A Week of Wildlife

The first week of spring, though it had its ups and downs weather-wise, brought with it some exciting wildlife sightings that reminded me that even subtle changes in light, temperature, humidity, plant growth etc. trigger changes in animal behavior and distribution.

The first skunk of 2014.

The first skunk of 2014.

This past week, the first red-winged black birds, brown-headed cowbirds and common grackles arrived at my bird feeders. We heard our first wood cock of the season as well. Reports of black bear activity, prompted us to start bringing in our bird feeders at night. One night, as we prepared to do so, we encountered our first (very white!) skunk of the season, foraging for seeds around the feeder poles. It returned a couple of nights later for more!

A yellow-spotted salamander migrating to a vernal pool.

A yellow-spotted salamander migrating to a vernal pool.

On Friday March 28, I got a call that the annual migration of spotted salamanders, wood frogs and other amphibians was anticipated to begin on this warm, wet night.  I spent a couple of hours with close to 50 other volunteers, monitoring the road around the tunnels on Henry St. in Amherst, where we saw a few yellow-spotted salamanders, wood frogs and spring peepers begin to make their way to the vernal pools on the opposite side of the road.

Finally, this morning while I watched sleet and snow coat the ground, ushering March out like a lion rather than like a lamb, a beautiful male cardinal collided with our sliding glass doors, despite the many hawk silouettes we have up to prevent this.  He flew off a short distance into the middle of the yard, and proceeded to roll over on his side, clearly stunned.  We quickly scooped him up into a box and brought him inside to recover in warmth and safety.  Within 15 minutes, he was alert and active again, and we released him back outside, where he promptly returned to gobble down the seeds at our feeders.

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These early wildlife encounters are the harbingers of spring for me, regardless of what the weather may be doing. I look forward to many more as the spring progresses.

 

 

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