Spring Natural Events
We hope this calendar encourages you to come up often and explore the trails! Dates are approximate; a hurricane or early frost may shift the schedule! Collecting animals (including insects) and picking/digging out plants are not permitted.
Last Two Weeks of MarchAmerican Robins should be on your lawn by now. As soon as Pfister’s Pond is ice-free, look for Ring-necked Duck, Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Mallards, and Canada Geese. A gray-brown, sparrow-sized bird perched on the buttonbush in Pfister’s Pond, tail a-wagging, it’s likely to be an Eastern Phoebe. This drab but jaunty flycatcher also sort of sings his name: “Fee-bree, Free-bidit” Also look near the Education Pavilion, where phoebes nested the past two years.
Look for the maroon-spotted green hoods of Skunk Cabbage flowers near the stream along the lower Red Trail.
Before many migrant birds appear, the amphibians & reptiles begin to emerge from their winter torpor. Listen for the shrill choruses of Spring Peepers and the flat quacking of Wood Frogs around the pond and vernal pools. Binoculars make it easy to spot the shiny black carapaces of Eastern Painted Turtles as they bask around the pond. Go slowly and quietly and make it a contest to see who can spot the most! Garter & Ring-necked Snakes may be seen if you are sharp-eyed.
First Two Weeks of AprilYellow borders on dark brown wings make the Mourning Cloak butterfly hard to miss as they fly up from the trails. They are joined now by tiny Spring Azures (pale blue). Wood Frogs start their soft quacking calls in vernal pools. Look for the delicate white petals of Bloodroot in front of the Redfield Building. On the lower section of the Red Trail, the first yellow Trout Lily blooms should appear late in this period. This is a good time to look for migrant Pied-billed Grebes, Ring-necked Ducks, and the nests of Canada Geese. Belted Kingfisher and Great Blue Heron appear on the pond.
Last Two Weeks of AprilStand quietly near any vernal pool and you may be rewarded with the loud, shrill chorus of Spring Peepers. At times from the floating dock they can be almost deafening!
Look for the white blossoms of Shadbush (a small tree) along the DeFilippi boardwalk. The Red Trail has the best wildflower display. Spring Beauty, with grass-like leaves and white, pink-lined flowers, and the tiny white umbels of Dwarf Ginseng join scores of Trout Lilies and Purple Violets. You may see the tiny, four-petaled white blossoms of Garlic Mustard. Volunteers to pull this invasive alien are welcome!
During the last few days of the month, Common Yellowthroats chat from the buttonbushes of Pfister’s Pond, and zebra-striped Black & White Warblers zigzag nuthatch-like on tree trunks. Catbirds, Baltimore Orioles, and House Wrens arrive.
First Two Weeks of MayBirders, botanists, & naturalists of every stripe wish this could be a two-week holiday! Each day brings new flowers, birds just arrived from the tropics, and a flush of scents, sounds and colors to delight our senses. Weather patterns determine when the best “waves” of migrant warblers will occur. Mornings are bestundefinedbe a few minutes late to work! Come a few times and you should see 20 or more species of warblers, plus Scarlet Tanagers, vireos, thrushes, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and more! Arriving male Baltimore Orioles chase each other, oblivious to people.
As the Trout Lilies, Dwarf Ginseng, and Spring Beauties start to fade, Canada Mayflower, May-apple, Solomon’s-Seal, and Wild Geranium come in to their own. Look now also for the Pink Lady’s-slipper, one of our few local orchids.
Last Two Weeks of MayA few days either side of Memorial Day, thousands of tiny green caterpillars parachute down from the trees on silken threads. Scores of Cedar Waxwings appear as if by magic to eat as many as they can! If you are lucky, you may hear the rolling trills of Mourning Warblers and the “quick, free BEER” of an Olive-sided Flycatcher, as these late migrants pass through.
The white sprays of False Solomon’s-Seal can be seen along all the trails.
First Two Weeks of JuneDragonflies and damselflies are now conspicuous over Pfister’s Pond. Now is the time to look for some of the 50 species of birds that nest at TNC. Signs of breeding include adults carrying food in their bill (rather than eating it), or carrying white fecal sacs away from the nest. Many species will have fledged young, so listen for begging calls (they go on, and on) and you may see the parents feed their fledglings
To hear Bullfrogs at their loudest, be at the pond (and very quiet) just before dusk. Score in chorus can be almost deafening. Only when the Bullfrogs get quiet down will you hear the flat, banjo-like twang of the smaller Green Frogs.
Summer “officially” begins on June 21. Enjoy it!