Bird list & other natural events, May 2013

Having summarized last month as “We could write a novel about how frustrating April’s weather was“, we’re now working on a Tolkien epic of meteorological frustration for May. With a total recorded rainfall of exactly 12.00″ and just over 7″ in the final week, compared to an average monthly total of 4.98” for Columbia, this aspect of the last part of the month was miserable. We had our last spring frost on the morning of May 12, which is relatively late for us, though we have seen mid-May frosts before. However, it was a great birding month, with all sorts of interesting species moving through and the late spring leaf-out providing better viewing conditions. We were able to take numerous mushroom-hunting walks in the woods (with limited success) and otherwise generally enjoyed the natural-history part of the farm even as the rains refused to stop. Read on for some interesting photos and a massive bird list.may_natural_1This complete double-rainbow wasn’t quite worth the pummeling rain that produced it, but was quite pretty nonetheless. may_natural_2You know it’s plenty wet when a young snapping turtle visits the pigs. Box turtles have also been quite active.may_natural_3
The most common hornworms that we encounter are the ones that eat tomato plants, but the photo on the left is of a different species, the larvae of the white-lined sphinx. This individual on was eating dock, an annoying weed, so we’re happy to have it around. Crane flies (above right) have been very numerous this year.may_natural_4Joanna’s been practicing grasshopper identification, including this one, a band-winged grasshopper in the genus Arphia. may_natural_5

Above, a female Black Widow Spider in an old bucket, thankfully found with the eyes rather than the hands. The classic red hourglass markings are on the underside of the abdomen, but the upperside, shown in these photos, also features red spotting on a shiny black body. Normally Black Widows are pretty rare here, but we’ve also seen two males in the last few days. Ticks have been really prevalent during May as well, something we do not appreciate. Deer flies started feeding on us on May 24. Some mosquitoes were around through the month, though overall not too bad. We often feel that persistently wet weather tends to keep mosquito populations down somewhat, probably because the larvae need standing, not flowing, water for development. Though there may be some observational bias as well, we did think mosquitoes were worst during the brief dry spell in the middle of the month.

As noted above, this was a wonderful birding month, especially the first half when we routinely recorded 30+ species a day arriving or passing through. For those interested in learning more about any of the birds we record on the farm, we highly recommend the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

RECORDED IN MAY (76 species, 25 new relative to April, 16 unobserved since April). First arrival dates for migrants shown in parentheses.

Great Blue Heron
Green Heron (5/17)
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Great Egret
Wood Duck
Turkey Vulture
Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
American Woodcock
Wild Turkey
Mourning Dove
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (5/12)
Barred Owl
Great Horned Owl
Common Nighthawk (5/15)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (5/4)

Belted Kingfisher
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee (5/2)
Eastern Phoebe
Great-Crested Flycatcher (5/2)
Least Flycatcher (5/9)
White-Eyed Vireo
Red-Eyed Vireo
Blue-Headed Vireo (5/9)
Yellow-Throated Vireo (5/4)

Blue Jay
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-Capped Chickadee
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Golden-Crowned Kinglet
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Wood Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush (5/4)
Grey Catbird (5/2)

Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Parula
Tennessee Warbler (5/3)
Blue-Winged Warbler (5/1)
Golden-Winged Warbler (5/12)

Nashville Warbler
Chestnut-Sided Warbler (5/12)
Magnolia Warbler (5/3)

Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Black-Throated Green Warbler
Orange-Crowned Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler (5/1)
Prairie Warbler (5/1)
Palm Warbler (5/3)
Worm-Eating Warbler (5/4)
American Redstart (5/9)
Louisiana Waterthrush
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat (5/9)
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (5/3)
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
American Tree Sparrow
Lark Sparrow (5/12)
Field Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
White-Throated Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Eastern Kingbird (5/6)
Brown-Headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Red-Winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch


2 thoughts on “Bird list & other natural events, May 2013

  1. Last time I commented, I sent commiserations and said it was just as wet in Virginia. Then we had a really hot dry week and I had to belatedly fix up all the drip irrigation systems I normally set up in early April. We’re finally (?) getting to the end of our transplanting, a couple of weeks late. After this, just lettuce and leeks. We do have more Black Widows than you do, if that helps you feel better! They really like edges and corners in our hoophouse. I don’t know anyone that’s been bitten here. I have accidentally tumbled them over (the Black Widows, not the people!) when weeding – they don’t seem very aggressive. I love the thoroughness of your birding lists! Pam

  2. Hi Pam,

    I had just been thinking about those of you in the east, as we’ve heard two or three very lonely periodic cicadas over the course of the past few days. They hatched in an off year for our location, and it took a minute to recognize the sound when it wasn’t part of a deafening chorus. Have you made any cicada ice cream yet?

    Alas, irrigation is still on our to-do list. We started setting it up during a brief dry spell, but priorities quickly changed, and there are some bundles of drip line that have been overgrown by aisle vegetation and pulled loose two or three times now. Like you, we’re finally catching up on transplanting, with virtually all of the solanaceous crops finally in the ground, a big relief! Now’s the time to really hope we don’t get hail, since we don’t have the greenhouse capacity to grow very many backup plants. Tomatillos still need to go in, but we’ve downgraded them back to experimental-sized plantings after three years of lousy crops due to an aggravating stem borer.

    If there was an upside to the slow spring, it was that not doing distributions during the first couple weeks of May did give us a little bit more time to pay attention to the peak of migration. We do enjoy the birding. And it’s especially nice when the birds help us out. Just watched a blue-grey gnatcatcher work its way along a tomato row, clearly munching on some kind of insect, though I’m not sure what. And our phoebe population is rapidly increasing, with four insect-hungry fledglings just leaving a nest on the house. Would love to know if they eat cucumber beetles…