Monday, February 25, 2013


Mist rising on the Yellow Breeches Creek, Monaghan Township, York County, Pennsylvania
Although the nights are still frosty, spring can’t be far away. In addition to the dead skunk I saw at the end of last week, I can now add groundhog to my 2013 list. They are up and out of their burrows, whether Phil saw his shadow or not on Groundhog Day.

The countryside is not, to my eye, very attractive at the moment. November is just as brown but has an advantage of not yet having been beaten down by winter snow and rain. Everywhere I look the landscape seems twisted and dull, dull, dull. It’s still too early for even the moss to turn green. Skunk cabbage isn’t up yet here, either, though I’m sure that’s getting close.

Sunday was warm and sunny here, and that brought out the first of the migrating vultures, both turkey and black vultures. I saw several groups of turkey vultures and one nice-sized group of black vultures enjoying the thermals the sunshine created. Likely the weather was nice enough to move a few raptors, as well, though I didn’t see any. The first of the spring hawkwatches are already opening, but even they aren’t seeing much other than vultures at the moment.

The landscape feels very “in-between” right now. Winter seems to be fading, but spring isn’t yet here. Snow geese are gathering at Middle Creek Wildlife Area in Kleinfeltersville, Lancaster County, but they don’t stay very long. I likely won’t get there to see them this year, but if you’re nearby don’t miss it. If you’ve never seen tens of thousands of snow geese at once, there is the place. Their arrival is one of the wonders of the natural world, and sound of that many waterfowl is amazing. Best viewing is in the late afternoon until darkness falls. The geese spend the days feasting in the surrounding fields and return to the lake as evening falls. At the moment, their numbers are estimated at 40,000. Some 3000+ tundra swans are also at the site, as well as several thousand Canada geese.


Pablo said...

Huge snow storm here in KC. I think winter isn't done with us.

Carolyn H said...

Pablo: Stay safe during that storm. We're getting rain not snow from it.

Grizz………… said...

It's rainy here today, 37˚F, and might even snow a little bit tomorrow and the day after…but yesterday was bright sun and mid-40s, even more of my crocus came up (only yellow ones so far, which always are the first to bloom) and I swear you could feel spring in the air. The grass is also a tad greener than it was last month, too. So dreary and wet, but not bleak. I guess I'll concur with dull. I haven't spotted one of my backyard groundhogs yet, but that's likely just luck—I've no doubt they've been up and about on the milder days. We really haven't had much winter here. Skunks have been active practically straight through the season. Skunk cabbage began blooming in January—at least 6-7 weeks early in the patches I regularly monitor! I've seen turkey vultures every month, too. I suspect if it turned mild for a few days in a row that half of spring's ephemerals might pop and be gone before April…maybe even mid-March. Frankly, I don't know what to make of the seasons anymore.

Hey, BTW, good bird count interview. I enjoyed it and agree—for me, too, what's interesting is seeing any pattern change over the years at a particular location. That, more than anything, really seems to put into focus the bigger picture re. species, climate, changing habitat, etc.

Finally, you know…I've never seen huge numbers of snow geese. Just passing strings overhead during spring and fall migrations. And it's something I'd really like to witness. Your mention of their gathering at Middle Creek Wildlife area might just be some place to put on my travel plans for next spring—a day driving over, a day around there, a day back. I've stuck a reminder on my calendar for early enough next February to know where my schedule stands and maybe block out a few days to make the trip. I hope I can work it out.

Scott said...

Carolyn: My first groundhog of the year this morning, munching birdseed I had scattered for the juncos.