Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ripton Springing Forth

As spring comes leaping into Ripton, there are more signs than raked gardens, bicycle helmets and sunburns on winter-white skin. It’s a wonderful time to enjoy the return of birds and the emergence of wildflowers. We (Becky Purdum, Tom Moran and Warren and Barry King ) have been keeping track of the birds as they arrive in Ripton as well as the date of the first time we see a particular wildflower in bloom. Other spring signs are also noted.

Here’s our list from the past few weeks:

February 16 – First robins of the year.

April 3 – The male woodcock at our neighbor’s is back, making it’s elaborate, joyful mating display each evening and early morning.

April 7 – Juncos are back.

April 9 – Fox sparrows (just passing through as usual,) song sparrows, female red-wing blackbird (males have been here for a few weeks.) First phoebe!

April 10 – Yellow-bellied sapsucker has returned and is making his staccato drumming on resonant trees to attract a mate.

April 11 – Cowbird, tufted titmouse.

April 15 – Beaked hazel – the tiniest tree flower out there – is in bloom. Winter wrens have returned and are singing their amazing arias.

April 16 – White-throated sparrow, purple finch.

April 17 – Yellow-shafted flicker, evening grosbeak, woodfrogs “singing” (quacking, really) in ponds. The last of the redpolls left last night to head north after eating at our feeders all winter. Evening grosbeaks have returned to take their place as pillagers. We’ve taken in one feeder that is reachable by black bears but will keep the others going for a few more weeks. Trout lily leaves are up but the flowers stalks haven’t pushed through yet.

April 18 – Chipping sparrows today. The ruby-crowned kinglet is back, trying to rival the winter wren’s song with his own impressive vocal ability (the golden-crowned stays all winter.) And this evening, a hermit thrush signaled his return with his beautiful haunting melody from the woods.

April 19 – Tree swallows are back soaring in the skies. Coltsfoot is in bloom along the roadsides. (It looks like a dandelion but there are no leaves on it. They come out much later, after blooming has finished.) Pine siskins. Male goldfinches have appeared in yellowing breeding plumage. They aren’t yet as brilliant as they will be in mid-summer. We watched our first red-tailed hawk of the season circle over our yard. They are not winter residents of Ripton but you can find them in the Champlain Valley. Although not a sign of spring, we’ve had turkeys in our yard the past two days as well as an adult and one-year old moose.

April 20 – Broadwing hawks are back. Listen for their high-pitched whistle as they soar overhead.

April 21 – Saw and heard a red-eyed vireo. Was I hallucinating? This bird is really early – they normally don’t show up until the first or second week of May. The red maples are in full flower and the big-toothed aspen are starting to leaf out. The spring peepers have started to sing in ponds and vernal pools.

April 22 – Elderberries have leaves and big bud clusters already. Wild leeks are up and ready for harvesting. A few blackflies made an appearance today. Perhaps not coincidentally, a couple of brave yellow-rumped warblers showed up also; they are always the first warblers to return to Ripton in the spring.

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