Spring Update

Although at times it doesn’t feel like it, it really is spring. And, this is an update as to some of what has been going on outside here at the Museum during the past spring-like week.

I saw the first of the year Falcate Orangetip on 16 March. They, like the mild spring temperatures, are a bit behind schedule. Last year the first sighting was March 6, the year before it was March 8 before I spied one.

A little more than a week behind schedule, this male falcate showed up on March 16, a warm Saturday with temps in the seventies (that didn’t last).

On Tuesday (3/19), I spotted a yellow-bellied slider sitting at the bottom of the bank on the north side of the Wetlands, just barely out of the water. As you may know, I’ve been marking turtles that come ashore to lay eggs, but that doesn’t start till May, this is March. I was a bit surprised but composed myself long enough to make an attempt at capturing the wily turtle. I didn’t have my “marking” equipment with me, but I planned to grab the turtle and bring it to my “marking” equipment.

The turtle wasn’t having it, it plunged back into the water as soon as it became aware of my intentions. Turtles can be swift of foot when need be. I, on the other hand, can be rather clumsy of foot when climbing down embankments, and nearly feel into the water behind the turtle.

“No problem, I’ll catch this slider later,” said I.

The turtle again appeared in the same location later in the day. I let it be. I saw it again the next day. I let it be again. I reasoned that this turtle must simply be basking, not coming ashore to lay eggs as I assumed it to be. Basking spots are at a premium in the Wetlands, very few good spots are available these days due to high water covering the usual spots.

I’ll catch up with this slider later in the season.

We still have two Hooded Mergansers using the Wetlands, a male and a female. I usually see the last of the mergs at the end of March or sometimes lingering into the first weeks of April. I, we all here at the Museum, were hoping that a pair would stay and nest in the nest boxes erected for that purpose in the Wetlands. None have taken advantage of the invite. The prospects don’t look good for the two remaining mergs either, the male is a non-breeder still in his immature plumage. He’s probably lingering because he’s not in a hurry to go anywhere, no need to rush home if there’s no one there waiting for you.

Not a great shot, but one that shows the young male and female in the same frame. The male is in the foreground (note the light eye and dark bill).

Our pair of Eastern Phoebes were also seen together this week. Here’s a shot of them out hawking insects amongst the willows.

Two of our Eastern Phoebes share an insect hunt in the Wetlands.

Our resident female Belted Kingfisher may be off tending to nesting duties. Lately, I’ve only seen a male coming to fish.

A male Belted Kingfisher has taken over the fishing duties for our female.

While watching this male the other day, he happened to tilt his head to the side and stare at something flying overhead. I naturally looked up as well, to see what he was looking at. There, soaring above was a Cooper’s Hawk. Thanks for the heads-up, kingfisher!

A Cooper’s Hawk soars above Explore the Wild.

I’ve seen Cooper’s hawks often this past month, heard one calling from the pines north of the Wetlands, and have seen one performing its courtship display overhead with its deep, slow exaggerated wing flaps. They most surely are nesting again in the north pines.

Well, I guess that’s about it for now. But wait, one more shot from the Red Wolf Enclosure.

Our male stares over at something he hears off in the distance.

Have a good one!


4 responses to Spring Update

  1. Sarah Van de Berg says:

    The phoebes have been hunting in force the last few afternoons over the wetlands and I was surprised to see an American Redstart bug hunting near them yesterday. It seemed a bit early for the Redstarts to be showing up, but this one was pretty young (still had a dark head) and maybe just passing through sooner than the others.

    • Greg Dodge says:

      Your right, the Phoebes have been busy, and the Butter-Butts have been hawking insect as well. They, the warblers, have pretty much eaten all of the wax myrtle fruit and have been almost exclusively flycatching.
      Am redstarts are listed as Very Rare in March but things are moving through despite the cool weather. I saw a rough-winged swallow the other day and heard a Blue-headed Vireo this past Friday. Oh yeah, saw an Osprey go over yesterday.

  2. judy Overby says:

    I spotted Zebra Swallowtails on March 25 last year (one year ago today). Have you seen any Zebras?

    • Greg Dodge says:

      No Judy, I have not seen any Zebras yet. No swallowtails yet, just the anglewings, a sulphur or two and the orangetips.
      I’ve only seen one damslefly, and no American Toads yet! They’re behind schedule too!
      But you know what, in a week or two everything will break loose and we’ll forget all about this late start, I hope.

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