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Nature Journal

Notes about birds, mammals, wildflowers, insects, and more
 
   
   
  Friday, April 9, 2004
   
  Yesterday, I heard my first phoebe singing its spring song. The coltsfoot, whose flower somewhat resembles a dandelion, has started to bloom.

Also saw the first Mourning Cloak butterflies of the year and my first Compton Tortoiseshell ever (95% sure on this one). Along with the other physical characteristics, I think the white patches on its wings make for almost a positive identification, but I could be wrong.

Today, as I was walking, I heard the whirring of wings and looked to see a ruffed grouse flying away. I often see them in that particular area around this time of year. I think it could be a nesting site.

And, contrary to yesterday, the Mourning Cloaks were no longer flying today. I saw one on the ground (with its wings closed) and tried to get close enough to get a photo. I realized that it was unaware of me - it didn't fly no matter how close I got.

I saw another one a little further along, sitting absolutely still like the first. I think maybe the cooler weather made them go into a temporary state of dormancy or hibernation.
   
   
  Tuesday, April 6, 2004
   
  Eastern ChipmunkWhere are the chipmunks? They came out of their dens briefly during a warm spell at the end of February, but I haven't seen or heard a single one since then - not near the house or in the woods.
 
  We've had some very warm weather
in the past few weeks (except the last
couple of days), so I expected they'd be
out and about by now. I miss 'em.

Today I saw a golden-crowned kinglet flitting around in a tree, a tufted titmouse foraging on the ground, and a flock of juncos gathering grit (or something...) from my driveway.
   
   
  Saturday, April 3, 2004
   
  Today I heard a great blue heron flying by - maybe heading to a pond about 5 miles further north. A couple of years ago, some people who live on that pond said they'd seen a great blue heron arrive on the same day that I saw one flying north from here.

The deer have been around quite a bit lately. My "local" doe and her yearling are looking a little thin. The buck who I've been seeing near the house is looking better nourished.

Nutritionally, this is the hardest time of year for the deer. They've used up their winter reserves of fat and are eagerly seeking out green vegetation such as grasses and evergreen ferns. They also relish acorns and beechnuts remaining from last fall.
   
   
  Wednesday, March 31, 2004
   
  Yesterday evening, I saw the American woodcock's courtship display for the first time. I followed the sound of the "peenting" until I located the field that the woodcock was in. At first, I could hear "peent" calls and hear the whistling of its
  wings, but couldn't see the bird itself.

I managed to maneuver myself into the middle of the area where it was displaying. Then I got some good looks at take-offs and landings. It would launch into the air at about a 45-degree angle to the ground. As it flew upward, I would lose sight of it - partly due to the oncoming darkness and partly due to the distance.

Then I'd hear the whistling of its wings as it circled around. For a brief period before it landed, the woodcock made a series of chirping sounds.

At one point, it landed about 10 feet from me. Then I noticed for the first time that it makes a kind of gurgling sound before each "peent" call.

Needless to say, I was excited to have this opportunity to see some parts of the woodcock's courtship flight. Hopefully, I'll get a better look the next time.
   
   
  Sunday, March 28, 2004
   
 

I heard some geese fly by the other night. And yesterday a flock went by during the day. With this warmer weather, the pace may pick up a bit.

Yesterday, I heard the "peenting" of an American woodcock during the early afternoon. Later, just before dusk, I heard two woodcocks "peenting." They seemed to be calling back and forth.

It might have been two males declaring their territory. My sources say that females also occasionally use the "peent" call, so it could have been a male and female.

   
   
  Thursday, March 25, 2004
   
  Whitetail BuckI've noticed that the deer are beginning to travel in larger groups now. I saw a group of six deer yesterday - including the deer in this photo.

After looking at some close-ups of this deer's head, I think that it's a
  buck - probably the same buck that I've been seeing near the house throughout the winter.

And today I came across a flock of about 8 bluebirds feeding on some sumac fruit. What a pretty sight!
   
   
  Monday, March 22, 2004
   
  I was out for a walk today and suddenly a robin flew out of a sumac tree right next to me. I looked over and saw a whole flock of robins feeding on the sumac fruit. Of course, as soon as I turned my head, they all flew away.

Surprisingly, as I stood there, a couple of robins came back and started warily feeding again. Now that there's snow on the ground again, the robins have to depend on fruit to sustain them. Fortunately, the sumacs still have quite a bit of fruit left on them from last summer.
   
   
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