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

redstart 3 (2)

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)

oriole (2)

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

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