Archivos de diario de abril 2024

02 de abril de 2024

Sounds of Springtime

Springtime in Colorado is a tricky thing to pin down because March and April are months where we can still see a lot of snow. In fact, we got quite a bit of snow this past March, including several days where work was remote because roads were either hazardous or just completely impassable.

Never the less, there are still four seasons in the Rocky Mountains and the Front Range. This past weekend seemed to usher in some familiar signs of springtime. Greenery is still sparse in the Denver area, but here and there we've seen blossoms on some of the ornamental trees planted around the city. We even saw a few trees with budding leaves, though certainly not the majority.

My girlfriend and I like to go for walks on the weekends around Crown Hill Park in Wheat Ridge and noticed a lot of red-wing blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) in the tall stalks near the water. We don't seem to remember hearing them very often from previous walks we took through the winter so it's tempting to think that their arrival is a sign of spring seasonal change, but Colorado is technically within the year round range of the birds, and southern and some western populations do not migrate (1). Also, according to ornithologists at the Cornell Lab for Ornithology, males and females make their calls all year round (2). Regardless, it's a great sound and it had been some time since our ears had heard it.

A more definitive springtime sound that we heard was that of the many chorus frogs (Boreal chorus frog, Pseudacris maculata) that were in the partially submerged grassy areas and ditches around the park. Once the snow and ice have melted and created wetland habitat in flooded meadows, drainage ditches, and small temporary ponds, the males begin to call to females to come lay their eggs (3). This can start as early in March and marks the beginning of the mating season which will continue until May (3).

References

  1. Red-winged Blackbird Range Map, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-winged_Blackbird/maps-range.
  2. Red-winged Blackbird Sounds, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-winged_Blackbird/sounds.
  3. Boreal Chorus Frog | Horticulture, Landscape, and Environmental Systems | Nebraska. https://hles.unl.edu/boreal-chorus-frog.
Publicado el abril 2, 2024 03:37 MAÑANA por mhughes26 mhughes26 | 4 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

16 de abril de 2024

Spring Blossoms and Buds

The transition from winter to more balmy weather has been underway in the Front Range, and this weekend made this very evident. The deciduous trees still look bare for the most part, but closer inspection reveals that buds are bursting on many of them. Some trees that are further along in this process even have a faint light green shimmer.

Of course, where you are in the Front Range has a big impact on the progress of this spring greening. I've noticed that where I live in Castle Rock, things are further behind season wise, probably due to the increased elevation on the Palmer Divide. The Denver metro area in contrast, is further along - probably due to a lower elevation and the urban heat island.

My favorite thing about spring though is seeing blossoms on trees and flowers. Colorado doesn't have the same grandiose springtime that exists in the Midwestern and Eastern United States. In my early 20s I moved for work to North Dakota and then Virginia where I saw the dogwoods, cherries, and redbuds in their shades of white, pink, and purple. Recently I was in northern Texas where blue bonnets, along with some bright red flowers dotted the medians and roadsides on the highway between Amarillo and Dallas.

Still, my home state does spring in its own special way. Typically, the mountain peaks of the Front Range are still white with snow while the plains slowly green up. Pasqueflowers are among some of the first wildflowers to start blooming (I have not seen any as of this journal post). And there are actually a lot of fruit trees (some ornamental, some in orchards) in Colorado like cherries and apples (the picture above is an ornamental cherry that my girlfriend and I found in Littleton this past Saturday). Speaking of apples, Colorado used to be an apple capital of the United States before Washington State developed the Red Delicious and Colorado suffered a drought that wiped out the industry (1). Both apples and cherries have gorgeous blossoms and as long as a late spring snow storm or frost doesn't kill them, they really brighten Colorado neighborhoods, orchards, and ranches.

Spring seems to be later in Colorado than other parts of the country, but the trend everywhere is that our changing climate is causing springtime to start earlier and cause certain phenological and ecological trends to fall out of sync. Song birds, according to a recent report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences are having smaller broods of chicks in years when they are out of sync with leaf out (2).

All of this is concerning, but I do enjoy the warmer weather. With temperatures in the 70s this past weekend we went for a walk around Crown Hill Park around Wheat Ridge (a favorite spot) and saw blossoms on wild plum (Prunus americana) as well as cottonwoods and willows budding out. We also saw a family of turtles sunning themselves on a log in a wetland (and they immediately dove into the water when we got close, so I did not get a picture for iNaturalist).

References

  1. Uncovering A Colorado Apple Mystery. Science Friday https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/colorado-apple-mystery/.
  2. Wildlife Science: Urban Moths, Water Features, Spring Songbirds. National Wildlife Federation https://www.nwf.org/Home/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2024/Spring/Animals/Urban-Months-Water-Features.
Publicado el abril 16, 2024 03:40 MAÑANA por mhughes26 mhughes26 | 4 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario