Bird list and other natural events, February 2012

This February was the 15th warmest on record in Columbia, according to the National Weather Service, and completed the 3rd warmest winter on record. It also stayed quite dry; nothing near record, but enough to continue the mild drought we’ve been in since last summer. Much of the precipitation we have received has come in the form of small spurts of rain that don’t soak in, and are quickly removed by abundant warm, sunny, windy days. This weather makes it tempting to get an early start on planting and transplanting, but we don’t trust Missouri weather to remain this stable, so are sticking to our original planting plan. The early, very warm weather has us concerned about the potential for another April 2007 event, the late spring freeze which devastated orchards and more in Missouri:

March 2007 was exceptionally warm across a large portion of the U.S. from the northern Plains through the Mississippi Valley and into the Southeast…The prolonged warm spell led to a premature leaf and bloom for many plants and trees across the region…In early April, a pattern shift brought [this] cold Arctic air southward into the central and eastern U.S. This record-breaking cold air penetrated much of this region from April 4-10 bringing near-record to record cold temperatures to parts of the central Plains and much of the Southeast. Temperatures in some locations dropped into the teens and lower 20s overnight with many hours of sub-freezing temperatures on multiple and subsequent days. As many as four to five nights of extremely cold temperatures coupled with sustained desiccating winds during the sub-freezing period made this event more harmful for plants and trees and brought extensive losses to agricultural interests.

Crocus are blooming (above left; the first yellow one opened on 2/18 and the purple ones followed a few days later). Many weeds are getting a head start in our growing areas, and several of those are blooming, as well. Overall it was a rather exhausting month, as the constant nice weather allowed lots of outdoor work, pushing myriad indoor projects like taxes, organic certification, web work, and more into long evenings, with day length growing ever longer. We never even made it down to Eagle Bluffs CA for our monthly birding trip, though we did enjoy a really nice half-day visit to Pinnacles (above center & right) with several sets of friends and their young children, finishing the day with dinner on the farm. Right-hand photo above courtesy of Emma & Yasha Marris.

Migration season really became noticeable toward the end of the month, as multiple new birds began to show up or pass by. The first few days of March were especially busy as well. Many resident birds started to sing, or become more active, as the end of the month approached, including Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Bluebirds, Chickadees, and more. Spring Peepers also got off to a strong start (beginning 2/23) in the warm late February weather. We’ve also started seeing active bats. Notable insect sightings for the month include a butterfly (probably a Question Mark) in flight on a warm afternoon and numerous small grasshoppers in the spinach beds (though with no discernible damage to the spinach, thankfully).

NEW FOR THE YEAR IN FEBRUARY (8 species)
Turkey Vulture (winters just south of here, but started moving north again in Feb; first seen 2/2)
American Woodcock (first heard 2/22, though full displays didn’t start until March 1)
Killdeer (first seen/heard migrating 2/16)
Mourning Dove (winters here but haven’t seen in months, became active again end of Feb)
Belted Kingfisher (first heard 2/17)
Fox Sparrow (unusual for us, one seen 2/29)
Blackbirds, unidentified (seen once, flock passing overhead, 2/23)
Ring-billed Gull (regionally common, unusual for us, 4 seen overhead 2/28)

PRESENT IN FEBRUARY (23 species)
Snow Goose (migrating northwest, generally hundreds per day, one day est. 1,300)
Canada Goose
Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-Capped Chickadee
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Dark-Eyed Junco
American Goldfinch

MISSING/UNOBSERVED SINCE JANUARY (1 species)
Bald Eagle

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