Spring – Weather and Wildlife
By Kathy Schwengler, Education & Outreach Coordinator, Eagle Point-Blue Rapids Parks Council
The general consensus here in the Drayton Valley area is that this winter has gone on far too long! We all must agree that in Alberta, one has to keep an open mind to the vagaries of spring weather and try to make the best of it! Traditionally, March and April weather can vary from -30 to +25 C in Alberta. The coldest Marches on record – 1897, Medicine Hat, -38.9C, -37.8C in Lethbridge in 1951!
The biggest weather change on record – 1962, Pincher Creek, the temp went from -19 to +22 in ONE HOUR!
While the weather in unpredictable, our wildlife neighbors know spring is on its way.
In late March/early April black bears emerge from hibernation. It takes about 2 weeks for their metabolism to go back to normal. Be aware that you may be sharing the trail with newly emerged bears!
Many migrating birds start to arrive in Alberta during March.
What triggers migration is still a mystery, but many scientists believe it’s a combination of daylight hours, temperature changes, food source depletion, and genetic memory.
One of our first arriving birds in the Drayton Valley area is Canada Geese.
Reports of robins and bluebirds have been coming in from southern parts of Alberta since mid-March, so start thinking about preparing and hanging your birdhouses if you haven’t already done so!
For construction advice on bluebird and other birdhouses, go to www.ellisbirdfarm.ca.
The size of the entrance hole must be 1 9/16” to prevent starlings from getting in. Starlings, along with house sparrows, will destroy bluebird nests and even kill adult birds.
For a schedule of arriving migratory birds, a great reference list is on the website: www.prairiebirder.com.
For non-migratory birds, our local Whiskey Jacks (also known as Grey Jays) and Great Horned Owls begin nesting in late February/early March!
These are the earliest nesters here in Alberta. In Eagle Point/Blue Rapids Parks system right now, these two species are busy preparing their nests and laying eggs.
Photo By Dan Strickland at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17935610
On that note, in late March and early April, we will start to hear the sounds of saw whet owls calling for mates.
Check out the sounds and images of the Northern Saw-whet Owl
Did you know that owls and other raptors nests are protected under the Alberta Wildlife Act? Nests that are occupied can not be disturbed. Companies which plan any land disturbance hire biologists to do sweeps of the area to look for nests.
If a nest is found, a large buffer must be left around the nest site. This is especially important for early nesters – if the female is disturbed – she doesn’t keep the eggs warm when the temperatures are cold, the incubating chicks will die inside the eggs.
March and April are great times to go out as a family and look for signs of spring in your backyard or even better, take your family for a walk on one of the many trails in Eagle-Point/Blue Rapids Parks, right next door, where adventure awaits!