Time again for my annual “rant” (see link below). Sadly, after reviewing this for the 5th year running, not one word needs to be changed because the status quo on our ignorance of a healthy environment and our role in its degradation continues. Let’s hope for better in 2015 and the potential for this post to at last be retired.
Dear friend, colleague and former college instructor Joe Allen is one of our local Western New York wildlife experts on the Rocky Mountains region. He spent his college years studying in the area and has led many course-based excursions to the Yellowstone region for the University at Buffalo (the photo below was taken during one of those UB trips).
A recent article in the Buffalo News focuses on Joe’s expeditions and the changes in and around Yellowstone as a result of Gray Wolf re-introduction. This Summer, Joe’s trip (sponsored by the University at Buffalo Alumni Association) will be for the general public offering those heading west the opportunity to learn in-depth and in person about the science of apex predators, their prey relationships and the resulting effects on the larger ecosystem. A few spots still remain so anyone interested in Megafauna and Predation in Yellowstone National Park should check out the details by clicking the link above and getting registered. You will NOT be disappointed!
We’re leading a hands-on workshop this Saturday at the Roycroft Campus that will get you safely, effectively and sustainably through this year’s Spring cleaning rituals. There are a few spaces left so register soon!
Although officially the Winter of 2013-14 did not last longer than any other year, perceptually it’s been the longest in memory for most of us here in Western New York. We’re well versed in terms of snow, being prime lake effect snow country, but this Winter’s total snowfall has come in at more than 40 inches above average by my calculations. And the temperatures have been well below normal since mid-January. Plus we experienced two official blizzards in a single season, one just last week, a true anomaly we are told. So it was no surprise this morning to see snow accumulating once again immediately following a few days that truly bespoke of Spring with glorious sunshine and temperatures in the 40s.
Signs of Spring have been around for a few weeks, despite the continued cold and snow. The angle of the Sun becomes more direct initiating hormonal changes in resident birds which prompts the dispersal of Winter flocks, an increase in aggressive territorial behaviors and, of course, singing among the males. Weeping Willow branches have been yellowing up as photosynthesis begins to revive and the Dogwood twigs are reddening, as well. More recently, the scent of Striped Skunk has been on the air after a long Winter pause and, sadly, carcasses of old Pepé and his deep sleeping comrades along roadsides are increasing.
Most telling, however, of Spring’s inevitable arrival came earlier this week when the male Red-winged Blackbirds returned to The Acre trumpeting their presence with choruses of “cock-a lee, cock-a-lee!”. And on the same day, the local herd of White-tailed Deer made a bold appearance behind the house seemingly overtaken by Spring fever given the playfulness they were exhibiting (see video below).
So, as I told the attendees at last Saturday’s “Gardening for Wildlife & You” seminar, Spring will become increasingly more evident – there is no stopping it. It just seems a bit more timid this year than usual. Regardless, we welcome it whole-heartedly here in Western New York.
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I’ve had numerous encounters with Tree Swallows in the five years spent monitoring a nest box trail. These birds are highly defensive when it comes to their nests and will “dive bomb” you without hesitation when you get within 20 feet of the box or cavity. I’ve never been injured by them but Swallows definitely upped their status with me because of their courage and fortitude.
If you’re attempting to create homes for Bluebirds, expect these natives to compete for the nest box. That said, put the boxes up in pairs about 20 feet apart so that both the Tree Swallows and the Bluebirds can be accommodated.
To learn more about Tree Swallows and their Spring migration, listen to this broadcast of BirdNote.
The mysterious loss of Moose along their southern range has wildlife biologists baffled. Some suspect climate change may be at the root of the problem and, if so, will it mean the end to Moose in the lower 48? The video below tells some of this tragic tale.
NOTE: this video is graphic and may upset some viewers.