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Apr 10, 2017 10:34 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Early April Sightings

The weekend’s warm weather brought a hatch of flying insects and their predators: Tree swallows. MIKE BOTTINI
Apr 11, 2017 9:27 AM

The first week of April brought much needed rain—nearly two inches—flooding swamps with a shallow film of water and raising the levels of ponds, marshes, and vernal pools. That was followed by relatively warm, sunny weather over the weekend, prompting spring peepers to come out in force to chorus loudly in search of mates.The warm weather also brought about a hatch of flying insects and their aerial predators. A short walk around Louse Point, Accabonac Harbor on Monday turned up my first swallow sighting of the year: a small flock of tree swallows busy scooping up insects on the wing. Unlike many of our songbirds that can switch from a high protein diet, for example insects or earthworms, during the summer breeding season to a vegetarian diet during the winter months, swallows are designed and adapted to catching insects on the wing, and they won’t be found around here unless there’s a good supply of winged insects.

Many of you noted the incredibly bright, nearly full moon on Sunday night. This month’s new moon falls on April 26, and the associated daytime “spring” high tide around that date coincides with the Atlantic silversides spawn. These prolific, four-inch-long, schooling, silvery fish will make their way up into the shallowest sections of the salt marsh at high tide to lay their eggs, an event that I’d like to witness someday. This is one of many wildlife species whose breeding behavior is closely associated with lunar phases and tides.

Osprey have staked out their nests and are busy getting them in order for egg laying, which should commence in another week. Another fish-eater, the double-crested cormorant, is also paired up in its treetop rookery. Compared to the osprey, their stick nests are a flimsy affair that seems much too small to support such a large bird.

Early April’s rain and warmth are two main ingredients added to our soil that will propel our dormant native flora into action soon. Look for birdsfoot violets along our roadsides, trailing arbutus along our old woods roads, and flowering dogwoods in our forests this month.

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