Bird list & other natural events, April 2013

We could write a novel about how frustrating April’s weather was, especially following on the heels of March. Despite a few misleadingly hot, sunny days, the month overall was disproportionately cold, wet, and cloudy. Various markers of spring are well behind normal, as are pretty much all our crops. Soil temperatures have remained lower than desired, regular rain kept conditions problematically soggy, and with so little regular sun, transplants and newly seeded crops grew quite slowly if at all. We did compile a very nice bird list for the month, but overall this April, like March, is best left quickly behind us.


The image above captures this April’s swings pretty well; we did have a few nice days, but not enough to help the spinach grow properly or the trees leaf out, and the light snow on 4/23 represented the many days of cold rain & clouds we suffered through. Just like March, all the natural developments of spring are well behind normal. Check out the National Weather Service’s 2013 yearly climate graph for Columbia so far; since late February we’re way overloaded with precip and the temperatures have only inched upward on average. For the record, last year we described April 2012 in these words:

April was a glorious month. The weather was seasonal and stable, with appropriate temperatures and generally the right amount and timing of rain with no severe weather

This year couldn’t have been much more different, or depressing. The best news of the month was not getting hit by the destructive hailstorm that swept through just south of us and only getting 2″ of rain in that storm, not the 5″ or so that some of the region received. For another perspective, consider numbers on sky cover for the month:

2012, days fair 18, days cloudy/partly cloudy 12, days with rain 11 (5.07″ rain here)
2013, days fair 15, days cloud/partly cloudy 15, days with rain 15 (7.13″ rain here)

Temperatures were also much lower than desired, though also highly variable. While the monthly average was only a couple degrees below average, that’s misleading given how jumpy temperatures were. Looking at the monthly graph from NWS (below), you can see how a few hot days along with regular wild temperature swings can drag the average up while obscuring the overall cold trend. Another way to look at this: in 2012 the April low was 34ºF; in April 2013 we went below 34 six times, and equaled it another two.

Redbuds in our valley were nearing peak bloom at the end of the month, compared to late March last year. So by the redbud clock, our first CSA share of spring (distributed April 29 & May 2, 2013–coinciding with our peak redbud bloom) came earlier than last year’s spring share (distributed April 5 & April 9, 2012–decidedly after peak bloom).

There was a big pulse of migratory birds during a brief warm spell at the end of the month, which also coincided with what seemed like a massive outbreak of ticks (the big ones only, fortunately not the seed ticks). We’ve been finding the dang things everywhere lately. Hawks have seemed to be particularly active this month, and we lost a hen to one for the first time in several years. A hawk itself seems to have been killed on April 30, probably by another hawk. Late that afternoon, we found a still-flexible wing on top of a small shed (implying that the predator was not ground based), and a scattering of feathers on the ground in the vicinity. Identifying hawks by dismembered feathers and wings isn’t our specialty, but based on the dark outline at the wing edge & the coloration of the breast feathers, we think the prey species might have been a Broad-Winged Hawk (one of our favorite birds, and a species that has never been a menace to our chickens, by the way).

On to the bird list, which is pretty similar to last year’s mostly due to that late warm spell and its flood of migrants.

RECORDED IN APRIL (67 species, 25 new relative to March, 6 unobserved since March). First arrival dates for migrants shown in parentheses.

Great Blue Heron
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Greater White-Fronted Goose
Great Egret (9 in flight)
Wood Duck
Turkey Vulture
Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk (4/8): These have been especially active, and it seems more numerous than usual, though the population may be down by 1 based on our April 30 observation (see note above).
Cooper’s Hawk
Bald Eagle
American Woodcock
Wild Turkey
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Great Horned Owl
Whip-poor-will (4/29)
Belted Kingfisher
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
White-Eyed Vireo (4/25)
Red-Eyed Vireo (4/30)
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-Capped Chickadee
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren: Have observed/heard far fewer than past years.
House Wren (4/18): Especially vocal and prolific this year.
Golden-Crowned Kinglet (4/1)
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (4/3)
Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher (4/9)

Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Wood Thrush (4/29)
Hermit Thrush
Brown Thrasher (4/3)

European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Parula (4/14)
Nashville Warbler (4/28)
Kentucky Warbler (4/30)
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Black-Throated Green Warbler (4/30)
Orange-Crowned Warbler (4/30)
Ovenbird (4/27)
Louisiana Waterthrush
Summer Tanager (4/30)
Scarlet Tanager (4/30)

Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting (4/29)
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
American Tree Sparrow
White-Throated Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow (4/15)
Dark-eyed Junco
Brown-Headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole (4/30)
Red-Winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch
Purple Finch
House Finch
Pine Siskin

3 thoughts on “Bird list & other natural events, April 2013

  1. I haven’t even heard of most of those birds. I think that is awesome that you know them. I really want to learn about the various types of plants and animals and being able to spot them, like the variety of birds that you have. Once again, awesome!

  2. Thanks, Alicia. We’ve been keeping these monthly lists for going on three years now, and are getting enough data that comparisons become really interesting. A really fun winter project will be compiling these into useful format.

    Your comment also helped me notice a couple small omissions; I’d left out the link to last April’s list, which you might enjoy comparing this one with, and forgot to clarify that the red color means a new bird for the month. We’re tired.

    Hopefully you & other members can make it to future farm events, with decent weather, so we can share some of these experiences!

  3. Joanna might appreciate that the sturgeon clock is over a month (probably more like six weeks) behind last year. Every year is different!