Nature Notes

1) Our first flower of the year bloomed two days ago. I found a tiny white crocus wavering in the chilly breeze under the tree by the mailbox. Then Jack asked for it, ran to give it to The Man, and accidentally sent Jenny off in a howling fit of flower-induced terror in the stroller. Goodbye little crocus, and apologies for your short rude life.

2) There are many more hawks here than there were by Fort Bragg. I rarely drive anywhere without spotting one perched on a telephone pole or hopping after prey in a ditch. They stick around through the winter which added nice variety in the frozen landscape. Starting this week I’ve been seeing them in pairs instead of alone. Mating season must have started. Do hawks stay together until their fledglings leave the nest? Is there a specific name for baby hawks? Something to research.

3) I didn’t really notice the absence of bird song in the winter but suddenly it’s back. The morning chorus swelled to a chirping roar outside my window at 6:15 this morning. I only know a small handful of bird calls so I don’t know what visitors we had. I never really thought about the purpose of the dawn chorus beyond the fact that birds wake up and start talking. Funnily enough, I learned about it while reading our nature study book with the twins. The dawn chorus is most noticeable in spring after migrating birds reach their breeding territory. The low light of early morning is not a great time for foraging, and wind currents for flight and migration generally pick up later in the day. However, calls travel clearly in the still morning air to warn off competitors and attract the attention of a mate. When I researched it I found a few other fun details. The same species tend to kick off their chorus together at the same time each day. Different species each have their own time. It’s thought the chorus is triggered by light; a study in Ecuador found that birds species who congregate higher in trees and those with bigger eyes tended to kick off the chorus first due to earlier perception of light.

4) It’s fun when the massive flocks of migrating birds pass through. One moment the trees are bare and the next our yard is covered with thousands of birds. The kids love it, although Jenny, who has only seen Canadian Geese all winter now calls every bird from robin to cardinal a goose. I’m not positive but think we’ve been seeing starlings with their murmuration flight pattern. YouTube it if that’s unfamiliar – it’s mesmerizing. Do other species of birds share that flight pattern? While googling starlings I found this funny tidbit from Wikipedia

“After two failed attempts, about 60 common starlings were released in 1890 into New York’s Central Park by Eugene Schieffelin. He was president of the American Acclimatization Society, which tried to introduce every bird species mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare into North America.”

Who up and decides to modify the ecology of a continent based on Shakespeare?

5) Many of our trees and bushes have been covered in buds for a month but none have started to leaf or bloom. We need to follow up on our crabapples. Supposedly they have some kind of fungal tree disease that kills off most of the leaves and flowers. We’d hate to lose the trees, and I’m afraid my cheapness and procrastination could result in that.

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4 thoughts on “Nature Notes

  1. Pingback: Spring and the Infectious Diseases Ward | Yellow Pencil Stub

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