Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes November 2014

We started November still not having a frost and were able to continue to enjoy blooming flowers and decent temperatures. Finally on November fourteenth, we got frost and snow flurries. Several days later, the temperatures took a nosedive into the twenties. There was light snow mixed with rain. Thankfully, we did not receive the huge amounts of snow that the Buffalo area did and hopefully, we never will. Where would it all go here in the village? If such a snowfall was to happen, I know that Round Lakers would make the best of it. We would help each other dig out our walks and cars as well as, shovel off heavy snow loads from porch roofs. Snow sculptures, forts, and snow people would be everywhere. But wait! We might have our opportunity as I am now hearing of a storm coming in for Thanksgiving. Fingers crossed that it stays well under a foot.
When the leaves are off the trees, bird, paper wasp, and squirrel nests are all revealed. The squirrel nests are the round leaf balls we see usually in the crook of trees. They are called dreys. These nests are made up of leaves attached to small twigs or branches. An inner nest consists of grass, moss, leaves, and pine needles. The opening is most times against the trunk. Squirrels make these at the end of summer or early autumn to keep warm on frigid winter days and nights. The drey is not sheltered enough to have January babies in them and instead tree cavities are used. The drey is fine for the June brood. Look for these nests all around the village. Once you notice them, you'll see them everywhere. Last winter I watched European Starlings poking their bills into a drey most likely, looking for insects to eat. Sometimes squirrels will abandon the nest if there are too many lice and fleas in it.
Another thing to look for at this time of year are vole tunnels. They are runways dug underneath the grass or soil and appear slightly mounded above the ground. The tunnels lead from a sheltered area to a tree where the vole can chew the bark and roots without being seen by predators like foxes and owls. There is one in Schoolhouse Park right now. If you face the park and walk up the left side, it is on bare ground. Hope you spot it. Also, skunks have been out nosing around for grubs and earthworms in the park. They put their noses to the ground and dig with their front claws, leaving a hole the size of their nose. While still in the park, walk back beyond the labyrinth on the east side and you might see some Eastern Bluebirds flitting around in the trees. I saw four of them the other day in this spot.

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes Summer and Early Autumn 2014

I can't believe it's nearing the end of October. We're buried in falling leaves, and thinking of winter on our doorstep. Weren't we just waiting for the arrival of the hummingbirds, planting our vegetable gardens, and soaking up summer sunshine? Well, the hummers have come and gone. Marsha, on Covel Avenue, saw her last one on September twentieth. The males fly south first, usually in late August. If you had feeders out, you may have seen a feeding frenzy as they got ready to leave. The females do the same thing a couple of weeks later. The Monarch butterflies have headed to Mexico and I can happily say, I saw more of them fly through this year than last although I didn't see one feeding on my garden flowers until the first of September. In past seasons, Monarchs have been regular visitors throughout the summer. Hopefully, their numbers are higher than last year when the count is done in Mexico this winter. As the end of October nears, we have yet to get a frost. Last year, the first frost was on October twenty-ninth. This season it looks like November first. I have a tomato plant with blossoms still! Annual and perennial flowers are still looking good. Petunias, roses, cosmos, asters, begonias, and mums are some of the flowers still in bloom. This will all change by week's end. It's predicted to drop below thirty degrees and snow showers may occur.
A pair of Carolina Wrens moved into a nest box in our yard in August and had a brood of four babies. They kept us very entertained with nest building, insect hunting and loud mouth behavior. The male sings an extremely high decibel song which became our wake-up call early each morning. The pair built a cup shaped nest in the box together, using dried leaves and grass, rootlets, and small twigs. They foraged for insects all over the yard and garden. It looked like crickets were the favorite meal. Once the babies were born, both parents were in and out of the nest box with insects and fecal sacs. The sacs are poop which the parents drop away from the nest so as to not attract predators and to keep the nest clean. One day I got to see one of the parents fly a sac over to a neighbor's garbage can lid and dump it! Too bad the can wasn't open. After just a couple of weeks babies and parents were out of the nest box and flitting around the apple tree in the yard. Later in the day-Gone! I saw the family over on Andrews avenue the next day. Carolina Wrens are year round residents. They will come to feeders to eat suet, hulled sunflower seeds and dried fruit. They also like seeds from poison ivy berries.
I believe I saw a Broad-winged Hawk hanging around the village for a few days back in September. It is the first sighting I've had for one in town. The hawk was most likely migrating south and found Round Lake a good spot for a few meals. The first time I saw it I was at the bottom of the hill by the tennis courts. It came flying down from Covel Avenue, past Diane Marchand's house and to the top of the basketball hoop in the McDonough's yard. It perched there for a bit, looking over its shoulder and peering around the yard before taking off for a higher perch in a pine tree. I saw it a couple of days later by Jeff Max's house. It was up at the top of a tall tree inspecting the landscape. Broad-winged hawks are small stocky hawks with broad pointed wings and have tails with black and white bands. They especially like to dine on small rodents, insects, frogs and toads.
Lastly, if you are at all curious about how winter weather will be, find a Wooly Bear caterpillar and examine its segments. These caterpillars are black at each end with brown for a middle segment. Folklore claims that the wider the brown band the milder the winter while the narrower the brown band the harsher the winter. Wooly Bears can be seen on roads, trails, and sidewalks this time of year on their way to overwinter under rocks and in logs and leaf litter. Check them out and see what you think the forecast will be! Happy Halloween Everyone!