Wednesday, March 30, 2011
So the onset of signs of spring has slowed, but I have noticed the higher abundance of robins on lawns (and some in flocks in the woods with an occasional phoebe mixed in which is kind of odd), the slow greening of the grass, my cats are beginning to shed, downy woodpeckers are pairing up, and the serviceberry all of a sudden has enlarged flower buds.
The ornamental cherry trees are blooming in Washington D.C., but in southern Monroe County (PA) we have a ways to go. The buds on my weeping cherry are definitely more prominent and if I brought some branch cuttings into the house in a vase, they would likely open quite quickly. (Add some forsythia branches and you have a lovely spring bouquet.) I mentioned previously the gift of cherry trees from Japan to the city of Bethlehem, and, of course, the trees in D.C. have links to Japan as well. The earliest ones planted were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912 to promote continued good relationships between the two countries. It turns out the cherry blossom time in Japan is also an important seasonal attraction (see http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/seasonal/sakura2010/).
While skimming through a book entitled Phenological Research: Methods for Environmental and Climate Change Analysis last night (Hudson and Keatley, editors, 2010, Springer), I learned that there are records of the dates of cherry tree flowerings in Kyoto, Japan going back to the 9th century! An interesting (and much less technical) article entitled Climate Change and Cherry Tree Blossom Festivals in Japan can be found at http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1893.pdf.
There are still debates as to the scientific rigor of phenology but the rise in the number of peer-reviewed scientific publications in this area over the past few years is extraordinary and represents the growing acceptance of the importance of this field, especially with respect to understanding the impacts of climate change. Personally, I hope that the field doesn’t lose the connection to natural history and culture—aspects that are really appealing to me and hopefully to many of the public volunteers working on phenological research projects!
The public significance of paying attention to seasonal changes was reinforced last night when I noticed on the Weather Channel online (www.weather.com) the first spring warnings for fire risk in the southeastern PA counties and the first notice of a high pollen count (from trees) for the state!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
This was a much nicer surprise this week than the snow and return to winter-like conditions!
Many people wonder what birds like American Robins do when this happens. They congregate in warmer places, where perhaps they can still find invertebrate prey where the sun is warming the soil, but mostly they rely on their emergency rations of sumac berries.
American Robin eating Sumac berries. Photo by Dave Levandusky
All of the plant and insect signs of springs went on hold with the deep freeze. The Milbert’s Tortoiseshells went back into their dormant state and the Red Maple buds stopped swelling. The frogs went back into hiding as well, but there were some signs of spring noted this week in spite of the cold. These had to do with migratory birds.
We heard the first Phoebes singing at Lehigh Gap Nature Center on March 21. These are the first flycatchers to migrate north each spring and usually first arrive in March.
On March 24, after an overnight low in the teens and a temperature reaching about 25ºF by 9:00 a.m., I was surprised to see two Tree Swallows flying around at Lehigh Gap. Each year, a few early Tree Swallows appear, and then disappear again for a time. These are often called “scouts” since they precede the main migration of Tree Swallows.
The migration of birds, more dependent on lengthening daylight hours than on temperature, continued to bring new species. Saturday morning, March 26, we saw the first Osprey of the season hovering over the Lehigh River, just outside the Osprey House, our visitor and education center. While the Tree Swallow scouts certainly had little in the way of flying insect food with a temperature of 25ºF, as long as the water in the river is not frozen, the Osprey can catch fish.
So the birds are telling us it really is spring. Now it is time for the thermometer to agree!
Sunday, March 20, 2011
|Red Maple flower buds -- March 20, 2011 (Photo by Corey Husic)|
Previously, we had only heard spring peepers down the ridge from us near some vernal pools. On Friday, however, I heard them around our property at the top of the ridge and coming from the quarry ponds north of us. Others sent reports saying that they were singing near the Buckwa Creek.
|Some photos of the moss with its sphorophytes (Photos by H. David Husic)|
As I was about to come out of the wooded area of our property, a small bluish butterfly flew by me. It took me a second, but I realized that this was the first sighting of the spring azure, one of our species of interest for the phenology project.
Back in the yard, I noticed that the Pachysandra is just beginning to bloom.
|Pachysandra flower buds (Photo by H. David Husic)|
|Hellebore flower buds emerging (Photo by Corey Husic)|
|The Supermoon of March 19, 2011 (Photo by H. David Husic)|
Phenology is a source of inspiration to some as seen in the Phenology and Place in New Vrindaban blog: http://aruralplace.wordpress.com/about/ and Pinkie’s Parlour (I didn’t name this): http://www.angelfire.com/journal2/flowers/pcd23.html.
Its the beginning of nature and the birth of the new season,
It brings life and renewal back to the cold plains,
Springing buds that will flourish,
Then open in full bloom for summer,
Are all the signs of spring,
With the snow and freeze temperatures,
Turning into cool breezes,
And clear sunny winds blowing,
Knowing its spring again,
Start to diminish in our seasonal affective winter faces,
As the sun shines a bit warmer,
So does the color of our face glow brighter,
And all show well in the spring of their steps,
As even the old can get out some more,
Now spring has arrived with safer passage,
The unwanted items in our homes as we spring clean,
Then there the things to forget or put in the past,
Is in the spring cleaning of our thinking,
To clear our thinking better for a clearer future,
As we forgive and forget,
Forgiving to start anew,
Is the starting again,
Or re birthing the past,
With a new attitude to help,
Its foundations this time round stronger,
Is the time to see how it all begins,
For what is way beneath the ground or hibernating,
In the spring shows itself and nature in it splendor,
For what decays and withers,
The spring shows its second coming,
From what lay beneath the ground all winter,
Springs renews in growth,
And mother nature shows her splendor,
Come the first signs of spring,
We all start feeling somewhat better.
Friday, March 18, 2011
While preparing a class discussion on nature and well-being, I was skimming through Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods and came across the excerpt below written by Wendell Berry. He is lamenting the disconnect between children and nature. One of my goals for this phenology project is to renew an interest in the seasonal changes by having people more closely observe their natural surroundings.
Our children no longer learn how to read
the great Book of Nature
from their own direct experience or how to interact creatively
With the seasonal transformations of the planet.
They seldom learn where their water comes from or where it goes.
We no longer coordinate our human celebration with
the great liturgy of the heavens.
Later in the book is an excerpt from Henry David Thoreau:
Each new year is a surprise to us.
We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird,
and when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream,
reminding us of a previous state of existence…
The voice of nature is always encouraging.
|A better image of the aspen flower (fuzzy ones) and terminal leaf bud|
(Photos by H. David Husic on 3/17/11)
|At this stage, the buds remind me of paint brush tips!|
Yesterday, there were reports of people seeing and hearing the first Eastern Phoebes in the state for 2011. These are the earliest flycatchers to return to the area and one of my favorite birds. Their characteristic emphatic call is their name ("phee bee") and their behaviors of tail wagging and flying out to catch insects and returning to the same perch are fun to watch.
|Eastern Phoebe (Photo by John Wasilosky)|
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I also noted that the coltsfoot on our driveway bloomed today. Here's a photo of some of the blooms. The name coltsfoot comes from the leaves that will grow later at the base of the flower stalk, but for now, the blossoms emerge straight from the roots without any above ground plant to support them.
|Coltsfoot (photo by D. Kunkle)|
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
|Aspen "fuzzy" buds that will soon be catkins |
(I will try to get a better picture tomorrow when the light is better)
|The same aspen terminal branch (different exposure) showing leaf buds|
|Aspen - the flower buds are new quite obvious in the profile against the late day sky|
Saturday, March 12, 2011
As we approach spring, large geese flocks head north. Today I witnessed several large flocks of Canada and Snow Geese.
With the relatively warm temperatures, butterflies have emerged! I found my first butterfly of the year today, a Mourning Cloak that was wandering through the woods. I also saw other insects such as stoneflies, moths, and green stinkbugs flying around during the warmest portion of the day.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Listen to a recording of this bird here:
If you here this sound, please send the observation information to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, March 3, 2011
- 4 bluebirds observed scouting nesting sites in Lehigh Township - first to return
- Flock of 37 robins observed in field in Lehigh Township and 2 smaller flocks in Northampton County
- First crocus - also in Lehigh Township
- Turkey Vultures are showing up in Shickshinny
- Red-winged Blackbird in White Haven
- Immature and adult Bald Eagles in Luzerne County
- Turkey and Black Vultures in Luzerne County
- The northern counties are reporting snowbirds and redpolls but also gray squirrel activity
- The Dark-eyed Juncos are still around in Wilkes Barre
From out and about on 3/3/11:
- The first crocus flower buds in Kunkletown (southwest facing exposure near the house). I was surprised by these!
- A lot of grackles on wires and flying around near the quarry off Airport Road a few miles north of the airport
- Large flocks of Canada and snow geese flying every which way in Northampton County and southern Monroe County
|The first crocus flower buds of the season in Kunketown -|
unfortunately surrounded by new garlic mustard leaves. With spring
comes weeding and invasives removal! (Photo by H.David Husic)
|I love the buttery color of this variety of crocus |
(Photo by H. David Husic)
|Dark-eyed Junco (Photo by John Wasilosky)|
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Last Wednesday, February 23, with the temperature a bone chilling 13 degrees produced a surprising sign -- Northern Cardinals singing on territories in the residential area. Monday at Lehigh Gap we saw three adult Bald Eagles along the Lehigh River, most likely northbound migrants. Yesterday, the high-flying flocks of Canada Geese with the vs pointed north were another sign. This morning, the birds gave me more cause for anticipation of warmer weather (in spite of the 19 degree temperature).
It was clear as the sun began to rise this morning and the birds were in full song. I heard many of our year-round residents in full song including Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, House Finch, Blue Jay, and Carolina Wren. One new sound was the "whinnying" call of several American Robins. But then as I walked along the farm lane, I heard an almost imperceptible sound at first, then the unmistakable "Conk-la-ree" songs of Red-winged Blackbirds spaced evenly around the fence rows surrounding the field I was walking through. When I reached the barn at the end of the lane, a handsome male Red-wing flew into a Butternut tree and sang his heart out.
As I returned home, one last bird gave me a clue to spring's proximity. Eastern Bluebirds, just two days ago appearing in my yard in a flock, with some singing, were today spread our in various places, seemingly dividing up into territories, with each one singing.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
|American Robin (Photo by John Wasilowsky)|
The ice on the local ponds is receding and it won’t be long until we see the flower buds on spicebush.
|Spicebush (Photo by Dan Kunkle)|