For those of you who dare to shed that filthy contaminated rag you’ve been told to breathe through so that you might instead get out and enjoy some clean air in a cherished place of solitude, here’s what’s around—go have a look.
Northern Flickers have arrived. Look for them anywhere there are mature trees. Despite the fact that flickers are woodpeckers, they often feed on the ground. You’ll notice the white rump and yellow wing linings when they fly away.
The tiny Chipping Sparrow frequently nests in small trees in suburban gardens. Lay off the lawn treatments to assure their success.
Field Sparrows (Spizella fusilla) are a breeding species in abandoned fields where successional growth is underway.
White-throated Sparrows spend the winter in the lower Susquehanna valley. Their numbers are increasing now as waves of migrants pass through on their way north.
Northbound flocks of Rusty Blackbirds (Euphagus carolinus) are currently found feeding in forest swamps along the Susquehanna. Their noisy calls sound like a chorus of squeaking hinges.
Migratory Red-shouldered Hawks are also making feeding stops at area wetlands.
The Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum) is easily identified by its tail pumping behavior. Look for it in shrubs along the river shoreline or near lakes and streams. Palm Warblers are among the earliest of the warblers to move through in the spring.
The springtime show on the water continues…
Common Loons will continue migrating through the area during the upcoming month.
Buffleheads are still transiting the watershed.
Horned Grebes are occurring on the river and on local lakes.
Seeing these one-year-old male Hooded Mergansers, the bachelors, wandering around without any adult males or females is a good sign. The adults should have moved on to the breeding grounds and local pairs should be well into a nesting cycle by now. Hatching could occur any day.
Like Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks are cavity nesters, but their egg laying, incubation, and hatching often occurs a month or more later than that of the hoodies. Judging by the attentiveness of the drake, this pair of woodies is probably in the egg-laying stage of its breeding cycle right now.
Redheads (Aythya americana) are stopping for a rest on their way north.
In spring, Double-crested Cormorants proceed up the river in goose-like flocks with adult birds like these leading the way.
Hey, what are those showy flowers?
That’s Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna). It’s often called Fig Buttercup. In early April it blankets stream banks throughout the lower Susquehanna region. If you don’t remember seeing it growing like that when you were younger, there’s a reason. Lesser Celandine is an escape from cultivation that has become invasive. While the appearance is tolerable; it’s the palatability that ruins everything. It’s poisonous if eaten by people or livestock.
The Eastern Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) is a dainty native wildflower of riparian forests and other woodlands throughout the lower Susquehanna valley.
The Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) is beginning to bloom now. It’s a native of the region’s damp forests.
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) is not native to the Susquehanna watershed, but neither is it considered invasive. It creates colorful patches in riparian forests.
Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is a strikingly beautiful native wildflower that grows on undisturbed forested slopes throughout the Susquehanna valley.
Wasn’t that refreshing? Now go take a walk.
It seems as though the birds have grown impatient for typical spring weather to arrive. The increase in hours of daylight has signaled them that breeding time is here. No further delays can be entertained. They’ve got a schedule to keep.
Thursday, March 29: Winds began blowing from the southwest, breaking a cold spell which had persisted since last week’s snowfall. Birds were on the move ahead of an approaching rainy cold front.
Friday, March 30: Temperatures reached 60 degrees at last. Birds were again moving north through the day, despite rain showers and a change in wind direction—from the northwest and cooler following the passage of the front in the late morning.
Flocks of Double-crested Cormorants followed the Susquehanna River north in numerous V-shaped flocks during the recent several days.
There were Turkey Vultures by the hundreds on the way north.
And nearly as many Black Vultures too.
Saturday, March 31: It was cooler, but birds were still on the wing headed north.
At sunrise, a migrating Northern Flicker stopped by at a suet feeder to refuel.
Osprey pairs have arrived at nest sites on the lower Susquehanna.
Sunday, April 1: The morning was pleasant, but conditions became cooler and breezy in the afternoon. Migratory and resident birds began feeding ahead of another storm.
A distant flock of fast-flying Bonaparte’s Gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) moves expeditiously up the Susquehanna at Conewago Falls as winds begin to pick up during the late morning. Are they hurrying to get north of the path of the forthcoming weather system?
A Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) feeds in anticipation of a snowy night ahead.
A male Downy Woodpecker devours a late-afternoon meal.
This Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), a cavity-nesting species, is distracted by a potential new home.
Dark-eyed Juncos winter in the lower Susquehanna valley. During the month of April, they will begin departing for their breeding grounds, some nesting in the mountains just to our north.
Tufted Titmouse…still house hunting.
A male American Goldfinch is progressing through molt into a showy breeding (alternate) plumage.
A male House Finch takes a break from its melodious song to feed before the arrival of our next spring snow. His mate is already incubating eggs in a nest not far away.
Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) feed through the late afternoon, often as the last birds out-and-about before darkness. This male remains close to his mate as she forages beneath nearby shrubs.
Monday, April 2: Snow fell again, overnight and through the morning—a couple of inches. Most of the snow had melted away by late afternoon.
Horned Larks are plentiful in large open bare-soil (tilled) farmlands in winter, particularly near fresh manure. Their sandy-tan coloration hides them well, and they are seldom noticed unless spotted at roadside following snow storms. Horned Larks are migratory ground-nesting birds found in many sparsely vegetated habitats including tundra, parched fields and prairies, beaches, and even airports. There is a breeding population in the lower Susquehanna valley which may be increasingly attracted to favorable nesting habitat created in some no-till fields, possibly using a window of opportunity between the demise of cold-season cover crops and the ascendency of the warm-season crops to complete a brood cycle. Comparing the site selection and success rates of nesting Horned Larks under various crop management methods, including reactions to herbicide use, could be an enlightening study project for inquisitive minds. (Hint-Hint)
The dainty Chipping Sparrow has arrived. This species commonly nests in small trees, often in suburban gardens.