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Top 10 Wildlife Signs of Spring (and We Can’t Wait)

Mar 20

Written by:
3/20/2013 1:14 PM  RssIcon

Spring arrived this morning although you wouldn’t know it by the temperature outside — a brisk mid-30s throughout most of the Piedmont, and in the mountains, a downright bone-chilling mid-to-upper 20s.

Look past the temperatures though, and you can see and hear many signs of spring. From the azaleas that bloom a cornucopia of reds,oranges, pinks and whites to the forsythia that glows golden in the shimmery sunshine to the Eastern towhee that trills a metallic yet musical “drink your tea” for his mate, the season of hope, renewal and love is upon us —and not a moment too soon.

Here are our top 10 sights and sounds of spring, in noparticular order.

10) Although they’re year-round residents in North Carolina, American robins are not seen as often during the winter, preferring to spend much of their time roosting in trees.  But come early spring, these familiar brown birds with their orange chests can be seen everywhere — in gardens, parks, yards, pastures, shrub lands and fields, wresting earthworms from a barren ground tinged green with the growth of new grass.

9) The resplendent tom turkey is gobbling, strutting and tail-fanning —all in an effort to locate the hens and establish his dominance over the rest of the toms. Thanks to a successful turkey restoration effort by N.C.Wildlife Resources Commission biologists that began in the 1970s, turkeys are now found — and hunted — in all 100 counties of the state.  This year, a new youth-only turkey season will open April 6 through April 12.

8) Hickory shad are beginning to make their way up the Roanoke, Chowan, Neuse and Tar rivers of North Carolina to their traditional spawning grounds. While they fight hard and strike readily, shad are known more for their impressive aerial acrobats and will put on quite a display as they protest being reeled in. Many experienced anglers have lost their fair share of “ones that got away” when shad take flight.

7) Brilliantly colored,exceptionally fast and extraordinarily tiny, ruby-throated hummingbirds begin their return to the Tar Heel state’s fields, forest edges, meadows, orchards and backyards. Like most birds, ruby-throated hummingbirds have good color vision.While they prefer red and orange tubular flowers, they’ll readily feed at any colored feeder filled with sugar water (1 part sugar to 4 parts water, if you’re making your own, no red food color necessary). 

6) Nocturnal by nature, American toads begin emerging nightly from their underground abodes, often spotted under street lamps and other outdoor lights as they patiently and silently wait for dinner to come buzzing, creeping or hopping along. The male’s long,high-pitched, musical trill, which sounds faintly like a chorus of crickets,can be heard around ephemeral woodland ponds, puddles, permanent ponds and shallow backwaters of rivers as he tries to lure the ladies to his watery love nest.  

5) The sleek, large rat snake emerges from its den periodically to bask in the warm sunshine of early spring,disappearing as stealthily as it appeared when the sun goes down. This rodent-and-bird-eating tree-climber is one of the most common non-venomous snakes encountered in North Carolina. It is often called the chicken snake, for its penchant to visit hen houses searching for supper. It varies in color from solid black in the Mountains and Piedmont regions to a yellow-green in the Coastal Plain.

4) Green anoles begin slinking around on sun-warmed surfaces, searching for flies, crickets and other insects to eat. Despite the fact that this small lizard can turn from a dull brown to a vivid green in a relatively short time, the green anole is not a true chameleon,just a master of camouflage.

3) Red-tailed hawks begin their unmistakable “kee-arrrr call, soaring circles in the Carolina blue sky on broad, rounded wings. If you’re lucky, you’ll witness their courtship dance, where the male and female dive and roll in the sky, eventually locking their talons (claws) and falling together before splitting apart.  

2) Wood ducks, widely considered the most beautiful waterfowl in North America, have been nesting since February, and soon ducklings will emerge from their nests. Wood ducks depend on large, mature trees for natural nesting cavities, although they readily use artificial nest boxes too. They nest over water or land from 6 to 55 feet from the ground.  Even when falling from long distances, ducklings will land uninjured and immediately follow their mother to the nearest cover.

1) The much sought-after striped bass is beginning to move in from the Atlantic Ocean to the sounds and ,eventually, up North Carolina’s coastal rivers for its spring spawning run. Thanks to a successful striped bass restoration effort by fisheries biologists, the Roanoke River is considered one of the best striped bass fisheries on the East Coast. Read more about striped bass fishing on the Roanoke and how to get in on the action.

Information provided by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Davidson Herpetology Lab and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

2 comment(s) so far...

Re: Top 10 Wildlife Signs of Spring (and We Can’t Wait)

Where are the Roanoke River fishing reports promised starting March 15?

By Joel on   3/21/2013 9:56 AM

Re: Top 10 Wildlife Signs of Spring (and We Can’t Wait)

We are aiming for tomorrow, Joel.

By NCWRC blogger on   3/21/2013 3:07 PM

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