It’s been a spectacularly odd time so far: the winter was mostly very warm and dry, with occasional cold spells. The spring has been very warm and very dry for the most part. Our Daffodills were up in January, but didn’t flower until March. We had both White and little Blue butterflies out in February for a brief period, but none since then. I had a very large female Hogna helluo up on my porch the third week of March, during a brief rain storm, very early for the year. We’ve had almost no early flowers out (only a very few Bugleweed, for instance – too dry?), which may be why we’ve had no Bumblebee sightings so far this year. There’s a full-sized Bowl-and-Doily spider web in our flowering crabapple tree as of yesterday (a month early?), and a few Agelenopsis funnelwebs here and there outdoors. Normally at this time of year I’d be hard-pressed to find more than scattered cribbelates like Amaurobius under rocks and logs. Even though the big flies have been out for a couple weeks, no orb-weavers that I’ve noticed, but it is very early for even the young ones and the little Araniellas. A small flock of Barn Swallows (a week early?) went over yesterday, and the White-throated Sparrows seem to have headed out of town Monday night (4/3), so the migration is going on. I had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Brown Creeper on March 25, but that’s not too unusual. Meanwhile, the oaks have been in flower for over a week now, which puts them a full month ahead of the time I remember from 30 years ago, when the warbler migration in April/May overlapped the oak flowers. The Cardinals and Robins were courting and beginning their nesting season early in March, so they seem to have active nests going right now. Maybe three broods this year? Certainly the Starlings and Mourning Doves will be shooting for three (maybe four!) at this rate. The Barred Owl calling in our neighborhood back in February doesn’t seem to have stayed around, but that reminds me that something has wiped out our local rabbits. We had a thriving rabbit population for about 14 years, and then suddenly they have mostly disappeared. I haven’t seen a single one this year so far, when we used to have 1 or 2 in our yard at all times (more for a bit after the young left the ‘nest’). I doubt that the Red-tailed Hawk that moved into the area could have single-handedly wiped them out so thoroughly, and we don’t seem to have any more foxes than we always have had (fewer, if anything – I haven’t seen any sign of foxes for almost a year now). I’m not sure whether it’s disease, rat poison, lawn spraying, or simply coincidence and more predators (probably not). I’m still not sure about our female Accipiter: she seems to have characteristics at least intermediate to, if not heavily shaded towards, a Cooper’s Hawk, and the male is really small compared to her. She’s almost as big as an American Crow, and he’s barely Blue Jay-sized. Maybe it’s just extremes in action; nobody I’ve asked has had any idea of (or any interest in) the question of Accipiter hybridization (or, for that matter, the question of corvid hybridization – I’m still suspicious that the Fish and American crows were hybridizing here about 10 years ago, judging by the odd ‘mixed’ calls, which have now mostly gone away again). That will do for now.
Sporadic Notes (must remember to start attaching photos)