Phenology Report – Early April 2015
This week we’ve dipped back into winter, and I’m glad for it simply because we need the moisture. We had 4″ of snow on the 6th and 1″ on the 4th. Not much, but each snowfall melts to show just a bit more green. The day before a storm moves in, we often have glorious weather that gets us itching to get outside more.
This has been an incredibly mild winter here and most everywhere I’ve gone in town, people are already talking about the hard summer we’ll face if we end up with a dry spring as well. That, and the consequences of a mild winter – ticks and voles.
The ticks are thicker than I’ve seen in many years – making me choose walks that take me down the middle of a road. But on April 2, arriving like superheros, the Gray-capped Rosy-Finches showed up by the hundreds. The worked the sagebrush, flying over, and I’m hoping – eating the ticks. They would fly in and a few would land, the next landing in front of them, then more landing in front of those – looking like they a giant rolling cloud. Or perhaps a sticky roller – picking up the ticks along the way. They moved in a few times and pretty much covered the area around here – so I’m hopeful that they knocked the ticks down at least a bit. I’ve been seeing them every day or two, so the food supply must be enough to support them.
I’ve also noticed birds following the deer and the elk around – magpies in particular – jumping up and picking off what I assume are ticks. I saw some cowbirds lining a horse’s back in a pasture on the valley floor, so they are back.
The voles are starting to filter into more and more discussions I hear in town. They are thriving and lawns are suffering. The voles are bringing in the raccoons who can dig some pretty large holes going after them as a meal. Between this and the high deer population in town, it might be a lean summer for gardens. After doing a lot of research, my mom and others are resorting to gassing the little buggers.
Before this snow came in, we had a few amazing days of warmth and little wind. We even touched in the 70s out here. I had a chance to simply sit outside for a bit and read in the sun – gathering in a bit of Vitamin D. The plan for the day was to crunch out some work on the computer, but it seems a Canadian Goose hit a power line and the power was out for three hours. Delightful break, but I’m sorry the Goose had to sacrifice him/herself to get it. I also saw my first butterflies as well as some mayflies, thanks to that break.
The bluebirds seem to have sorted out who is going to live where this summer. The pair who won our at our nest box visit every morning and evening, but are gone for much of the day, but the nest building has begun and they are increasingly busy at that task.
One morning this past week, a Kestrel flew by and landed on the fence for a few minutes – the pointed wings shooting past the window caught my attention more than anything. It stayed long enough for me to grab the binoculars and spend a minute or so just appreciating the colors and beautiful markings on it since it was too far away for a photo. I’ve heard they are a sign of a healthy environment, and it is a pretty complete ecosystem around here.
The grouse should be strutting on their leks each morning now, but we’ve yet to get up early to head out to watch them. We’ve especially kept an eye out here near the house because we’ve flushed grouse on numerous occasions, but now that we’re specifically looking for them, we’ve not seen them. And we need to plan a trip to a Sage Grouse lek as well.
The rabbits around our house are also thriving – it’s not uncommon to look out and easily see a half dozen out eating the fresh green grass or sitting against a wind break of some sort, soaking in the warmth. That brought a Golden Eagle in to hunt close to the house one morning, but unfortunately, we didn’t get many shots – just don’t have better lenses, but it was amazing to see this bird up close in the early morning light.
And on Easter morning, a juvenile Red Tailed Hawk spent his time looking for an Easter bunny breakfast. And he had a tag-along Clark’s Nutcracker. Wherever the hawk landed, the nutcracker was a fence pole away. Maybe the nutcrackers are nesting somewhere nearby.
In the last week of March, we heard that someone in the area watched a moose swim across Buffalo Bill Reservoir to the dust abatement dike on the North Fork side, climb up and then settle down for a nap. Also a Grizzly Bear walked all the way down Green Creek to valley floor. A neighbor also reported seeing tracks on a road above their house – so they are out and about.