March is a crazy and unpredictable month for wildlife watching.
One day you’re completely absorbed by winter. You bundle up, head outdoors and see all the nature that our coldest months have to offer.
The next day it appears as if spring has the upper hand. The winter birds seem to have disappeared and early migrants, such as red-winged blackbirds and eastern phoebes, fill the warm air with breeding and territorial songs. In the evening, the chorus of spring peepers dominates the airwaves.
The struggle for seasonal supremacy goes back and forth throughout the month. February is clearly winter’s domain and spring eventually takes over sometime during April. But March is a fickle month, allowing ownership to neither winter nor spring even though the calendar says it’s officially spring on March 21, give or take a day. New England weather is beholden to no calendar.
The shifts can take place daily. One day early in the month, I was looking at ducks in an open pool of water on a reservoir. I returned literally the next day and the pool was frozen over and remained that way for about a week.
There are freezing cold days and usually some snowfalls in March. Any snowfall in March could be the last one so it’s a good idea to enjoy the feeding frenzy that takes place at the bird feeders when it snows this late in the winter.
Then there are March days like the ones last week when it hit nearly 70 degrees.
I walked along a section of a river where just a few weeks ago I watched common mergansers and ring-necked ducks, only to notice that this time the area teemed with signs of spring. Red-winged blackbirds, although difficult to find, were singing their hearts out. Their song may not be melodic, but it is pleasant and most certainly welcome.
While the blackbirds’ song filled the air near the water, the other side of the trail was alive with a pleasing chorus of house finches — dozens of them. Spring was definitely in the air.
To top it off, as I walked back to the car, I checked my pant legs and found three deer ticks. I realize that the tiny disease-carrying monsters can be found during all four seasons, but I was hoping to not see them for at least a few more weeks. No such luck.
Even around the house, male cardinals are brightening the mood in the neighborhood with their awesome spring songs. But at the same time, I saw a few fox sparrows — a winter bird for New England — at the feeders.
It’s hard to get a read on March. I’ve lived in New England long enough to know that more cold weather and more snow is coming. And, truth be told, I’m reluctant to let go of the winter wildlife anyway. But it’s also hard to not look forward to consistent warmer temperatures after getting that first taste of spring.
I guess the best way to look at March is that it gives us the best of two worlds.