Photo by Corey Husic

Sunday, February 27, 2011

As February wanes

For some reason, I awoke very early this morning so figured I would get up and be productive.  The past week was incredibly hectic so I have a lot to catch up on.

At , I was treated to a cardinal song.  This was the first time this year that I heard one of the elements of the “Dawn Chorus” that will become much more prominent as we head into spring.  Both male and female cardinals sing, so because it was still dark, I cannot tell you which gender I heard.  But if you are not familiar with the sounds that cardinals make, you can listen to some at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site:  Under “songs”, the second recording is what I heard this morning.

A few minutes later, the crows started squawking.  From a phenology point of view (and aesthetically), this was much less interesting.  Crows are here in Kunkletown all year round and they are routinely noisy.

Starting with fresh snow Sunday night into Monday this past week, the cold returned and I didn’t hear or see very many new signs of spring.  Several people reported that they were seeing chipmunk and skunk activity.  I saw another live skunk last night south of the Kittatinny Ridge.  We have seen raccoons roaming about and their tracks in the remnants of snow in our woods.  And I don’t know about you, but I have seen a lot more deer grazing in fields and along roadside edges lately now that much of the snow has melted.

On the rare occasion that the sun came out recently, I would hear the “Peter, Peter” song of the Tufted titmouse (; recording number 2).  Throughout the winter you can hear their calls (also found at the above link), but as the sun rises higher in the February sky, you will hear these birds begin to sing more frequently.  I am not sure whether they are marking territory, calling for a mate, or just simply celebrating the appearance of the sun!  No matter.  They are fun to listen to.

We are still seeing juncos at our feeders north of the Kittatinny Ridge, but we didn't see any last week in Bethlehem at the Housenick-Johnston Estate when we did a survey for the Great Backyard Bird Count.  Others from the Lehigh Valley reported that they are not seeing them any more either.

We are fortunate to have several resident Pileated Woodpeckers at our farm.  Yesterday was the first time this year that I saw a pair hanging out together.

Near the Bethlehem library, there are several spring flowering cherries and magnolias in the Japanese garden and between the backside of the building and the Monocacy Creek/Fahy Memorial Bridge.  I noticed on Friday that the buds have become more prominent and there is more color in the twigs.  The annual explosion of blossoms is really a lovely sight and maybe it isn’t so far off!

Some people are beginning to send me wonderful messages for this project.  I have included two excerpts:

First, from a new member of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society (LB):

“I'm not much of a blogger (totally new to me!), but I can report that when we had those near-record temps a few days ago, I cleaned out & filled the birdbath and had the delight of seeing a tufted titmouse take the bath of his life! A robin waited in line...I'm always concerned about the wild birds having water...esp. in the winter & for the water-loving robins!  We also winter fed all kinds of birds...juncos, black-capped chickadees, white-throated sparrows, cardinals...the juncos are not appearing in small flocks anymore...are they off to Canada?  I used a feeder this very harsh winter; but otherwise, I'm not a big fan of feeders--they seem unnatural to me in fair weather...but I can see the opposite argument...I DO leave a small pile of peanuts each am on a cafe table (they go neatly & fast) for our wild 'pet' squirrel, who competes with the cardinals and chickadees for them...the squirrel seems to favor one of his front legs (overall he gets around)....Either that or he's Working It! to keep raking in the peanuts!”

The second report comes from a naturalist who lives north of the Lehigh Valley (PK):

“I'm always looking for the signs of spring and beyond. In fact I used to record in a note book the dates of when things started to grow, bloom and go to seed. [DH:  This is exactly the type of data we would love to know about.  Past records are so very important!] I always look for the swelling of maple buds as the beginning of the growing year. I've been noticing that already in the Lehigh Valley. On Friday I heard my first Song Sparrow of the year here in Lansford. Also heard the first Killdeer. One of my favorite things is to lift out the leaf litter to see what’s emerging underneath it. ….In about two weeks the suckers in Tuscarora Lake will start migrating upstream to spawn. It's like seeing Salmon in a way. They actually show breeding colors at this time of the year. Then there's that first warm day when the Wood Frogs start to "quack". I'm looking forward to recording and sharing this data.”

This past Thursday into Friday, we had a lot of rain (over an inch) which has softened up the ground.  Yippee!  It is the start of the “mud season”.  Today, the Lehigh Valley is supposed to have temperatures in the 50’s and on Monday, the forecast is for even warmer temperatures (in the 60’s) and another heavy bout of rain.  Will this be enough to get the salamanders moving?  Stay tuned.  It is likely to be a week of changes so let me know what you are observing.

1 comment:

  1. Coltsfoot was blooming on the south side of the Kittatinny Ridge this afternoon (2/27/11)!