Photo by Corey Husic

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Earliest Migrants

Although today is only March 1, a number of bird species have started migrating north. Waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans) migration is underway and the earliest songbird migrants will start returning to the region in March. Species such as Fox Sparrows, Eastern Phoebes, Tree Swallows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers usually show up for the first time during this month. American Woodcocks have also been seen and heard displaying in many brushy fields and wet woods in eastern Pennsylvania.

Huge flocks of Snow Geese have been moving north over the past few weeks. Hundreds of thousands of these northern breeders winter in the farm fields in the Lehigh Valley every year and pass through much of northeastern Pennsylvania on their way north. Canada Geese have also been on the move.

Late February marks the beginning of waterfowl migration, which not only includes geese, but also numerous species of ducks like these Common Mergansers.

Wood Ducks are another species that I have noticed returning to the region. This species is a fairly common breeder, but it often disappears during the winter. This male Wood Duck was found in the pond where a Gadwall (left) has spent much of the winter.

While not a bird or much of a migrant, be on the lookout for the Mourning Cloak butterfly over the next few weeks. A few have been sighted during the recent warm days (mostly in the southern counties), but not in large numbers.