Monday, May 23, 2016

Spring marches along

By Beth Sullivan
While the Connecticut College projects took over the blog this spring, the season bumped along, and not very smoothly. Anybody who is a “phenologist”( one who watches the chronology of seasonal occurrences) has surely been keeping tabs on things this very irregular spring. Warmer winter, short hard cold spell, intense warm up, then cold again…it wreaked havoc on flower buds, insects and ultimately bird survival. In the short term insectivores have been terribly stressed. In the long term, another year of lost fruit and berries due to spring blossom freeze will extend the stress well into the fall.
At Continental Marsh, the Ospreys have adopted the new platform 

Some interesting observations over the last erratic weeks:

Hummingbirds: The Ruby –throated hummingbirds arrived right on time, even a hair early this year. I had been concerned that the flowers had begun to blossom too soon with that early warm spell, but when these fellows arrived, the Quince was just beginning to open. However the feeders we put out seemed very welcome, especially in the cold chill that followed. It takes a lot of nectar or sugar water to keep those little fires stoked. Remember to plant red flowers and get out those annuals to give them a boost in the coming weeks.
Quince is a favored flower of Hummingbirds, but annual hanging baskets of red flowers will happily be accepted.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds appreciate nectar offerings when blossoms are spars.

Purple Martins: They are back at the Knox preserve. At least five adult males, all glossy violet, had been staking out their favored gourds and awaiting the arrival of the females. Then we had the week of terrible cold and rain. Seed eating birds can survive a spell like that, but the aerial insectivores, those who catch and eat insects on the wing like our Martins and Tree Swallows, had a terrible time. All across CT there were reports coming in from Martin caretakers finding dead and dying Martins in their colonies. It is very difficult to feed these birds. Believe it or not, some people resort to tossing mealworms into the air, to get the birds to fly down to catch them. I checked our colony when the cold spell was over and was thrilled to find no fatalities. It was apparent that the birds had huddled in the gourds for warmth. The day we were there, we saw five adult males and one female flying and perching on their homes. We will be watching and hoping later migrant arrivals will settle in.
We set up the housing, birds returned but were severely stressed by bad weather.

Crows: There are two nests within my view. I watch their nest building, and squabbling, and antics. I watch them strut like pompous old men across my lawn looking for edibles. And YES, they do like Cheetos as a recent Audubon article suggested. They also have a strange practice with earthworms. As they walk and look and maybe listen for worms near the surface, you can just see their concentration. I watched as a crow pulled a very long worm out of the ground, but instead of gobbling it down Robin style, it stepped on it, and pulled off the head ( of course I am guessing which end). It then ate that part and left the remainder behind. This happened a great number of times during those last rainy days. On more than one occasion, I observed a Robin follow up and apparently grab the remainders and seem grateful for the easy find.
Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit crows are interesting.

A great time of year, no matter what the weather, as the march through spring continues and offers us so much to enjoy.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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