Jeff Green | Mar 17, 2005
Nature Reflections March 10, 2005LAND O' LAKES NewsWeb Home
Contact UsThe Month of March
The month of March can be many different things to different people - I had a friend tell me the other day that she didnt like March because it seemed so long and so dreary. Others looking toward spring use it as a time to start indoor seedlings, and, in other ways, prepare for summer. School children look forward to March break. Weather watchers hope for it to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.
But what do the birds and animals do in March? As the weather warms the ground, the first amorous male Groundhogs will make their first forays out of their winter den. Before the snow had disappeared you may see evidence of this by their tracks around the dens entrance. The Red Fox has already met up with his mate, and the female fox has probably already chosen the den and is waiting for the birth of her pups. It will probably have to be a warm March to bring the Black Bear out of hibernation, where the females have already given birth to any expected cubs. Much further north the Arctic Ground Squirrels will stay in hibernation until the end of June or early July - warmth is an important factor in hibernating animals.
Then there are the insects - on a warm day if the ground is bare you may see a Woolly Bear Caterpillar moving lethargically. The Comptons Tortoiseshell Butterfly may already be out and about. Those pesky Cluster Flies and the alien Southern Ladybird Beetles hidden in the crevices of the windows are stirring under the warmth of the sun. As the snow melts you will probably see (if you look) the Snow Fleas swimming on the surface of the meltwater - chased to the surface as the ground becomes saturated. Many other insects will soon appear, having pupated to a new form, or hatched from eggs left last autumn by the long-dead females.
Our feathered friends are probably already thinking spring. Those that have migrated south, particularly to South America, are already taking the first stages north - each different species at its own pace. The Common Loon will be waiting on the open water of the St. Lawrence or the Atlantic Ocean, and will be moving forward as fast as the ice melts - watch for them in any lakes that are newly ice-free, within only a few days of the breakup. The early birds like the Great Horned Owl are already incubating eggs - larger eggs need a longer incubation, and larger chicks need the nest protection for a longer time - got to get it started early for success! Birds that feed on insects, such as swallows, will move north as the insects emerge. A few insect-eating birds will move north faster than the insects and will rely on berries for food at this time - the Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallow both will do this. The birds that nest on the Arctic Tundra, the Snow Geese and the peeps (sandpipers, etc.) will be restless, but will not make the full journey until the summer season has melted the ice and snow enough to allow breeding areas to emerge.
March is the time to say goodbye to our winter visitors - the Great Gray Owl, who will head back toward the boreal forest, hoping that the few voles which survived the crash have been busily raising young. The Common Redpolls may hang around until the tundra is ready for their nests. The Northern Shrike also leaves as its instinct tells it to move. The American Tree Sparrows will suddenly vanish from the feeding areas. See you all next winter!