Nature Notes - Spring Has Sprung
There will be cold days and nights in the coming weeks, but for all intents and purposes, spring is finally here. How do we know? Here at Lake James State Park, the birds are telling us every day of the advancing season. Winter species like dark-eyed juncos, sharp-shinned hawks, buffleheads and common loons are heading north to the breeding grounds while early migrants like tree swallows, purple martins, northern parulas and yellow-throated warblers are starting to arrive. Two of the park’s most impressive birds-of-prey, the bald eagle and great horned owl are already incubating their eggs. The early start to the nesting season is perfectly timed to have the chicks hatching when prey populations (fish for the eagles, small mammals for the owls) are most active.
Park staff and several visitors recently participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count; a joint project with Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society attempting to survey the numbers and species of birds in all habitats throughout the United States and Canada during a 4-day period in mid-February. Here in our neck of the woods, we tallied 35 species, including three brown creepers, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, three red-shouldered hawks and a great blue heron.
In addition to all the colorful feathers decorating the woods, some early spring flowers are blooming. Around the old, abandoned homesites throughout the park, carpets of daffodils have been flowering for weeks – a testament to the loving care with which they were first planted and their ability to adapt to the changing landscape.
The first butterflies and dragonflies of the season are starting to buzz, making this month an excellent period to get out and observe nature coming out of its deep winter slumber.
Hope to see you out on the trail.