April 1, 2011

April fools snow and a mix of April birds

These April fools snow storms are cruel reminders that spring and winter can coexist here in New England. The tulips and crocuses are up, jelly beans are on store shelves, and yet snow plows still roam the streets like rusty Scrooges stealing Christmas cheer. This strange crossover period exists in the bird world too. Watch for both Dark-eyed juncos and Red-winged blackbirds feeding side by side under feeders. Wintering Bald eagles perch like snow balls in the evergreens above lakes, and winter travelers like Common mergansers and Goldeneye fish in the open water while reluctant refugees like Eastern phoebes and Tree swallows dart about the shore. This mix of eagles at the end of their stay, migrating ducks, and early spring arrivals all coexists for a few weeks in these snow clad and drippy first days of April, a dreary though interesting mix of travelers crossing paths in the night.

Reading bird "range maps" can be like a visual timeline of arrivals and departures from New England. Blue equates to winter and orange to summer. Look for the progression of change in these maps for the species mentioned above.     

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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

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