Field Notes

While the mild and fair conditions of March were much appreciated, it was also terribly misleading. Now hopes of an early spring have largely been dashed by an about-face in April weather as we received snow on five out of seven days last week. Not a lot of snow but enough to slow down thoughts of mowing and gardening.
A couple of weeks ago, my backyard in Arbovale was turned into the theater for a huge, knock down- drag out, no holds barred, epic battle between two small gray birds. Both went to the ground with one bird on its back and the other on top, pecking and flogging and pulling feathers for all it was worth. After a lightning shuffle, they reversed positions and the flogging and pecking continued. MMA has nothing over these combatants as they continued to reverse positions a half dozen times over the next couple of minutes as each bird fought for the advantage.
They appeared to be two serious Juncos until I noticed a male Bluebird taking it all in from his ringside position on a nearby fence. And yes, the battlers were both female Bluebirds. Eventually the “ladies” disengaged and joined the male on the fence where a lot of wing waving ensued, a common form of Bluebird communication. The male bird waved his wings back probably saying “leave me out of this.”
The motive for this conflagration was probably not the handsome male bird so much as the well-built birdhouse not 10 feet away. Eventually one female was driven off and territory was established. A steep price was paid by the female Bluebird, but, as always with any real estate, the important thing is location, location, location.
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The pine siskins are still hanging around the feeder in large numbers but soon they will be heading north to their breeding grounds in Canada. The Goldfinches hang out with them every now and then, and the males are just beginning to take on the bright yellow breeding plumage. That is why they are sometimes called wild canaries.
The Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are on their way and can be followed at: Maps of the migration can be found there and can help you plan on when to place your hummer feeders. They usually show up in late April, but the maps show them a little ahead of schedule. They could arrive any day now if the weather warms up.
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Spring Gobbler Season comes in a week earlier than usual this year, beginning Monday, April 18. Hunters have been asking for this change for years as there seems to be more turkey calling and talking during this time. There will also be a one day special Youth hunt on Saturday, April 16, for hunters between the ages of eight and 18.
Turkeys in the area seem to have wintered well and several are being seen out in fields in the late afternoon.
The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources recently released its Big Game Bulletin for 2015. This is a compilation of harvest numbers for bear, turkey, deer and boar. These statistics are broken down by county and DNR districts as well as usually showing results from the last five years.
The BGB is a good way to compare harvests totals and plan your upcoming fall hunts. It can be found at Hunting.shtm
Dave is a retired telescope operator from the Green Bank Observatory and can be contacted at dave

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