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The shortnose sturgeon
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1 May, 2004
What a difference several weeks makes. With the warmer weather, the trees are leafing out, wildflowers are blooming, and many new birds have arrived in the watershed. I refer to this time of the spring as “Green World”. The trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants have that bright greenish yellow color that looks brand new. Here are some highlights from the last few weeks:
During recent trips to Dubuque State Forest in Hawley I saw or heard the following new spring birds: red-shouldered hawk, blue-headed vireo, winter wren, yellow-rumped warbler, black and white warbler, black-throated green warbler, American redstart, scarlet tanager, and swamp sparrow. The scarlet tanager, a male, was in his usual bright crimson red suit with black wings and tail. This male was foraging on or near the ground at a vernal pool. I usually don’t see them so close to the ground. We also saw a very lazy porcupine sleeping in an aspen tree with its feet dangling over the branch. It seemed oblivious to our presence.
We also recently visited some open habitats in Greenfield near the Green River: beaver ponds, hayfields, and riparian forest. We saw some different birds at this site compared to the forests in Hawley: green heron, warbling vireo, Eastern kingbird, blue-winged warbler, yellow warbler, common yellowthroat, Baltimore oriole, song sparrow, and rose-breasted grosbeak.
So, get out there and enjoy the warm
spring weather, and look for all the critters and plants that slither, crawl,
fly, run, and walk, or just stay put.
7 April, 2004
By the middle of February, I start to think about spring and the returning birds and other animals that will soon become active after spending the winter in various states of dormancy (e.g., decreased activity and metabolism). This year, some animals made their appearance right on time while others seemed a bit late. Around the middle of February, we saw our first turkey vultures. Last week a large flock of approximately 80 vultures was soaring over Greenfield center.
Between the end of February and early March, the red-winged blackbirds and common grackles returned. Some of these birds will nest in the watershed and others will continue north. American robins are on the increase, and killdeer and great blue herons have arrived. In the last few weeks, the tree swallows, Eastern phoebes, American woodcocks, and Northern flickers have also come back to the area.
As the ponds, wetlands, and rivers unfreeze, the waterfowl have returned. Look for hooded mergansers, wood ducks, green-winged teal, gadwall, American widgeons, ring-necked ducks, grebes, and others. Some of these birds will breed here, like the wood duck and hooded merganser, whereas others are using these waterbodies as stopovers before returning to breeding sites in the Midwestern and western United States and throughout Canada. Some waterfowl spend the winter in our area as long as there is open water.
If you feed the birds, you may have noticed that the cardinals, song sparrows, white-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, chickadees, and titmice have been singing for awhile. Some of these birds, e.g., those that breed in coniferous forests, will soon leave backyard feeding stations for the Berkshires, Green and White Mountains, or sites further north. Male American goldfinches are losing their drab winter plumage and slowly molting into their handsome, yellow and black suits for spring.
This is also the perfect time to look for the amphibian residents of the watershed. Although it’s been somewhat cold, the wood frogs and spring peepers have been calling from vernal pools and ponds throughout the lower elevations: Deerfield, Greenfield, and Shelburne Falls, and probably other localities as well. If you venture out to your favorite wetland on the next rainy, warm night (mid 40’s or more) you should hear wood frogs and spring peepers calling, and maybe see the spotted salamanders returning to vernal pools to breed.
This week I visited Highland Park in Greenfield. A vernal pool located on a small ridge contained both the jelly-like egg masses of wood frogs and several wood frogs themselves. Later in the week we were treated to choruses of wood frogs and spring peepers during a drive past several wetlands in Deerfield.
As the month of April passes and the weather warms up, many more species will return to the area or leave their dens and over-wintering sites. Here’s a preview of what’s to come (or you may already have been lucky enough to hear or see these critters):
Birds: spotted sandpiper, green heron, osprey, broad-winged hawk, Northern harrier, American kestrel, yellow-bellied sapsucker, blue-headed vireo, house and winter wrens, ruby-crowned kinglet, blue-gray gnatcatcher, hermit thrush, warblers: yellow-rumped, pine, palm, black and white, Louisiana waterthrush; Eastern towhee, sparrows: chipping, field, savannah, and swamp.
first dragonflies, American toads, garter snakes, and bats.
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Updated 3/18/09 by MF Walk DRWA HOME