It never ceases to amaze me how predictable the cycles of nature can be. The interaction of climate, temperature, precipitation, elevation and the amount of sunlight exert on irresistible influence on what the plants and animals do during the various seasons of the year. The scientific study of the these cyclical biological occurrences is known as phenology. I just call it miraculous.
As an obsessed birder, I am particularly in tune with the seasonal behavior of West Virginia's avian life. For example, even though winter storm Thor is threatening to dump more snow on the Mountain State this week, I know that the spring bird migration is already in motion. Over the past week, the flock of American Robins hanging out on the disc golf course at Dorsey's Knob has grown from about a dozen birds to over a hundred today. I have also already been hearing the expected springtime songs of Carolina Chickadees, Northern Cardinals and Song Sparrows coming from the thickets around the Groscup Center. Even a nomadic flock of Cedar Waxwings showed up on cue this week to feed on the dried fruit still clinging to an ornamental tree near the lodge. Last March they were in that very same tree at this very same time of year. Some of them might even be the very same birds!
Bird migration is so predicable that I already know what species will be showing up at Dorsey's Knob over the next couple of weeks. For example, within a few days there should be a male Red-winged Blackbird singing his heart out beside the pond. And then around March 16th, I'll be greeted in the morning by an Eastern Phoebe singing from the hillside near the mosaic Spirit Wall. Phoebes spend their winters in the southeastern states and are some of the earliest spring songbirds to arrive back on their nesting grounds in West Virginia. Last year a pair of phoebes raised two broods in a nest located on the back side of the lodge. I bet they'll be there again this year.
So even though ice, sleet, and snow are in the immediate forecast, rest assured that the air will soon be filled with the springtime songs of migrating birds.
Field Notes from Dorsey's Knob
Thoughts and observations on the natural history and current happenings at Dorsey's Knob Park.
About the Author
John Boback is a naturalist, historian, environmental educator and caretaker at Dorsey's Knob Park. He can often be seen around the park staring intently into the trees through binoculars or crouched down trying to photograph a wildflower or an interesting insect. If you see him, take a moment to say hello.