Monday, March 5, 2018

The Northward movement

By Beth Sullivan
Migrate: To pass periodically from one region or climate to another, as certain birds, fishes or animals.
March is a month of migration. In many places the process began much earlier and will not stop until everyone or everything is where it’s supposed to be, to breed and raise young, and then it begins all over in reverse.
Now that the day lengths are increasing, and daylight hours are nearly equal to night hours, many creatures are being inspired to make their migration, usually in a northward direction, back “home” here, to where they belong, in our opinion.
In the month of March, I usually begin my list of firsts: things like Peepers and Wood frogs are important firsts. Those are checked off. The first Painted turtles out on a log have been spotted. But they never ventured far. They just stayed down and under all winter. They emerged recently to greet the warmth, but will dig back underground in the face of the cold that is surely coming in this fickle month.
The first Purple Martins have arrived in places like Florida and Texas, but they will not reach here until April. So I don’t get my hopes up for them for a while. You will certainly be getting reports as soon as ours arrive.
Purple Martins have already begun housekeeping in Florida. Photograph by Dennis Main.

March migrants

The migrants of March are the Osprey, the Eastern Phoebe and the Tree Swallows, that I eagerly await. For sure there are many more, but these have always been my true indicators of spring. All three of these arrive within a week, more or less, around the Vernal Equinox- the first day of spring. So much, though, depends on the weather that either assists them or keeps them grounded. If we get a nice southerly flow, they will all catch the wind and arrive earlier. If we continue to be hit with Nor’easter type storms, they will hunker down where they are and wait.
Interesting to note though, even as we eagerly anticipate the first sightings of these new arrivals, we sometimes overlook those migrants who slip away quietly from our area, to return farther north to their own breeding grounds. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the last Hooded Merganser I saw on a cove, or, come later into March and April, when I no longer hear the Juncos twittering in the bushes.
 The bird I really wait for is the osprey, sometimes showing up for St. Patrick's Day.

This Phoebe in Florida, is a real sign of spring in New England, but won't arrive until it warms up and are there are insects to eat. Photograph by Dennis Main.

Tree Swallows will arrive in a few weeks. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Sometimes it's hard to remember when the last Hooded Merganser took off from our icy coves to return north.

Another kind of migrant

There is another interesting group of migrants: people, know as snow-birds - those who leave the colder climates, not necessarily to breed and nest of course, but to escape the cold and enjoy the climate farther south.
What is also pretty funny to think about, is that many of the birds that leave here in the winter, end up in the same area as our snow-bird friends. Those Osprey, Phoebes and Tree Swallows, as well as Egrets, Herons and many Warblers are all down south with our friends and likely will return around the same time.
Also, thanks to population shifts, many southern birds have expanded their range north, so birds such as the Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Red Bellied Woodpecker have only recently, relatively speaking, become established here in Connecticut.
We may never see Wood Storks or White Ibis here in Connecticut, but that’s OK. I am always most eager to see that first Osprey of March and welcome them back to their nests here. And I will look forward to seeing friends return as well.
The Red Bellied Woodpecker only arrived in this area from farther south within the last four decades. Photograph by Dennis Main.

Some birds like these White Ibis, will probably never expand their range this far north, but who knows what climate change will bring. Photograph by Alan Brush.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

No comments:

Post a Comment