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Mar 6, 2018 11:23 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Early March Nature Signs

The 2018 Alewife run has commenced. The North Sea Alewife run is the largest on all of Long Island. MIKE BOTTINI
Mar 6, 2018 12:17 PM

Among the signs of spring noted last week were the calls of the red-winged blackbirds: “ooka-la-reee!” These are males establishing territories over suitable nesting areas, usually in marshes and along the edges of swamps, into which they attract females and mate. Males are polygamous, mating with an average of three females. Working solely with their bill, the females weave a nest of grass material around several vertical supports, for example the stems of phragmites or cattail, an amazing feat.In his column last week, David Rattray mentioned marking the annual dates of various nature observations—first osprey sighting of the year and first calls of the spring peeper—on his cellar stairway wall. This is a very common habit of naturalists and, over time, can provide an important source of data for scientists who are interested in studying changes of the timing of natural events, whether they be nesting and breeding dates, the arrival and departure times of migrants, or flowering and leafing out times. This important branch of science is called phenology.

Back in the mid-1800s, Henry David Thoreau kept a journal with the flowering and leafing times of many different plants found growing around his cabin at Walden Pond. Today those dates are compared to current flowering times by scientists studying the impacts of global warming on our flora and fauna.

My own phenology journal notes that the North Sea alewife run starts in late February and last week, during a March 1st visit with Peconic Estuary staff to check the condition of the alewife dreen culverts at Noyac Road and North Sea Road, evidence that the spawning run had commenced was seen.

My records have March 19 as the earliest date for spring peepers calling. This year it was February 28. On the other hand, I noted northern cardinals singing on February 25 in 2015 and have not heard them yet this year.

Mike Scheibel reports that the Mashomack Preserve bald eagle nest is occupied and the adults are incubating eggs. Both the male and female share incubation duty, maintaining the eggs at a temperature of 105°F for 35 days high up in their tree nest from late January to early March. That’s quite a chore, matched only by the great-horned owl whose eggs have already hatched!

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