I personally go with March first as the official arrival of spring, the so-called meteorological spring. Even so, some things are happening a bit ahead of time due to the unusually high temperatures we’ve been experiencing. Just this past Monday I saw an eastern tiger swallowtail flying about. Around these parts, tiger swallowtails are butterflies of April, not March. The seventy and eighty degree weather accelerated the emergence of that butterfly, for sure.
I thought I’d post a handful of photos of things to look for on your walk around our outdoor exhibits. It’s by no means a complete list of things happening outdoors at this time, but will give you something to start with.
Elms are and have been blooming, and indeed some are going to seed.
Although pickerel frogs have been seen and heard calling over the past several weeks, many more have come down out of the woods and into the water to secure mates.
I saw my first snapping turtle of the season yesterday (3/9). In fact there were at least two making the rounds on that seventy degree March day.
Speaking of reptiles, I saw two northern water snakes laying out on Thursday (3/10).
There is at least one eastern phoebe here at the Museum throughout the winter. I noticed another at the beginning of this week. The pair are probably already planning their nest. The one below is scanning the area for a flying insect to snatch out of the air while perched on a willow branch.
There are still a few hooded mergansers in the Wetlands. Unless a pair decides to stay and nest in the nest box mounted for them in our Wetland, they should depart by the end of the month. I have, though, seen them here as late as mid April.
The pair of Canada geese that arrived at the beginning of February is still with us. Additionally, another waterfowl species has dropped in, a pied-billed grebe, shown below with one of the geese.
I usually see these small grebes in the fall as they move south for the winter, stopping by on their way to somewhere else. I was surprised to see this one here in March. I don’t expect it’ll stay long. By the way, the bird gets its name from the fact that it has a black and white bill.
I installed a new bird box in the swamp across from the Main Wetlands Overlook. You may notice it as you walk through this area. It’s there in hopes of enticing a pair of prothonotary warblers to nest. I see and hear these golden-ember colored warblers in our Wetlands most springs. They don’t, however, stay. Prothonotary warblers are one of only two warblers in North America that nest in tree cavities, and they most frequently nest over still water. They don’t excavate their own cavity, instead relying on natural cavities or those made by other birds in which to nest, so I thought I’d offer them a prefab cavity (nest box – below. Thanks KJ and John). They’re quite attractive birds. I hope we have a taker.
There’s much more happening outside than appears here in these photos, and it’s happening quickly. I heard a red-winged blackbird calling from the willows in the Wetlands, pine warblers are singing, trees are budding – you get the picture. If I were you, I’d get out as soon and as often as I could.