Mar 24 2009
Last Sunday I drove up Interstate 79 to Moraine State Park, hoping to duplicate the wonderful bird moments I experienced there a week ago.
Right off the bat I encountered a huge flock of migrants. More than three quarters of my fellow interstate travelers had Ontario license plates and for several miles I was the only Pennsylvanian. The first day of spring must have triggered Canadian migration. If people were on the move I expected a lot of birds.
When I got to Moraine the lake was like glass. No wind. It was easy to see birds on the water because every ripple showed but most of them were too far away to identify, let alone enjoy. I picked through the nearby coots and ruddy ducks and then I was done. My mind said, “There’s nothing here.”
Of course I was wrong about that. There were birds out there, but I’d set my expectations too high – again! There’s nothing like a long hike to flush a bad attitude out of my system so I went to Muddy Run.
In mid March there are far fewer birds in the woods than on the water, but I don’t care – there are frogs! There’s nothing quite so magical as walking alone through a quiet landspace surrounded by the jingling sound of spring peepers. While I hiked their voices were never close. The peepers felt my tread and went silent as I approached, then resumed behind me as I walked away. I was in a bubble of silent frogs surrounded by a ringing chorus.
Soon the wood frogs joined in. I was prepared to hear their quacking sounds but forgot how much they resemble ducks. Wood frogs are even more wary than peepers so I didn’t even attempt approaching them.
So two late-March phenology predictions had come true. Was there a third?
Twelve days ago Chuck Tague sent me this photo of a large flock of tree swallows at Lake Woodruff, Florida gathering in preparation for their migration north. I hadn’t seen any tree swallows in Pennsylvania this year. Were they here yet?
The wind picked up and blew hard over the water. Then I saw them, my first-of-year tree swallows, only three flying fast into the wind. The rest are coming soon.
(photo of tree swallows at Lake Woodruff by Chuck Tague)