February

Despite the 70 degree temps we’re experiencing, it’s February. And, what happens every February here at the Museum of Life and Science? Hazel alder blooms. The golden flecks of wind-borne pollen sail through the air from the male catkins to the upright reddish female flowers (photo above). Look for the alders on the north side of the wetlands in Explore the Wild.

Hazel alder in bloom.
Male catkins and upright female flowers (reddish structures above catkins).
Brown-headed nuthatch.

Each February, brown-headed nuthatches pound away on the soft wood of some recently expired black willow in our wetland. They’re excavating a nest hole. The nuthatches don’t necessarily use the hole, sometimes it’s taken over by a chickadee or simply left abandoned in favor of another nest hole dug nearby.

But, without a doubt, I first hear, “chop, chop, chop,” then see these tiny birds tirelessly hammering on one of the willows on or near the first week of February.

Sometimes, it’s a dead pine branch, but more often than not it’s a willow. Both are soft woods, to be sure.

Brown-headed nuthatch takes a break at pounding on dead willow.

Each February brings with it the arrival of two Canada geese. They come here to nest. They haven’t been successful in my time here at the museum (11 years) but they make the attempt regardless.

They can be confirmed as the same pair by the fact that the female has a gray eye-ring. Most Canada geese have black around the eye, our female has a thin gray ring.

The annual arrival of our pair of geese. Female on right (note gray ring around eye).

Finally, our female red wolf (2062) goes into estrus in February, mid February to be specific. I’m going to be keeping a close eye on her and will report what I see.

Female 2062.

Let me know what you see.

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