April Phenology Notes

Fox Kits Rachael Darrah.jpg
Do you love to track the wild things throughout the seasons?

What are the #PhenologyNotes?

Do you love to track the wild things throughout the seasons? Do you make note of all the "firsts" (spring peepers, wildflowers, woodcock, songs of breeding birds)?

...Or maybe you're feeling a little out of touch with the cycles of nature and would welcome a little coaxing, a spark of inspiration to pay closer attention...

...Or maybe you are a fellow naturalist who would love to share, discuss, and compare your own regional observations throughout the seasons.

Depending on the day, I fall into each of the above categories. The art and science of phenology keeps me engaged and truly present in the natural world - from day to day.

Phenology is the study of seasonal patterns as observed in the life cycles of plants and animals (migration, nesting/mating seasons, bud break, when plants bloom,etc.).

With Phenology Notes, I aim to provide you with a fun way to follow our flora and fauna throughout the seasons, learn something new, and to interact as a community of Habitat Heroes.

At the end of each month I share my weekly social media posts here on the blog.

Please share your different observations from April with our community in the comments below. Join the conversation!


Black Bear ( Ursus americanus;  skeeze/Pixabay).

Black Bear (Ursus americanus; skeeze/Pixabay).

April 3, 2019

Bears on the Move

Right about now hungry bears are waking up from winter "torpor" (bears do not technically hibernate) and will be on the move looking for food. 

Males are usually the first to emerge (females with cubs stay put longer) and will be headed to wet areas that green up early. Around spring seeps, rivers, and streams our bears will find their first sustenance in green skunk cabbage and other emerging herbaceous vegetation. 

Hungry bears will cover a lot of ground in search of foods, and are particularly attracted to bird feeders in spring and early summer. Although it may be exciting or entertaining to see bears close to our homes, it is an unnatural and dangerous situation for both bears and humans. 

To avoid bear-human conflicts: mark your perpetual calendars to "bring bird feeders and seed/suet indoors" sometime during the first week of April. You can feed the birds again starting in early November. Winter is the best time to offer birds supplemental foods anyway (because natural foods are more limited). 


wordswag_1554930801369.png

April 10, 2019

Sky Dancing

Last night I heard the tell-tale "peent"ing and then the whistling sound of spring woodcock ascending into the sky. I was walking my dog around our rural neighborhood and heard at least two different males in the pastures and nearby fields.

Our odd shorebird that lives in the woods - the American Woodcock, or "timberdoodle" - returned to the breeding grounds last month. Despite the recent snow, these birds are carrying on their charming courtship displays in fields and openings at dusk.

Listen for the nasal-sounding peent, and then the sound of the air whistling through his stiff wings as he ascends in a spiral pattern hundreds of feet into the air. At the top of his climb he'll come plummeting back to the exact same spot from where he launched (warbling and twittering), and then he'll strut around (peenting) to show off for any hens that might be watching.

My hero Aldo Leopold poetically described this behavior as a "sky dance".

In the quest to impress a female, these woodcock are completely unfazed by the April snow blanketing the fields and pastures.

We could all take a lesson from the sky-dancing timberdoodles. Their unwavering, single-minded approach in the face of adversity is admirable.

They *know* it's spring, and they are just carrying on with life!


The vernal pool near our home (go to  video ).

The vernal pool near our home (go to video).

April 17, 2019

Wood Frog Chorus

Yesterday the cacophonous sound of wood frogs could be heard throughout our woodland areas close to home (video here). The sharp, quack-like calls of male wood frogs looking for mates is one of the most anticipated signs of spring for our family. The spring peepers will soon follow.

The frogs have emerged from hibernation and have migrated to vernal pools to breed. 

A vernal pool is a fishless pool that provides important breeding habitats for amphibians.

These ephemeral habitats are critical to the life cycle of an array of species - from fairy shrimp and water fleas, to frogs and salamanders. Conserving and protecting them is key to forest biodiversity.


Bee on Red Maple H.Holm IG.jpg

April 25, 2019

Bees on red maple

Red maple (Acer rubrum) is flowering right now, great fireworks of red against the azure blue spring sky. Our other maples are wind-pollinated and flower earlier. 

Bees are attracted to the early season nectar of the flowers and males (particularly cellophane and mining bees) will patrol these floral buffets for mating opportunities. 

Colletes (cellophane bees), Andrena (mining bees), Lasioglossum (sweat bees), and Osmia bees are among the bees who pollinate red maple, resulting in the double samara (fruit) that will later disperse maple seeds via wind.

SIGN UP TO RECEIVE FREE HABITAT TIPS, TOOLS, AND TRICKS (~2 E-MAILS/MONTH).

Name *
Name
#ThePersonalEcologist   I partner with eco-minded landowners to create thriving wildlife habitats in their backyards, gardens, fields and farms, woods or campuses - at any scale.  I have 25 years of experience in my field, and a lifelong commitment to wildlife conservation.  Read  My Story .

#ThePersonalEcologist

I partner with eco-minded landowners to create thriving wildlife habitats in their backyards, gardens, fields and farms, woods or campuses - at any scale.

I have 25 years of experience in my field, and a lifelong commitment to wildlife conservation.

Read My Story.