Bill Thrune - USFWS
Spring's Journey North
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Signs of Spring: March 2, 1998
Red-Winged Blackbirds Arriving
||Male Red-winged Blackbirds are now flooding into the Midwest from their wintering grounds in the southern U.S.
states. Females will appear about 2 weeks later. Watch the red patches on the male's wings. Count how many times
he displays in a 10 minute period--and compare this over the next few weeks. You'll know the females have arrived
when these territorial displays intensify.
From Journey North Observers:
||Visited two marshes where flocks of red-wing blackbirds are back and singing in Waconia, MN
||Red-winged blackbird arrives in Antioch, Illinois, 10 days earlier than last year and the second earliest arrival
in 10 years.
||Flocks of red-winged blackbirds, tundra swans, individual killdeer widely reported, Belleville, Ontario.
||Red-winged blackbirds making lots of noise in landscaped areas in shopping malls in Emeryville, CA
||Pussy willows out in school playground, Katonah, NY
Signs of spring are showing up everywhere--in backyards, school yards, even shopping mall parking lots! We're eager
to hear news from your part of the world, so please report your sightings now. Signs of spring are also in full
force on many wildlife refuges and protected areas.
Please report the unique sights and sounds of spring from
Meanwhile, on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula
Some of the first trans-Gulf migrants are staging before their over-water flight. Mauro Berlanga, biologist
from ProNatura Yucatan, in Mexico reports, "We are seeing Wood Warblers, Hooded Warblers, and American Redstarts
moving through right now." These and other forest-dwelling migratory songbirds are headed to the northern
coast of the Yucatan where they will make one last stop before embarking on non-stop flights over the Gulf of Mexico.
Migration Routes Over and Around the Gulf of Mexico
Map by Carol Gersmehl
Suitable stopover habitat on the Yucatan Peninsula is vitally important for 100's of species of birds which
migrate from wintering areas in southern Mexico, Central and South America to the United States and Canada. Mauro
explains that important stopover areas for migrating birds on the Yucatan are currently not well defined. Scientists
need to quickly obtain much more information on what areas are most important for migrating birds so that these
habitats can be protected.
Dave Blankenship, refuge biologist at Santa Ana/Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge reports the first
American Redstarts to arrive from the Yucatan at this Texas coastal refuge. "In the past few days, I've also
seen Ruby-throats, Buff-bellied, and Rufous Hummingbirds, Nashville warblers, and Common Yellow throats."
This is just a first trickle of what will soon be a deluge of migratory birds to arrive at Santa Ana/Lower Rio
Grande Valley refuge.
The migrants are exhausted and famished when they first make land fall on the Texas coast. Plant species which
provide important food resources for the migrating birds are just now coming into full bloom. Hummingbirds feed
on bright red, Turks Cap which is in abundant supply at the refuge. Warblers, and other insect-eating birds feed
on the swarms of insects which are attracted to yucca and Huisachi, also just now in full bloom in the Lower Rio
From the numbers of Sandhill Cranes currently moving into the state of Kansas, it looks like an early spring at
Quivera National Wildlife Refuge. Sandhill cranes, which generally arrive later in the season, are already growing
in numbers at the refuge. Gary "Pete" Megers, crane coordinator for the state of Kansas reports the following
crane counts this season.
Cranes Numbers Climbing at Stopover Sight
Quivera National Wildlife Refuge
||# Sandhill Cranes
||1998 Count Coming....(26,500 in 1997!)
The cranes will grow in number at Quivera over the spring. They stop down to feed in fields of corn and milo
both inside and outside the refuge boundaries. Last year, a total of 26,500 cranes had arrived at the refuge by
March 5, 1997. The numbers of sandhill cranes at Quivera are much greater in the autumn with a whopping 94,000
cranes stopping down during their southward migration.
Refuges are not the only places spring is signaling its beauty and excitement. What signs of spring do you observe?
Make sure to record your sightings of the many small spring events occuring in your area in the "Signs of
Spring" data base.
The Next Signs of Spring Update Will be Posted on March 16, 1998
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