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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Signs of SPRING: skunk mating season and blackbird flocks

Common Grackle and Red-winged Blackbirds
(Seneca Falls, NY 3/12)
Although the thermometer seems to have been set at "Spring" for the past few months, the calender is finally agreeing. I checked the cameras today and found two genuine signs of spring. First, two photos of migrating blackbird flocks. I see Common Grackle and Red-winged Blackbird. Interesting fact: Red-wing males migrate before females and establish territories. When the females arrive, they seem to select males largely on the territory they have selected and held. The Red-wings on my wetland are already singing.

Red-winged Blackbirds
(Seneca Falls, NY 3/12)
Female Red-winged Blackbirds are not black nor do they have red in the wing. I have been doing a bit of mist netting with my students lately and i look forward to cathcing some Red-wings with them. The males are so much larger than the females that they take a different size band. That is not all that unusual in the bird world, but it IS unusual for the species of birds that I work with. I wish this photo wasn't so blurry, but you take what you get!

My other sign of spring is a set of two skunk photos taken only a few minutes apart. I assume the first photo is a female and the second is a male following her scent. I have no proof of this but I can support my idea. First, I experienced almost exactly the same thing almost exactly one year ago in exactly the same spot. Last March, I had this camera on the same tree and wrote this. Second, I do not get photos of skunks this close together outside of the breeding season. Even this year, where I had more skunk photos in February -- more different skunk individuals -- I did not have skunks trailing so close behind each other. Compare the two skunks photographed to the ones shown here to see if these are known or new skunks. What do you think?

 Thirteen minutes later:

Thirteen minutes doesn't feel like he is "hot on her heels" but consider a few things. How do they find each other in the first place? Probably by scent. So a male crosses a fresh scent of a female and he starts to follow. By the time he is photographed above, he has narrowed the gap to 13 minutes between himself and the female. Presumably, she is meandering a bit; looking for food. Presumably, he is not and that is how he can continue to get closer and closer.


  1. Nice!

    For the first time in the last week or so, I started getting skunk photos again as well....

  2. I thought the nearest looking skunk was 06 but was still different.I have noticed male brown hares following female scent up to around an hour old and also feral ferret hobs(mustelidae)following much older female scent.....

  3. You always get the coolest pictures from your property. I think I'm going to try and get bird pics now, instead of targeting mammals! Awesome flock. What are the chances of getting a RWBB in a mist net? AT EHC?


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