Monday, March 31, 2014

April Phenology

Spring turkey - Conservationist, Noppadol Paothong
Phenology - the scientific study of periodic biological phenomena.

April is the time when the woods and fields come back alive.  After months of few new findings on a hike, all of a sudden everything is new as dormant life awakens and fertility cycles begin again.  Turkey are out everywhere, gobbling confidently in the knowledge that they are safe until youth season begins April 12th.

Belted kingfisher- Joe Motto
The belted kingfisher, a small bird with attitude and a bad haircut, began its loud chattering patrols up and down the creek last week, proclaiming its dominance to all within half a mile.  Birds of Missouri lists it as uncommon but we always have a pair taking possession on low slung branches above the shallow stretches of the creek.

Eastern tent caterpillar egg case
Eastern tent caterpillars will emerge from their egg cases which encircle the branches of our plum trees, ready to start building their web-like homes.  These will protect them by creating many layers of walls, insulating them against the cold.  Look for the cases and you will soon see tiny holes appearing before you will find the caterpillars.  Their host trees flowers will be the first to bloom along our drive.

Hummingbirds will start arriving any day now.  They will be hungry from their trip back from their wintering grounds in Central America and most will be moving on after fueling up.  Even though it was blustery today, we have loaded up the bird feeders, as there won't be many other nectar sources around for a while.  They can also feed on tree sap and flying insects but both are hard to come by.

Coldblooded reptiles begin to emerge when the average temperature suits them.  You will need to drive carefully on the country roads as turtles begin crossing them in their hazardous search for mates.  Also watch your step as copperheads will be emerging from their dens.  They are just minding their own business and you are too big for them to eat so consider letting them alone unless they are around your house.

Copperhead - Mark Bower  
Serviceberry blossom - Wikimedia
Dogwoods will soon be in bloom, preceded by the delicate white serviceberry blossoms.  Nearer to urban areas you will probably see the early blossoms of Bradford pear trees and their invasive callery pear offspring, a reminder to plant native species in their place.

One final annual April event; the black vultures are brooding in our old barn.  After four years of observing them, they look bored when I open the door to the stall.  Today I waited at the open door for several minutes before she stood up to show me the eggs.

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