Posted by: Wild Instincts | March 30, 2012

Rehabbers’ Phenology

Many people celebrate spring by keeping track of when the ice goes out on their lake or when they see the first robin return or the crocus bloom in their yard. The formal name for this is phenology. Phenology is the study of recurring biological phenomena and their relationship to weather. This includes migration, flowering, breeding, hunting and gathering seasons etc.  People have been fascinated by this for years. You may be able to come up with a few folklore legends like “the suckers run when the pin cherries bloom” handed down from your grandparents to prove this.

Wildlife rehabbers celebrate spring by preparing for baby season using phenology. We pay attention to what bird species have returned.  For instance, this past weekend it was warmer than normal so the bedroom window was left open all night. Sharon was slowly waking up in the morning to a bird song. She startled awake, not believing what she was hearing. She woke up Mark.

“Do I hear a phoebe calling?”

It was confirmed; a Phoebe singing in the yard the third week of March- about 4 weeks early.

Eastern Phoebes are insect eaters. Even though the temps this spring are warmer than normal, there aren’t enough flying insects out to support Phoebes yet. That doesn’t bode well for that bird. Especially considering we are getting snow as this is uploaded for you to read.

We also pay attention to what the newly arrived migrants are doing. The robin Mark saw defending its territory signals nesting has started and egg-laying will quickly follow. All signs are pointing to a very early baby bird season. That means we need to get our mealworm colony up to snuff and make sure we have enough freeze-dried insects ordered.

The early warm up also means more people will be out doing yard work earlier than normal. They’ll be stumbling across squirrel and bunny nests.  Already the early melt has flooded bear dens and brought us another orphaned cub.

Spring for rehabbers isn’t just about celebrating the return of day length and warmer temps. It is really about the re-birth, literally, of our Northwoods. And with that rebirth, the keeping wildlife wild by teaching people to live peacefully with them.

Enjoy your spring but respect your wild neighbors.


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