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Much is not expected from February. Winter continues. Snow, ice and freezing temperatures are likely. In this writer’s life-long New Jersey experience, February often offers a climate tease of what will come during spring. This occurred with coat-less temperatures towards the end of the month bringing Tree Swallows and other early migrants along with it (see Kenn Kaufman’s Audubon.org article, How Different Spring Migrants Decide When to Head North, and thanks to John Bloomfield’s Facebook post for bringing attention to this).
The median temperature for NJ Climate Division 1 (North) during February 2017 was 37.1 F degrees, the highest average for February since record collection was systematized in 1895. See the NJ State Climatologist table, here. Think back to 2015 when the February average was 18.8 F degrees, the third coldest since 1895.
Regarding March 2017, the weather has been abysmal, with a snow storm that thankfully fell well short of the accumulation predictions, and frigid temperatures for successive weeks that left this writer content to stay indoors.
Fortunately, the past few days have reignited spring migration fervor. Eastern Phoebe numbers are increasing. Osprey were reported from various places in Morris and Somerset yesterday. Waterfowl are moving through the region. 10 Common Loons were on Lake Hopatcong this morning. Hundreds of Tree Swallows were swarming over the lake as well. A Lesser Yellowlegs today in Bridgewater is the first Tringa species of the year in either Somerset or Morris Counties.
A vanguard of Double-crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons inhabited the nesting island at Boonton Reservoir during the last mild week of February. Every one of them left with the deep freeze of March. They have returned en masse this past week with 100 Double-crested Cormorants (there will be more!) and 25 visible Great Blue Herons engaged in nesting activities.
Winter does not go easily. Saturday’s mild temperature gave way to a raw 35 F degree Sunday morning. Ice still covers portions of Morris lakes, as the following American Wigeons at Lake Musconetcong can attest to.
For what it is worth, the weather forecast for the next two weeks shows the temperature staying above freezing throughout the period. The transition into April is historically a time for Grebes, Loons, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Long-tailed Ducks and other waterfowl to visit making bodies of water worthy of frequent checking.
Mammals on the prowl.
The color of this Eastern Coyote’s coat blends beautifully with the late March hues of Troy Meadows marsh and woodland edge. DNA studies show that the larger Eastern Coyote, or Coywolf, is a likely hybrid of the Western Coyote (Canis latrans) and Eastern Wolf (Canis lycaon) earning the taxon, Canis latrans x lycaon.
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