Nature runs like clockwork. Everything happens in its own time. Seasons roll around: fall, winter, spring, summer. Trees lose their leaves, birds migrate. . . everything happens on a schedule that is mostly predictable.
Twenty years of bird banding data at Audubon has shown that you can predict what day the white throated sparrows will migrate within a day or two. Many migrations happen based on the amount of daylight and the amount of night and not on whether it is warm or cold. This makes some natural events, such as bird, bat and insect migration, very predictable.
Other events are more weather dependent. Many flowers bloom based on when the weather gets right. That time is generally within a time range that lasts over a couple of weeks for each flower. One native flower, bloodroot, only lasts for a couple of days in early spring. It can be hard to get to see them on the exact day when they are at their peak. Other flowers, like trillium, last for weeks and are fairly easy to see. The spotted salamander migration to breeding pools depends on when the first warm, damp night of spring is. It may be in March. It may be in April.
Photo by Dave Cooney
Tundra Swans start migrating through the area in the first week of November.
Photo by Jennifer Schlick
Start looking for Witch Hazel flowers in October.
Photo by Jeff Tome
The Spotted Salamander migration begins on the first warm rainy night of spring.
This year, Audubon is selling a Natural History calendar that has some of those events. When do the warblers migrate? The calendar will tell you. What is the best time to look for trilliums or pink lady's slippers? The calendar will tell you. When DO those salamanders migrate? The calendar will tell you when to start paying attention to the weather and what to look for. (A warm 50 degree rainy or misty night in spring.) The calendar is $20 and has to be pre-purchased from Audubon. Stop in at Audubon and take a look at one.
Photos for the calendar were taken by Audubon staff and volunteers, including Dave Cooney, Sarah Hatfield, Terry Lebaron, Jennifer Schlick, and Jeff Tome.
The photos in the calendar are all local, taken of local plants and animals. Audubon's staff and volunteers are amazingly talented photographers. Every month has a new photo of something that you can find at Audubon or around the region. Next to the calendar are natural history notes about natural happenings you can find that month. A natural event to look for is listed each week in addition to all of those things. In other words, it's a beautiful calendar that you can learn from, use to look for things on hikes or just enjoy.
AND your purchase helps Audubon too!
This calendar is something I wish was out there years ago. Finding things in nature is so often dependent on being in the right place at the right time. If you are looking for a flower, you can easily miss it if you are just a week off. I can remember looking for a perfect bunchberry flower. The first year I found it, the flower was past its prime and losing petals. The second year, I was way too early and missed the flower again. It took three years before the flower was in full bloom at the same time I went to look for it. Other things have taken me eight years or more to see and find out when they happen in this area. When do the bats migrate? I stumbled across that in mid-August. What time of year is the best to find fawns still laying still in the grass? Years of fawn finds shows that mid-May to early June is the best time to look for them.
Everything comes in its time or place through the seasons. This calendar may not have everything that is going on, but it has lots of great natural history and beautiful photos. It's a great chance to help Audubon out with its fundraiser and give yourself something to look for every month while you are wandering outside.
Jeff Tome is a naturalist at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary, where some of his photos are featured in the 2012 Natural History Calendar fundraiser. Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, just east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren. More information is available at jamestownaudubon.org.