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March Nature Notes

posted on 3/1/23

It’s time for March Madness!

Well, the past few weeks of February have been a whirlwind of birds! Snows and Blues, and the squeaky white-fronted geese. The numbers of Trumpeter Swans have been outstanding! Wow! Incredible and magnificent. They have set the stage for so many more to follow! Currently, there are common mergansers arriving, along with buffleheads, goldeneyes, mallards, and some pintails.  March is the time that noticeable seasonal changes begin to appear, and those changes happen’s March madness!

The first of the spring ephemerals (the short-lived plants that emerge quickly) in Central Iowa should be making their debut this month. If you live in an area in Iowa that the skunk cabbage blooms, they will be appearing through the snow and inviting the first of the pollinators to get the season started. Snow trillium will follow with their blooms possibly piercing the snow on the woodland floor. The woodlands will begin to come alive!

March is the usual time of gathering sap from the Sugar Maple trees for making maple syrup, but those who relish in the tradition of gathering the sap started a few weeks ago. The warmer weather really got the sap flowing. Historically, sap was considered an agricultural crop and pioneers gathered as much sap as they could from the sugar maples for their annual supply of sweetener.

The elusive woodcock begins their mating season in March. We call them timberdoodles in our neck of the woods due to their unique, oddball looks. They are very low to the ground and their huge eyes are set way upon the top of their head. Living around and within the woodland their dance and behavior has given them many other names like bog sucker and mud bat. Their aerial dance is a sight to see on a clear evening.

The sounds of chorus frogs and spring peepers may be heard from small ephemeral ponds and roadside ditches holding water. Some of the wetlands can be ear piercing with their song. These tiny little frogs call when it is still chilly outside. Grab a fine-toothed comb and take your finger up the teeth of the comb to mimic the chorus frog sound.

Keep your eyes out for the wild turkeys, you may be seeing the Toms and jakes strutting to impress those ladies. Always a favorite time to see and hear.

As of March 1, 2023, many red-winged blackbirds and killdeer have made their announcements. Grackles, and rose-breasted grosbeaks will soon be returning from their wintering areas. Many of these birds will be returning from Central and South America.

Adult osprey will be returning the latter part of March to regain their nesting territories. These birds have become iconic in Iowa with reintroduction efforts of the species beginning in 1997. Another magnificent bird returning from the Central and South America.

Large groups of white pelicans donning their spring plumage and breeding bumps (nuptial tubercle) will be moving through Iowa. We always enjoy this celebration of white! Both male and female adult, breeding pelicans sport the breeding bump.

Watch and listen for more waterfowl migration. The adult males will be in their most grand gala attire and the vocals will overwhelm the waters and the sky. You will hear from high above the announcement of open waters.

The turkey vultures will be coming back in March from their wintering grounds in South and Central America. A few have appeared in Marion County in the last few weeks.  It’s almost like clockwork, migrating eagles leave and the turkey vultures arrive. Their job of environmental clean-up will once again be needed as the snow and frozen soil melts.

As always, we will try to keep you apprised of nature’s happenings.

Exciting and uplifting month ahead…enjoy!