Springtime brings its own music to our days with a dawn chorus of numerous native birds. This annual songfest can begin as early as 4:00 a.m. and last several hours. Once the light begins to show, both males and females begin to forage for food. While birds sing at any time of day, during the dawn chorus their songs are usually more frequent, louder, and lively. Early morning songs signify the marking and warnings of territories, but as light appears, the songs become more of a courtship serenade. The females will choose a mate on how well he sings, an indication of how fit the males are and whether or not they will have the best genes for their offsprings survival.
For kids: Why Do Birds Sing at Dawn?
Although the robin’s return is a traditional sign of Spring, another one, the woodchuck who visited us this week, reminded me of the myth of Groundhog’s Day on February 2. Old Punxsutawney Phil would not willingly wake up that early in the year! Woodchucks are true hibernators. Burrowed deep in their dens, they hibernate from October through March and do not wake up during this time. Their body temperature lowers to 40°F from 99°F, and their heart rate drops from 100 beats to 4 beats a minute!
In their own time, woodchucks will know when they’re ready to greet Spring. This week’s visitor showed us, it’s time.
For kids: Facts about Groundhogs
Spring is Here! March 20, 2021 at 5:37 a.m., marked the first day of Spring as well as the Spring aka Vernal equinox. This annual event is when the sun heads north and crosses the equator. As a result, this shift causes the northern hemisphere to tilt more towards the sun giving us increased daylight hours and warmer temperatures. After a long, bitterly cold New Hampshire winter, Spring brings a welcome respite! Note: The name vernal equinox signifies equal hours of daylight and night in Spring.
For more in-depth information:
Kids: Happy Equinox!
These past few weeks, we’ve been observing huge flocks of common redpolls and pine siskins devouring the seeds at our feeders. What’s amazing is how far north these tiny birds migrate each year for their breeding season and the fact they are not always common visitors here in Gilford.
Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, Red-Breasted nuthatches and others are considered to be Irruptive.
Irruptions reflects the erratic winter movements of native birds, where northern wintering birds move into more southern parts of the continent, when there is low food availability. Not sure how much longer they will be here as Spring and breeding season is right around the corner. In the meantime, we are enjoying the avian airshow.
Note: Bird in picture is female Common Redpoll
The last full gorgeous moon in February is known as the Snow Moon. The one before that was the Wolf Moon and the next one on March 28th is the Worm Moon. Did you ever wonder who came up with the unusual names for our full Moons?
For centuries, humans have used the movement of the moon to set their schedules for planting, harvesting, and hunting. The unique names were derived from nature reflecting either the animals, plants or weather of that month. The Worm Moon received its moniker from the Native Americans after the trails worms made in newly thawed snow. It is also known as Chaste Moon, Death Moon, Crust Moon and Sap Moon.
According to NASA: Moons of 2021
January 28: Wolf Moon; February 27: Snow Moon; March 28: Worm Moon; April 26: Pink Moon; May 26: Flower Moon; June 24: Strawberry Moon; July 23: Buck Moon; August 22: Sturgeon Moon; September 20: Corn Moon; October 20: Harvest Moon; November 19: Beaver Moon; December 18: Cold Moon
For more information
Kids corner: Moon
There are nine different types of woodpeckers living in New England (Black-backed, Downy, Hairy, Northern Flicker, Pileated, Red-bellied, Red-headed, Three-toed and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker) and these remarkable birds share some unusual characteristics and behaviors. In today’s and next week’s Nature Corner, we’ll share some fun and interesting facts.
1.Woodpeckers have furry noses! Their nostrils are actually covered in feathers. This is a practical adaptation that keeps the dust and splinters of wood out while they are pecking.
2. Woodpeckers all have strong tail feathers designed to help them brace against a tree.
3. They have four toes, the first and the fourth facing backward and the second and third facing forward. This arrangement helps them to securely grasp the branch or tree trunk.
4. Woodpeckers like moving to new places. After drilling and creating a new home, it is usually abandoned the following year. This is a gift to cavity-nesting birds like chickadees, nuthatches, bluebirds, wrens and flycatchers.
For more in-depth information on the New England Woodpeckers:
On these bitterly cold, winter days, ever wonder how birds can survive in frigid temperatures? Especially, when considering that birds’ metabolic rates are much higher than ours and they have to burn more energy to keep warm.
Three main ways: Shiver, Fluff, Snuggle, Slow down
1. Shiver: Just like us, they shiver. In shivering, nerve impulses from the hypothalamus are sent to the skeletal muscles, bringing rapid contractions to generate heat, raising the body temperature.
2. Fluff: By fluffing their feathers, birds stay warm by trapping pockets of air around their bodies. The act of preening (cleaning) their feathers helps to keep them water resistant (with help from a special oil) and gives them a warm, inner layer.
3. Snuggle: small birds will cuddle together in shrubs, vines, and evergreen trees to share body warmth. Other birds who nest in cavities, like nuthatches, titmice and downy woodpeckers will use tree cavities and nest boxes to stay warm.
4. Slow down: Birds can also slow down their metabolic rate to conserve energy.
How can we help?
1. Provide high energy food like suet, peanuts and black oil sunflower seeds.
2. Install a heated bird bath helping to keep birds hydrated.
3. Shelter can be provided with roosting boxes.
4. Plant native species of fruit-bearing trees.
A common, feathered visitor to our feeders is the Tufted titmouse. Like its cousin the chickadee, it’s noisy, social and not timid around humans. Non-migratory, it will spend its life usually within two miles of its nesting site and will usually mate for life.
It’s distinctive call (“peter, peter, peter”) serves two main objectives. It will sound the avian alarm when predators are around and will often lead an attack to chase them away. The tufted titmouse will also lead mixed species (chickadees, nuthatches, down woodpeckers and kinglets) to food sources. Curious on how it got its name? The name derives from two ancient Anglo-Saxon root words — “tit,” "something small”l. And “mouse,” from a word applied to any small bird, as well as a mouse.
For more information on this small, lively wonder and hear its song:
For kids: Paru Bicolor - for kids
Got the mid-winter blues at your feeders? A common sight during the winter, are blue jays. Blue jays, who like their cousins the crows and ravens, belong to the Corvidae family, and are known for their distinctive color and markings, raucous calls, and intelligence. They form strong communities and will often flock together. Blue jays are skilled mimics and will imitate hawks as warnings, and will “mob” together to scare off a predator such as an owl. Some blue jays will migrate, others will stay and there doesn’t seem to be a particular pattern. Blue jays will often mate for life, staying together all year round, sharing parenting of their young. Blue jays LOVE acorns, and have been given credit for helping propagate oak trees during the final ice age. At feeders, they prefer suet and sunflower seeds.
On a Winter’s day, we are delighted when we see a brilliant flash of red against the snowy backdrop. The unmistakable Northern Cardinal , with its show stopping colors, does not migrate, and unlike other birds, does not molt into a duller plumage. Paired cardinals might stay together until Spring, but up to 20% find another mate.
Cardinals will sometimes gather in groups during the winter, and at feeders, seem to prefer black oil sunflower seeds. This beloved bird, is the state bird for seven different states, and has been a meaningful symbol across different cultures.
One interesting site to explore these meanings: Meaning of A Cardinal
For more information on this beautiful bird.
Adults: Northern Cardinal