Signs of Spring Everywhere
Bill Thrune - USFWS

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Signs of Spring Everywhere

Signs of Spring: March 2, 1998

Red-Winged Blackbirds Arriving
Male Red-winged Blackbirds are now flooding into the Midwest from their wintering grounds in the southern U.S. states. Females will appear about 2 weeks later. Watch the red patches on the male's wings. Count how many times he displays in a 10 minute period--and compare this over the next few weeks. You'll know the females have arrived when these territorial displays intensify.

From Journey North Observers:

02/26/98 Visited two marshes where flocks of red-wing blackbirds are back and singing in Waconia, MN
02/25/98 Red-winged blackbird arrives in Antioch, Illinois, 10 days earlier than last year and the second earliest arrival in 10 years.
02/23/98 Flocks of red-winged blackbirds, tundra swans, individual killdeer widely reported, Belleville, Ontario.
02/23/98 Red-winged blackbirds making lots of noise in landscaped areas in shopping malls in Emeryville, CA
02/25/98 Pussy willows out in school playground, Katonah, NY

Please report the unique sights and sounds of spring from your area.

Signs of spring are showing up everywhere--in backyards, school yards, even shopping mall parking lots! We're eager to hear news from your part of the world, so please report your sightings now. Signs of spring are also in full force on many wildlife refuges and protected areas.

Meanwhile, on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula
ome of the first trans-Gulf migrants are staging before their over-water flight. Mauro Berlanga, biologist from ProNatura Yucatan, in Mexico reports, "We are seeing Wood Warblers, Hooded Warblers, and American Redstarts moving through right now." These and other forest-dwelling migratory songbirds are headed to the northern coast of the Yucatan where they will make one last stop before embarking on non-stop flights over the Gulf of Mexico.

Migration Routes Over and Around the Gulf of Mexico

Map by Carol Gersmehl
Macalester College

Suitable stopover habitat on the Yucatan Peninsula is vitally important for 100's of species of birds which migrate from wintering areas in southern Mexico, Central and South America to the United States and Canada. Mauro explains that important stopover areas for migrating birds on the Yucatan are currently not well defined. Scientists need to quickly obtain much more information on what areas are most important for migrating birds so that these habitats can be protected.

Dave Blankenship, refuge biologist at Santa Ana/Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge reports the first American Redstarts to arrive from the Yucatan at this Texas coastal refuge. "In the past few days, I've also seen Ruby-throats, Buff-bellied, and Rufous Hummingbirds, Nashville warblers, and Common Yellow throats." This is just a first trickle of what will soon be a deluge of migratory birds to arrive at Santa Ana/Lower Rio Grande Valley refuge.

The migrants are exhausted and famished when they first make land fall on the Texas coast. Plant species which provide important food resources for the migrating birds are just now coming into full bloom. Hummingbirds feed on bright red, Turks Cap which is in abundant supply at the refuge. Warblers, and other insect-eating birds feed on the swarms of insects which are attracted to yucca and Huisachi, also just now in full bloom in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

From the numbers of Sandhill Cranes currently moving into the state of Kansas, it looks like an early spring at Quivera National Wildlife Refuge. Sandhill cranes, which generally arrive later in the season, are already growing in numbers at the refuge. Gary "Pete" Megers, crane coordinator for the state of Kansas reports the following crane counts this season.

Cranes Numbers Climbing at Stopover Sight
Quivera National Wildlife Refuge
Stafford, Kansas
Date # Sandhill Cranes
01/20/98 22
02/05/98 280
02/17/98 3,500
02/01/98 1998 Count Coming....(26,500 in 1997!)

The cranes will grow in number at Quivera over the spring. They stop down to feed in fields of corn and milo both inside and outside the refuge boundaries. Last year, a total of 26,500 cranes had arrived at the refuge by March 5, 1997. The numbers of sandhill cranes at Quivera are much greater in the autumn with a whopping 94,000 cranes stopping down during their southward migration.

Refuges are not the only places spring is signaling its beauty and excitement. What signs of spring do you observe? Make sure to record your sightings of the many small spring events occuring in your area in the "Signs of Spring" data base.

The Next Signs of Spring Update Will be Posted on March 16, 1998

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