Recent Animal Activity

by Carl Strang

Autumn has transitioned to winter at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Sandhill cranes still were migrating in late November, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more before the end of the year.

But most migration seems to have passed to our south. Sparrow flocks have been stabilizing.

Last week the first bit of sticking snow drew my eyes to the ground. The season’s first snow tracks were a cottontail’s.

Then, over the weekend we got our first covering snow, 3 inches worth.

But even in winter there can be surprises. On December 7 I heard a cardinal singing.

This is one reason to build species dossiers. Consulting mine, I could find no record of a singing cardinal between October 15 and January 7 in past years. Usually they are done in August and don’t start up again until the second half of January. This is a true oddity. Cardinals are relatively sensitive to changes in daylight hours, and usually can be counted on to start singing before the end of January, but in early December the days still are shortening.

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5 Comments

  1. nellie said,

    December 8, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Carl, I noticed the same thing. Last week, the end of November, a bird song drew me out into a sunny early morning. snow dusted the ground and a followed a cardinal through the yard into my garden, into a hawthorn tree full of berries then back out into the pines. So what is up with the singing?

    • natureinquiries said,

      December 9, 2010 at 6:48 am

      Hi, Nellie,
      I don’t think we’re seeing a trend, just some oddball individuals. If they keep it up, they really are setting themselves up as Cooper’s hawk bait because the only singing bird around is pretty conspicuous. If anything we are seeing natural selection in action.
      Regards,
      Carl

  2. December 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Nice picture of the sandhill cranes! Saw them last year several days at the end of November, but this year I missed out! I have not seen nor heard their beautiful calls from the sky 😦 at all this year.
    Major bummer!

    • natureinquiries said,

      December 9, 2010 at 6:54 am

      Hi, Christine,
      Perhaps you have noticed this yourself, but weather seems to make a big difference to those cranes. They want following winds, but sometimes a strong westerly lean will take them over Chicago or Lake Michigan, and more rarely an easterly component brings out bunches of reports from Kane County. Some years we just miss out in any given spot.
      Regards,
      Carl

  3. Linda Padera said,

    January 12, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Carl,

    On Saturday, January 7, 2012, in Spears Woods (Palos) two of us watched 80-100 Sandhill Cranes come in from the NW, kettle for a couple of minutes, and leave in a SE direction. Later I saw a second report of a flock of 30 seen over Woodridge the same day. Today there’s finally a winter storm. What did they know that we didn’t?

    Linda Padera


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