Spring Watch Update – Late March 2019

Ah, the joys of spring! Yesterday evening I took a drive out to check the spots where I’ve first seen Sandhill cranes in previous years. I’ve been taking these drives as often as possible, but with the later blasts of winter we’ve had here in the greater Yellowstone area, I’m not surprised to see them coming in a bit later.

But last night I spotted ONE. First one for me, and possibly the first one in the area. Pulling off the road to take a few photos, I didn’t hear that familiar gorkeling that always seem to speak to something ancient inside all of us. But that will come when more arrive.

Looking at the dates of my first spotting of a sandhill crane, or report of one, this year seems to be the latest for the years I have records for this area:

  • March 10 | 2018 and 2015
  • March 11 | 2016
  • March 14 | 2017
  • March 23 | 2014
  • March 26 | 2019

Also spotted a red-winged blackbird here in the area – first one for the Cody region for me.

As an update to the kestrel bird box we have, the starlings have taken over and while I’ve just started to hear the northern flickers drumming and calling, they’ve only been at the box once. So filling the box with wood shavings has only been shifted to lots of wood shavings on the ground. However, this year we don’t have the whole flock here watching, just the one pair. Mom and I are talking about whether to just take the thing down or let the starlings nest there.

The bluebird box has had one mountain bluebird checking it out so far that we’ve seen. Often tree swallows will set up their summer residence there, but they won’t be here for a few more weeks. Last year raccoons raided it (or perhaps something larger) and destroyed the old box that had been there for 15 or 20 years. A new box took its place and we’ll add on an extension tube to the opening to at least foil raccoons.

On one of my other drives this week, I spotted my first dead skunk by the side of the road, as well as an increasing number of raccoons. The mule deer in town are shedding their antlers and their winter coats are beginning to loosen up, that always makes them look a little ratty.

Leaf buds are starting to swell on the cottonwoods and while I haven’t had a chance to take a run up North Fork, I would bet the catkins on the willows at Pahaska are out. Out at Beck Lake and Alkali Lake, ice is melting quickly. Beck Lake is around 1/3-1/2 open while Alkali Lake is still mostly ice covered. It won’t take long for that to disappear, though!

Keeping a notebook or calendar of the seasonal changes (phenology) is an easy way to get you and your family more tuned in to the nature surrounding you. Consider starting one today!

SnowMoon Photography

Be Outside • Take Notes