Below is a complete list of birds observed and/or heard within our farm’s ecosystem for April 2011. Birds in italics were observed or heard only in flight over the farm, but not otherwise interacting with it. 37 new species arrived or passed by the farm in April, as many as the entire species count in March. Spring is here, all right.
NEW THIS MONTH (37 species, many of which arrived in the last few days of April)
Osprey (soaring high in migration)
Egret (migration; species unknown)
Bald Eagle (seen before, but not in March)
Hermit Thrush (seen before, but not in March)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (seen before, but not in March)
Cooper’s Hawk (possibly Sharp-shinned Hawk; observed killing a chicken)
Wild Turkey (nesting & gobbling)
ALSO PRESENT (32 species)
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture (observed perching in woods as well as soaring)
Eastern Phoebe (nesting)
Carolina Wren (Heard & observed only a few times during the month; last year they were the bird that we woke up to every day throughout the spring; our local population seemed to drop off after the Feb. blizzard.)
MISSING FROM LAST MONTH
White Pelican (migration)
Snow Geese (migration)
OTHER NATURAL EVENTS
Dragonflies are out, along with many other insects. Joanna found this one just emerging and unfolding its wings. Bats are also active, as are snakes, frogs, lizards, skinks, and more. The rodent population in the field seems to have dropped a bit, as usually happens once the snakes hit their stride. We observed a huge black rat snake near the house, one of our best allies in rodent control.
Late April through early May is morel season. In our first four years on this farm, we’d only found three puny morels, and had begun to think we were incompetent and/or the farm had none. This year, we’ve finally started to find decent ones like that pictured above. We’re still not finding the big hauls others seem to, but it’s been enough for a few meals (pasta with morel-shiitake-cream sauce and scrambled eggs with sauteed morels). They lived up to their reputation in flavor.
It’s been a month of new predators. Along with the broad-winged hawk, American kestrel, and Cooper’s hawk that were all newly identified for the farm, I’ve clearly seen a coyote twice. We hear them regularly along our area waterways, especially with pups in the spring, but we rarely see one. It was a thrill to actually observe such a reclusive part of our ecosystem, and with this year’s fencing projects largely complete I can enjoy its presence more.