“March brings breezes loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodil.” 

― Sara Coleridge 

Bald eagle
bald eagle

This winter started off warmer than usual, settled down to a white and cold normal one, and now it seems to be in a hurry to get as warm as possible before April can get all the credit for bringing in the welcome green of spring. By the end of the month spicebush may be blooming and perhaps the marsh marigold.

marsh marigolds in a woodland bog

Marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) are one of the first wildflowers to bloom and the plant is very conspicuous as it grows in swamps, along streambanks, and sometimes directly in the water in wet woodland habitats. There may be no leaves on other plants yet, and  brown leaf litter may cover the ground, but the splash of bright green highlighted with yellow flowers is a welcome herald of what will come.

Birds have been singing their morning and evening songs, plus their territorial daytime calls as well. Male turkeys have begun their strutting, hissing and stamping routines which are somehow alluring to the hens.

male turkeys
Male turkeys fanning display

Bald eagles have built a nest in my town, and the pair have been seen sitting together along busy roads where they have chosen to raise their young. A nearby open river has provided food for them all winter, and the high traffic volume and large number of people watching this pair does not seem to bother them at all.

Killdeer, one of our first birds to return from their winter vacation homes have been back since late February this year. The early bird gets the worm… They lay their eggs directly on the ground in open gravelly areas and their young are born covered with down and ready to run around with the parents.

Killdeer
Killdeer

Like the killdeer, blackbirds and grackles have been back since late February, but wait until females arrive a month or so later to breed. They can be seen together in large flocks where seeds are abundant.

While hiking in the woods, my sister and I came across some peculiar damage to quite a few mature trees in a widespread area. Bark had been scratched and clawed off, sometimes shredded, and areas damaged were about three feet off the ground. This was the work of a black bear, new to this particular area and now residing in the woods by the looks of it. Marking trees with teeth and claws, especially in  spring is thought to either mark territory or just be from normal stretching and scratching activity.

Scratching and tooth mark damage to tree
Claw marks from black bear

Along the shore ruddy ducks usually can be seen floating in large groups along the in Old Saybrook causeway. These cute little ducks can be recognized by their small size, blue bills of the males, and the perky little tails that are sometimes held straight up. Sometimes little coots can also be seen along the Connecticut shoreline now.

Spiffy little ruddy ducks
Coot showing off its wonderful clodhoppers

Sweet ferns Comptonia peregrina, a native shrub with aromatic foliage, is showing its flower buds unfurling at this time of year, and  some of our pussy willows are almost blooming. I have a black pussy willow that is almost in full bloom, and that is a sign that Collettes inaequalis, a small, handsome, native ground-nesting bee, will be out and about soon.

Black flower variety of pussy willow

 

Sweetfern flower and leaves unfolding

I can hardly wait for green to be the primary color in the landscape again, and I strongly share this person’s sentiment:

  “Winds of March, we welcome you, there is work for you to do. Work and play and blow all day, blow the winter wind away.” ― Unknown

Pamm Cooper

Painted turtles enjoying a warn, sunny march afternoon

ruddies VI

Ruddy ducks- some sleeping- with two males with their blue bills, a feature during breeding season

March is the time when we look forward to the arrival of spring and all that goes with it. Days are getting longer and the birds are now singing their spring morning songs. Usually on of the first plants to bloom, Whitlow grass bloomed in February this year and should be done by now. Magnolia buds are swelling and forsythia bloom is on the cusp. Of course, deer are still nibbling on plants like arborvitae, with or without snow covering the ground. Sometimes this means war- either fencing or deer spray to keep the trees from having little or nothing at the bottom.

arborvitae protected from deer

Arborvitae hedge with fencing to stop browsing deer

On March 8-9 this year we will witness a moon event called (unscientifically) a super new moon. This new moon will happen one day before the moon reaches its closest point to the earth in its orbit- the lunar perigee. While we will not be able to see this supermoon, as it lines up with the sun it causes a greater effect on our oceans. Perigees and apogees (when the moon is at its furthest point from the earth) occur because of the elliptical orbit of the moon. Low tide on Monday along the Connecticut coast was the lowest I have seen in a long time. So that will be why tides are extreme the next couple of days.

diagram[1]

diagram courtesy of science.nasa.gov

March is a good time to go on birdwatching jaunts along coast. Long Island Sound and salt water marshes, estuaries and ponds are good places to look for migratory waterfowl. This week there were buffleheads, scaups, merganzers, and other birds that will migrate north later on to breed. At the causeway in Saybrook there was a flock of ruddy ducks that numbered over one hundred. These tiny, compact ducks are noted for their long, stiff tails that they often stick up in the air while swimming or resting on the water. Breeding males sport a distinctive blue bill and a white cheek. These are diving ducks that feed at night on aquatic invertebrates and insect larvae. During the day they sleep on the water with their heads tucked over their back and under a wing.

In the town of Lyme there is a restoration project to restore a natural river channel by removing the Ed bills Pond Dam that has been there for almost 80 years. This restored habitat along the East Branch of the Eight-mile River will allow migratory fish such as alewife, blueback herring Atlantic salmon and others to have optimum passage for spawning without using the fish ladder that was put in when the dam existed. Many dams put in years ago along Connecticut rivers still may prevent fish from reaching their original spawning habitats, but this project is a good step in the right direction.

restoration project

Restoration project in Lyme for fish to return to their spawning habitat without having to swim up fish ladders

If the weather stays warm, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis L.) may start to bloom. One of our first native flowers to bloom, this is a member of the Poppy Family, and has roots and a stem with red- orange color. Its genus comes from the Latin word for bleeding- Sanguinarius. In late March or early April, the flower bud is wrapped in its single leaf and usually the flower opens before the leaf completely unfolds. Marsh marigolds should also begin showing a flush of green in or near streams and brooks. soon after, the yellow flowers should appear before much else has even begun to leaf out around them.

bloodroot (2)

Bloodroot

I, for one, am tired of the monochromatic browns and grays of the winter landscape, and welcome even the smallest changes that signal a return to warmer weather and the leafing out that goes with it. So here’s hoping winter continues its departure with a short good-bye so that spring can herald its return with its colorful green foliage and floral accessories.And spring peepers were heard Wednesday and Thursday night at a little pond at the end of my street, so spring is on the way for sure.

Pamm Cooper                                                All photos copyright2016  by Pamm Cooper