|Winds and flowers and birds of March|
|Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:14|
by Neil A. Case
It’s a cloudy day, another cloudy day. It’s not just a cloudy day, it’s a dull, dreary day, the clouds a lid covering the sky, one unbroken sheet of gray. The temperature is three degrees below freezing by our outside thermometer but there’s a strong, cold wind and the wind-chill temperature is ten degrees lower, or more.
But wait. Tomorrow or the next day or the next the clouds will be gone. The sky will be blue. The sun will be shining and the temperature will climb to fifty, sixty, maybe even seventy degrees.
It’s March, the windy month and a month of change. There’s change in the weather, often from one day to the next. There’s change in those trees that dropped their leaves last fall. The buds on the silver maples in our yard, the tulip tree and the apple, the walnut out by the barn, the cottonwoods and the willows around the marsh are all swollen and will open before the end of the month. The lilacs will be in bloom by the end of the month.
The grass in the lawn is showing green. I expect to see dandelions in bloom any day. Daffodils are poking up through the dead, brown leaves covering the ground in our flower beds and will be blooming by the end of the month. On the ground beneath the trees of wood lots bloodroot, trillium, trout-lily, hepatica, rue-anemone and many more blossoms are opening, blooming while sunlight still shines through the leafless branches of the trees.
I like to walk in a woods in March. The trees give me shelter from the wind and the flowers are pleasant to see. But it’s birds I want to see and in the woods the most common birds in March are the same birds that I saw there through the winter, many of them the birds that came daily to my bird feeders, chickadees and titmice and white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers.
Most of the early birds of spring, however, the early migrants, are birds of roadsides and fields, wetlands and lakes. They’re birds of weeds and brush and water, red-winged blackbirds and grackles, white- crowned and white-throated and song sparrows, killdeers and ducks.
Robins and bluebirds are early spring birds too, of course, and since they are often seen near our homes even non-birders watch for them and regard them as signs of spring.
The earliest flowers to bloom in spring open their blossoms in February. The earliest birds to arrive from wintering grounds farther south appear in February. But it’s March when the wind blows daily and the weather changes almost daily that every day I go outside and drive along country roads or hike a trail through a woods or visit a lake or marsh I expect to see more flowers, more birds.
I expect to hear more birds too. That’s because there are more birds than there have been through the winter but it’s also because birds are singing more now. The males are establishing territories. Many are singing to attract mates. Male cardinals have been silent through the winter but they’re now whistling to the dawn, even on cloudy days. Male redwings are singing. I’ve heard song sparrows singing.
Every day I go out in March I anticipate seeing and hearing birds I haven’t seen since late last summer or fall. I’ve already seen mallards and hooded mergansers, lesser scaup, ring-necked ducks and shovelers. Before the end of the month I expect to see greater scaup, redheads, canvasbacks, blue- and green-winged teal. There will be more waders, great blue and green herons, spotted sandpipers and other little peeps. There will be yellow warblers and yellow-rumped warblers, precursors of the many species that will appear in April, when the winds and the ups and downs of temperature in March are past.