Take down the birdfeeders and turn on the electric fences around the beehives and henhouse. The bears are awake and hungry after months of hibernation. Some of the sows have new cubs that weren’t there when they went to sleep.
The Granite State’s six thousand or so black bears aren’t the only winter sleepers awake and on the move. Skunks, raccoons, chipmunks, woodchucks and bats are active again, along with all manner of reptiles and amphibians. All those birds that went south last fall are returning to raise new families.
The old Yankee saying is: ”It ain’t spring til the peepers sing,” Well, guess what? It’s spring and if you walk past wetlands you’ll likely hear the “quacking” of wood frogs during the day and a chorus of peepers singing at dusk. Turtles are out sunbathing in the middle of the day and salamanders are migrating to the vernal pools on wet, warm nights.
Spring is the best time for wildlife watching. The songbirds tell you where they’re at with all that daybreak territorial singing. The wild turkey hens are starting to nest and the toms are displaying and strutting. Next month those hens will be shepherding newly hatched offspring while the whitetail deer does give birth to a new batch of fawns. Meanwhile, the whitetail bucks are busy growing new sets of antlers. Right now those deer are looking a little ragged as they shed their winter coats in favor of their reddish summer jackets.
Predators, like foxes and coyotes, have youngsters to feed, a task that requires the efforts of both parents. Normally nocturnal creatures like these are spending more and more time out in the daylight hours, especially at the start and end of the day.
How does a person go about enjoying all the wildlife watching possibilities? One of the best ways is simply take to the trails and do some hiking. Walk quietly (without conversations) and watchfully and do it at the edges of the day, early morning and early evening for the best results.
My personal favorite time of day is sunrise. Dawn breaks to a riot of birdsong. Turkeys are gobbling from the roost, ruffed grouse (partridge) are drumming and predators are taking their kills back to the den. Owls and loons are calling, herons are flying away to their fishing grounds. There’s a lot happening, more than any other time of day. Walks on trails that skirt wetlands are especially productive in terms of wildlife sightings.
If you aren’t a morning person, don’t fret. This time of year it seems like there’s something going on all day long. All you have to do is be out there. Take a camera so you can capture and share your sightings. Don’t let a gentle rain deter you. Take an umbrella or don a raincoat. Wild animals know that people don’t like the rain and they feel more comfortable and are more active in rainy or foggy weather.
The bonus for getting out there and doing this is the opportunity to see those spring wildflowers, as well. Right now it’s just the skunk cabbage (a natural spring bear food), but soon there’ll be trillium and lady’s slippers, along with hobblebush, star flowers and others.
One thing to keep in mind when hiking in New Hampshire these days is tick control. My personal approach to this is treating my outdoor clothes with the insect repellent permethrin, which works well for me. Unfortunately, this insect repellent is not to be applied to skin and so it doesn’t work on the black flies due to show up in late April and last through the month of May. One thing about black flies is that they don’t get active until the temperature reaches 50 degrees F., another reason I like to do my outdoor stuff early in the morning.