March in New York tends to be a bit lacking for excitement in the natural world. Even though winter has ended, it takes spring a while to really kick off. We still get our fair share of frosty storms during the third month. The migration train starts to roll out of the station at this time of year, but it’s a slow start. For the most part, our winter birds head home and there are very few new arrivals to replace them. This year, I’ve been unjustly robbed of experiencing these early movers as year birds due to encounters during my Texas trip. Osprey, Piping Plover, and a number of terns were all spotted during my southern travels before their scheduled returns to my home state. I even got late-lingering Eastern Phoebe and Pine Warbler, two of the most notable first-wave migrants, in January of this mild winter. The spectacle begins in earnest in the coming weeks and continues through May, so stay tuned for more migration updates.
One benefit of the warmer weather is that it’s easier to convince friends to adventure with me in the outdoors now. Few are foolhardy enough to join me on a windswept, snowy beach on the off-chance of seeing an owl. A casual, springtime hike is a much more appealing offer! I planned an outing with my coworkers last weekend, hoping to ascend Breakneck Ridge Trail along the Hudson River. Forecasts of inclement weather discouraged us from climbing the mountain, but we still made the journey north of the city to visit Clare’s family in Croton. The afternoon cleared up nicely, and although there was not enough time for a full-day hike we headed out to Croton Gorge Park to walk along the dam. Signs of spring were everywhere: trees are beginning to bud, insects are beginning to swarm, and birds are beginning to sing and stake their territories. We stood atop the dam, with the lake to one side and a waterfall to the other, watching as a Turkey Vulture circled low overhead. I passed my binoculars around for everyone to get a good view, and I also spotted a Pileated Woodpecker bounding across the gorge. Our day ended with a lovely barbecue provided by our gracious hosts, and we watched a gorgeous sunset before heading back to the city. Hopefully we can make another spring outing soon!
Year List Update, March 25 – 258 Species (+ Pileated Woodpecker)