birds:

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

Songbirds:

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

Mammals:

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

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

Chuck Rosenburg

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

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

 

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Wild strawberry blossom

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

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American redstart singing (photo by Brittany Rowan)

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

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Chestnut-sided warbler (photo by Brittany Rowan)

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Baltimore oriole (photo by Brittany Rowan)

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

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

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

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

Typical Weather:

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

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

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

Fungi:

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

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

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

Woodland Wildflowers:

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

Trees and Shrubs:

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

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

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

Fish:

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

Amphibians & Reptiles:

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

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

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

Birds of Prey:

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

Upland Game Birds:

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

Songbirds:

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

Mammals:

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

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

Chuck Rosenburg

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

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One of the highly prized morel mushroom species.

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

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Carolina spring beauty in full bloom

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Marsh marigold blooms abundantly in some WNY wetlands

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Large-flowered (white) trillium

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Pollen-laden anthers on pussy willow

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Shadbush shrubs and serviceberry trees will reach peak flowering this week

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American robin nest

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

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

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

Average Sunrise/Sunset (Day Length):

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

Typical Weather:

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

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

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

Fungi:

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

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

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

Woodland Wildflowers:

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

Trees and Shrubs:

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

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

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

Fish:

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

Amphibians & Reptiles:

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

Water & Shore Birds, Gulls & Terns:

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

Birds of Prey:

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

Upland Game Birds:

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

Songbirds:

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

Mammals:

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

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

Chuck Rosenburg