Thursday, April 17, 2008


Nature Watch
April 17, 2008

By Susan Benson,
CNHM Director of Education

April showers have not exactly been on our list of weather events so far this month, but we are all wishing for them! Here is the good news. In the early part of the 20th century, an entomologist named Andrew Delmar Hopkins tried to describe the relationship of elevation, latitude and longitude to the coming of spring. Roughly speaking, Hopkins’ Law of Bioclimatics calculates that spring moves northward by about 12 miles per day. Elevation and longitude also factor in, predicting spring’s later arrival at higher elevations and westward longitudes.

Bird migration is in full swing by April. During a typical spring, waterfowl and black bird species are usually the first birds back in large numbers. During April, birdwatchers should be seeing new species just about every day. Some of the birds are seeking out nesting and breeding territories, while others are stopping to eat for a few days before continuing their northward journey. My own observations have been: April 3, turkey vulture; April 4, first robin and killdeers; April 7, great blue heron and kestrels; April 8, wood ducks and hooded mergansers; April 9, mallard duck; April 10, a pair of crows, the male flying a circle to attract the female; April 11, reports came in via the phone during the blizzard that red-winged blackbirds, grackles and many other bird species were flocking to bird feeders for sustenance.

Common loons should be arriving in the north this month. These birds have been spending the winter along the Atlantic coast; by the end of March they will have ventured north of the Carolinas to begin their inland flight. During this flight loons need to follow rivers and lakes because they can’t land on anything other than water.

In spite of all this spring snow, there are a few more signs of spring we should continue to look forward to seeing or hearing soon: spring peepers chirping, grouse drumming, bloodroot blooming, dandelions blooming, and our favorites – ticks and mosquitoes biting. Do you have your own spring phenology observations you have been recording? Send your Email to the Museum to and we will include your data in our phenology database. Please be sure to record your name, name of observation, the date sited, and town in which you observed the animal or plant species.

Nature Watch is brought to you by the Cable Natural History Museum. For 40 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. The Museum invites you to visit its facility in Cable at 43570 Kavanaugh Street or on the web at to learn more about exhibits and programs.

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