May 21-27, 2019 (Week 21 of 52): Shorebird Migration May Peak This Week

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

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 69.0° F  Normal Low Temperature: 50.1° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru May 22, 2019: 246

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed substantially to 49°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) cooled slightly to 45°F as of May 23, 2019.
  • Water levels in interior wetlands and vernal pools have started 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:

  • Watch for early species of fungi such as scarlet cup, pheasant’s back, morel, mica cap, common mycena, and oyster mushrooms.

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.
  • A few species of wetland sedges (e.g., tussock & awl-fruited sedges) and upland sedges (e.g., Pennsylvania & plantain-leaved sedges) will continue to flower this week, well ahead of most grass species.
  • 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 continues to rapidly overtake last year’s brown cattail stems.

Wildflowers:

  • The following woodland wildflowers will be in bloom this week: Jack-in-the-pulpit, May-apple, Solomon’s seal (smooth and hairy), false Solomon’s seal, large-flowered bellwort, blue phlox, Canada mayflower, white baneberry, red baneberry, Virginia waterleaf, foam flower, herb Robert, and wild columbine.
  • The rose-purple flowers of wild geranium can now be found in woods and meadows.
  • Wild leek leaves are fully emerged in some upland forests. This is the best time of year to harvest leeks (AKA ramps). Be sure to harvest sustainably and with landowner permission.
  • 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.
  • 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 continue 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:

  • Leaf-out of trees and shrubs will essentially be completed by the end of this week for most species (excluding ashes, hickories, and walnuts).
  • Watch for the showy flowers of cucumber magnolia to start blooming this week – they flower very briefly. Use binoculars as necessary.
  • American beech, 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.
  • Wind-dispersed pollen of oaks, birches (e.g., yellow birch, American hornbeam), and ashes (e.g., green & white) continue to be the leading allergens in the Buffalo Area.
  • Several native fruit-producing trees and shrubs will continue to flower this week: black cherry, choke cherry, black chokeberry, red elderberry, nannyberry, and hawthorn.
  • 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 will continue to swarm and will likely start to bite (more accurately, they suck) this week. Wear protective clothing and/or repellent.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:

  • Muskellunge may still be concentrated in vegetated shallows for spawning.
  • Lake sturgeon are moving into spawning habitats within the Great Lakes and Upper & Lower Niagara River.
  • 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:

  • A few spring peepers and American toads (and possibly western chorus frogs) will continue their breeding calls 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 may peak this week highlighted by black-bellied plover, semipalmated plover, sanderling, 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:

  • 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 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 arriving in or 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, cerulean, bay-breasted, blackpoll, mourning, Wilson’s, and Canada.
  • Experience migrant passage by listening for songbird contact calls after dark. Monitor movements on Doppler radar or at http://birdcast.info/. Track average bird arrival dates compiled by the Buffalo Ornithological Society at http://dates.bosbirds.com/.
  • 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 boisterous 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

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May 14-20, 2019 (Week 20 of 52): Rapid Transformation to a Vibrant Green Landscape

I am amazed every spring with how rapidly our landscape changes from drab browns and grays to vibrant shades of green. Concurrently, and not by accident, our forests and fields awaken 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. Herbivorous mammals, such as woodchuck and white-tailed deer, rely on the surge in plant growth to survive and nurse young. 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

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 66.9° F  Normal Low Temperature: 47.7° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru May 14, 2019: 178

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo warmed substantially to 45°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) warmed moderately to 46°F as of May 17, 2019.
  • Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools remain near 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:

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

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fern fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) will continue to unfurl for some late emerging species such as Christmas, maidenhair, and sensitive fern.
  • Watch for field horsetails growing in wet areas, resembling small pine seedlings, with fertile stems releasing an abundance of spores.
  • A few species of wetland sedges (e.g., tussock & awl-fruited sedges) and upland sedges (e.g., Pennsylvania & plantain-leaved sedges) will continue to flower this week, 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:

  • Abundant yellow flowers of marsh marigold continue to flower, albeit beyond peak, in some forested and emergent wetlands.
  • 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 may begin to bloom this week: Jack-in-the-pulpit, May-apple, Solomon’s seal (smooth and hairy), false Solomon’s seal, large-flowered bellwort, blue phlox, Canada mayflower, white baneberry, red baneberry, 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 may be observed in woods and meadows later this week.
  • Wild leek leaves are fully emerged in some upland forests. This is the best time of year to harvest leeks (AKA ramps). Be sure to harvest sustainably and with landowner permission.
  • Cuckoo flower will continue to bloom in wet meadows and along the edges of swamps and marshes.
  • Wild strawberry will begin 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, especially with seasonally warm weather forecast for Saturday through Monday. Leaf-out will be nearly completed by the end of this week for most species (excluding ashes, hickories, and walnuts).
  • Wind-dispersed pollen of oaks, birches (e.g., yellow birch, American hornbeam), and ashes (e.g., green & white) are currently the leading allergens in the Buffalo Area.
  • Red oak (e.g., northern red oak, pin oak) and white oak (e.g., white oak, swamp white oak, bur 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 2019 and 2020. Acorns of white oak species mature in one year but it takes two years for acorns of red oak species to mature.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mosquitoes will likely be out in large numbers by the end of next week, swarming but not biting at first. Some may start to bite later this week.
  • 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.
  • 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 migrate from Lake Ontario into the Lower Niagara River to spawn, although few if any have been reported near shore. 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, albeit less boisterous than earlier this spring.
  • 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.
  • Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.
  • Watch for tiny midland painted turtles to emerge from nests in lawns, flower beds, and road shoulders – typically near 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.
  • Early migrant shorebirds will continue to arrive in our area this week, including black-bellied plover, semipalmated plover, ruddy turnstone, sanderling, semipalmated sandpiper, pectoral sandpiper, least sandpiper, solitary sandpiper, spotted sandpiper, and short-billed dowitcher.
  • 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:

  • 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. 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.

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 least flycatcher, great-crested flycatcher, eastern kingbird, yellow-throated vireo, warbling vireo, wood thrush, and rose-breasted grosbeak.
  • 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, 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, and gray-cheeked thrush.
  • Among the neotropical migrants are the following colorful warbler species: blue-winged, Nashville, northern parula, yellow, chestnut-sided, magnolia, black-throated blue, black-throated green, Blackburnian, palm, black-and-white, American redstart, ovenbird, and hooded warblers.
  • The following neotropical migrant warblers that typically occur toward the tail-end of spring migration may start to arrive in the region this week: golden-winged, Tennessee, Cerulean, 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.
  • Experience migrant passage by listening for songbird contact calls after dark. Monitor movements on Doppler radar or at http://birdcast.info/. Track average bird arrival dates compiled by the Buffalo Ornithological Society at http://dates.bosbirds.com/.
  • 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 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, 2019 (Week 19 of 52): Neotropical Migrant Songbird Diversity and Abundance May Peak this Week

Southerly winds early in Week 19 continued to carry 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. Spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that flower fleetingly before trees leaf-out) continue to bloom this week in the Region. 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 third 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

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 64.7° F  Normal Low Temperature: 45.4° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru May 8, 2019: 155

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo rose slightly to 37°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) rose slightly to 43°F as of May 9, 2019.
  • Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools are near annual high-water levels.
  • Streams will continue with moderate to high flow levels this week, with the potential for high levels if the Region experiences thunderstorms and/or other heavy precipitation.

Fungi:

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

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) will continue to slowly emerge for most fern species this week.
  • Watch for field horsetail growing in wet areas, resembling a small pine seedling and bearing fertile fronds that produce spores.
  • A few species of wetland sedges (e.g., tussock & awl-fruited sedges) and upland sedges (e.g., Pennsylvania & plantain-leaved sedges) will flower this week, well ahead of most grass species.

Wildflowers:

  • Skunk cabbage is 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 continue to dominate some forested and emergent wetlands.
  • Some spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that bloom fleetingly before trees leaf-out then disappear from view, leaves and all) will continue to bloom 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 continue to bloom this week, including northern blue violet, Canada white violet, downy yellow violet, smooth yellow violet, wild ginger, red trillium, large-flowered (white) trillium, and blue cohosh.
  • Watch for the leaves and some early flowers 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.
  • 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.
  • Wild leek leaves are fully emerged in some upland forests. This is the best time of year to harvest leeks (AKA ramps). Be sure to harvest sustainably and with landowner permission.
  • Coltsfoot, a non-native species that has naturalized across the region, continues to bloom this week. Look for its yellow, dandelion-like flowers.
  • Lesser celandine, an invasive non-native species of buttercup, continues 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.
  • Wind-dispersed pollen of birches (e.g., yellow birch, American hornbeam), maples (e.g., sugar maple, box-elder), and ashes (green & white) are currently the leading allergens in the Buffalo Area.
  • Red oak (e.g., northern red oak, pin oak) and white oak (e.g., white oak, swamp white oak, bur 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 Fall 2019 and 2020. Acorns of white oak species mature in one year but it takes two years for acorns of red oak species to mature.
  • 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 may become active in some areas, creating an annoyance for outdoors people.
  • 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.
  • 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 some 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, including spring azure, eastern tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, black swallowtail, 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 will continue to migrate back into our Region from the South this week, typically the earliest dragonflies to be seen here.

Fish:

  • Muskellunge will continue to concentrate in vegetated shallows for spawning.
  • Walleye and yellow perch will continue to move into shallow water areas to spawn.
  • Some smallmouth bass may begin migrating from Lakes Erie and Ontario into tributary streams, harbors, and bays in preparation for spawning.
  • 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.
  • Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.
  • Watch for tiny midland painted turtles to emerge from nests in lawns, flower beds, and road shoulders – typically near 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.
  • Don’t be surprised to see wood ducks perched in trees, near nest cavities, this time of year.
  • 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 black-bellied plover, greater and lesser yellowlegs, pectoral sandpiper, least sandpiper, semi-palmated plover, 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 migration flights of hawks, falcons, eagles, and turkey vultures will continue to follow the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores as they migrate north. Large flights of broad-winged hawks may continue to dominate the hawk flight this week, especially at Braddock Bay. An excellent observation area for seeing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of these migrants in a single day is Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg.
  • 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 may 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:

  • Now that winter feeder birds such as dark-eyed junco and American tree sparrowsback, scaup, common goldeneye, common merganser, long-tailed duck have mostly left the region, watch feeders for summer resident species such as chipping sparrow as well as spring migrant species such as purple finch, rose-breasted grosbeak, indigo bunting, white-throated sparrow, and white-crowned sparrow. Be sure to include sunflower seed in feeders and place seed such as white millet in ground feeders or directly on the ground to attract many of these migrants.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles have returned to our region, so have your feeders ready (May 1st is typically a good target date).
  • If you don’t have a feeder of your own, consider visiting a local nature education center (see the last column of the site lists under the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page).
  • 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, veery, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, bobolink, and Baltimore oriole.
  • The following neotropical migrant songbirds that typically mark the beginning of the end of spring migration will arrive in the region this week: eastern wood-pewee, Philadelphia vireo, red-eyed vireo, veery, gray-cheeked thrush, Swainson’s thrush, and indigo bunting.
  • Among the neotropical migrants are the following colorful warbler species: blue-winged, Nashville, northern parula, yellow, chestnut-sided, magnolia, black-throated blue, black-throated green, Blackburnian, palm, black-and-white, American redstart, ovenbird, northern waterthrush, Louisiana waterthrush, and hooded warblers.
  • The following neotropical migrant warblers that typically occur toward the tail-end of spring migration may start to arrive in the region this week: golden-winged, Tennessee, Cerulean, bay-breasted, blackpoll, mourning, Wilson’s, and Canada.
  • Bobolinks will return from as far away as Argentina 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 are returning to, passing through, and/or lingering 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, field sparrow, savannah sparrow, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, rusty blackbird, purple finch, and pine siskin.
  • Experience migrant passage by listening for songbird contact calls after dark. Monitor movements on Doppler radar or at http://birdcast.info/. Track average bird arrival dates compiled by the Buffalo Ornithological Society at http://dates.bosbirds.com/.
  • 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:

  • Big brown bats have emerged from hibernacula in local attics etc. and be can now be seen foraging for insects.
  • 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 possibly some hoary bats.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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, 2019 (Week 18 of 52): Spring Ephemeral Wildflowers and Neotropical Migrant Songbirds Dominate this Week

Spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that flower fleetingly before trees leaf-out) will continue to bloom abundantly this week in the Buffalo-Niagara Region. Also, the first substantial wave of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) reached the Buffalo-Niagara Region on southerly winds earlier this week. This weekend will be an excellent time to search for both natural attractions as flowering will persist during the forecasted seasonal temperatures and stop-over migrants will actively feed to fuel up for their next push north. Many other spring advances with the Region’s plants and animals will also be visible.

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

Typical Weather:

  • Normal High Temperature: 62.3° F   Normal Low Temperature: 43.0° F
  • Cumulative Growing Degree Days thru May 1, 2019: 126

Lake, Pond, Stream & Wetland Conditions:

  • The Niagara River continues to carry an abundance of ice flows following removal of the ice boom on April 22.
  • The Lake Erie water temperature off Buffalo rose distinctly to 36°F and the Lake Ontario water temperature off Greece (Monroe County) fell slightly to 42°F as of May 2, 2019.
  • Inland ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools are near annual high-water levels.
  • Streams will continue with moderate to high flow levels this week, with the potential for high levels if the Region experiences thunderstorms and/or other heavy precipitation.

Fungi:

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

Ferns and Grasses/Sedges/Rushes:

  • Fiddleheads (furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head) will continue to slowly emerge for a few species of wetland ferns (e.g., cinnamon, royal, and sensitive ferns) 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 about a foot tall in wet meadows and the edges of marshes.

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.
  • Most other spring ephemeral wildflowers (woodland species that bloom fleetingly before trees leaf-out then disappear from view, leaves and all) will continue to bloom abundantly 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 continue to bloom abundantly this week, including northern blue violet, Canada white violet, downy yellow violet, smooth yellow violet, wild ginger, red trillium, large-flowered (white) trillium, and blue cohosh.
  • 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.
  • Wild leek leaves are fully emerged in some upland forests. This is the best time of year to harvest leeks (AKA ramps). Be sure to harvest sustainably and with landowner permission.
  • 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:

  • Sugar maple trees will reach peak flowering this week, as evidenced by a burst of pastel green color in leafless sugar bushes and similar upland forests.
  • Box-elder and green & white ash will continue to flower this week.
  • Spicebush will continue to flower in some forested wetlands this week. Look for its small yellow blossoms that, en masse, brighten wetland understories.
  • Serviceberry trees and shadbush shrubs may begin to bloom in forest understory and edge habitats later this week.
  • Eastern cottonwood may begin to flower this week. Its cotton-like fluff and seeds will be fill the air in early June.
  • Wind-dispersed pollen of maples (red, silver, sugar, and box-elder) and ashes (green & white) will be the leading allergens in the Buffalo Area at this time, joined by juniper (likely blown in from well outside the Region).
  • Tartarian and Morrow’s honeysuckles will continue to leaf-out this week. Early leaf-out of this non-native invasive shrub species helps to give it a competitive advantage over native shrubs.
  • Choke cherry, a native fruit-bearing shrub, is also leafing-out rapidly this week.

Insects & Other Invertebrates:

  • Ticks are now active so wear protective clothing and/or repellent and do tick-checks after every outing.
  • Blackflies may become active in some areas, creating an annoyance for outdoors people.
  • 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.
  • 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 some birds and bats.
  • Watch for honeybees and native pollinators such as bumblebees and hover flies visiting newly blooming flowers this week.
  • Mourning cloak and eastern comma butterflies (which overwintered as adults) will continue to be active during relatively warm days 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, painted lady, and red admiral butterflies that occasionally migrate on southerly winds into the Buffalo-Niagara Region at this time.
  • Common green darners will migrate 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 may start to concentrate in vegetated shallows for spawning.
  • White suckers will continue to migrate upstream within Great Lakes tributary streams to their spawning grounds.
  • 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.
  • Walleye and yellow perch will continue to move into shallow waters to spawn.
  • 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.
  • 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 western chorus frog, spring peeper, northern leopard frog, and American toad will continue to vocalize and breed in wetlands and vernal pools.
  • Most 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 remain active this week. They can be found under rocks and logs during the day.
  • Eastern garter snakes will continue to emerge from hibernation/brumation. Watch for “snake balls” – breeding clusters consisting of multiple males attempting to mate with a single female.
  • Common snapping and midland painted turtles will continue to be active this week. Watch for painted turtles basking on logs, especially during cool but sunny periods.
  • Watch for tiny midland painted turtles to emerge from nests in lawns, flower beds, and road shoulders – typically near 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.
  • Don’t be surprised to see wood ducks perched in trees, near nest cavities, this time of year.
  • 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 continue to return 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, least bittern, black-crowned night-heron, green heron, Virginia rail, sora, common gallinule, and American coot 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. Woodcock perform mostly near dawn and dusk whereas snipe display mostly during daylight hours.
  • Other early migrant shorebirds may 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 migration flights of hawks, falcons, eagles, 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 observation area for seeing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of these migrants in a single day is Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg.
  • Most year-round resident raptors such as the great horned owl, barred owl, eastern screech owl, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and red-tailed hawk are incubating eggs or brooding young chicks.
  • Recent arrivals such as the red-shouldered hawk, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and osprey are establishing breeding territories and initiating 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 sparrowsback, scaup, common goldeneye, common merganser, long-tailed duck 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.
  • If you don’t have a feeder of your own, consider visiting a local nature education center (see the last column of the site lists under the “B-N Region & Sites” tab on this web page).
  • The first substantial wave of neotropical migrant songbirds (those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America) finally reached the Buffalo-Niagara Region earlier this week, including chimney swift, ruby-throated hummingbird, least flycatcher, great-crested flycatcher, eastern kingbird, yellow-throated vireo, warbling vireo, cliff swallow, wood thrush, veery, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, bobolink, and Baltimore oriole.
  • Among the neotropical migrants are the following colorful warbler species: blue-winged, Nashville, northern parula, yellow, chestnut-sided, magnolia, black-throated blue, black-throated green, Blackburnian, palm, black-and-white, American redstart, ovenbird, northern waterthrush, Louisiana waterthrush, and hooded warblers.
  • The following shorter-distance migrant songbirds are returning to, passing through, and/or lingering 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.
  • Experience migrant passage by listening for songbird contact calls after dark. Monitor movements on Doppler radar or at http://birdcast.info/. Track average bird arrival dates compiled by the Buffalo Ornithological Society at http://dates.bosbirds.com/.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles have started to return to our region, 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 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 few weeks.

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

Chuck Rosenburg