Although at times it doesn’t feel like it, it really is spring. And, this is an update as to some of what has been going on outside here at the Museum during the past spring-like week.
I saw the first of the year Falcate Orangetip on 16 March. They, like the mild spring temperatures, are a bit behind schedule. Last year the first sighting was March 6, the year before it was March 8 before I spied one.
On Tuesday (3/19), I spotted a yellow-bellied slider sitting at the bottom of the bank on the north side of the Wetlands, just barely out of the water. As you may know, I’ve been marking turtles that come ashore to lay eggs, but that doesn’t start till May, this is March. I was a bit surprised but composed myself long enough to make an attempt at capturing the wily turtle. I didn’t have my “marking” equipment with me, but I planned to grab the turtle and bring it to my “marking” equipment.
The turtle wasn’t having it, it plunged back into the water as soon as it became aware of my intentions. Turtles can be swift of foot when need be. I, on the other hand, can be rather clumsy of foot when climbing down embankments, and nearly feel into the water behind the turtle.
“No problem, I’ll catch this slider later,” said I.
The turtle again appeared in the same location later in the day. I let it be. I saw it again the next day. I let it be again. I reasoned that this turtle must simply be basking, not coming ashore to lay eggs as I assumed it to be. Basking spots are at a premium in the Wetlands, very few good spots are available these days due to high water covering the usual spots.
We still have two Hooded Mergansers using the Wetlands, a male and a female. I usually see the last of the mergs at the end of March or sometimes lingering into the first weeks of April. I, we all here at the Museum, were hoping that a pair would stay and nest in the nest boxes erected for that purpose in the Wetlands. None have taken advantage of the invite. The prospects don’t look good for the two remaining mergs either, the male is a non-breeder still in his immature plumage. He’s probably lingering because he’s not in a hurry to go anywhere, no need to rush home if there’s no one there waiting for you.
Our pair of Eastern Phoebes were also seen together this week. Here’s a shot of them out hawking insects amongst the willows.
Our resident female Belted Kingfisher may be off tending to nesting duties. Lately, I’ve only seen a male coming to fish.
While watching this male the other day, he happened to tilt his head to the side and stare at something flying overhead. I naturally looked up as well, to see what he was looking at. There, soaring above was a Cooper’s Hawk. Thanks for the heads-up, kingfisher!
I’ve seen Cooper’s hawks often this past month, heard one calling from the pines north of the Wetlands, and have seen one performing its courtship display overhead with its deep, slow exaggerated wing flaps. They most surely are nesting again in the north pines.
Well, I guess that’s about it for now. But wait, one more shot from the Red Wolf Enclosure.
Have a good one!
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!