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April 2022 Nature Almanac

Green Frog (Rana clamitans) the call sounds like "gunk". Photo by Donna L. Long.

Spring is popping out all over. This issue of the Nature almanac alerts you to nature phenomena, environmental news, citizen science opportunities, and key natural happenings.

Earth Day is April 22nd. Join a citizen science project this month to show your gratitude to our wonderful mother.

banner of green frogs
green frogs

Did You Know…

… that frogs breed in waves? Each frog species breed, and the young develop when the condition are right. And the conditions are right at as the spring progresses into summer.

Who breeds and develops first? Wood Frogs. Wood frogs begin singing in March and April quickly followed by toads and spring peepers. April and May is filled with the singing of leopard and pickerel frogs. And green frogs and bullfrogs bring up the rear in the summer months.

And since the frogs sing and breed one after another in a sequence, their young develop in the same sequence. First wood frogs, then toads, then spring peepers develop from tadpoles into adult frogs. Next come the toads, spring peepers, green frogs, and bullfrogs.

So, this is a nature calendar. If you hear leopard frogs signing you the green frogs and bullfrogs will come next. Also, take note of whose singing and which flowers, shrubs, and trees are in bloom at the same time. Amaze your friends and neighbors with your natural knowledge.

How Cold-Blooded Frogs Survive the WInter and Emerge in the Spring

people at wetlands

Environmental News for April 2022

BioBlitz

Here in Philly, we are getting ready for Bioblitz. “BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time.” – (National Geographic Society website).

I will be leading a team in an area of my local watershed through TTF Watershed.org. If you would like to join a BioBlitz or lead one, check out the iNaturalist.org Guide iNaturalist – https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/bioblitz+guide

Citizen Science Month

SciStarter.org has a page of featured projects for April 2022. Check out the projects you can participate in or lead for this month.

https://scistarter.org/citizensciencemonth

European Earthworms Reduce Insect Populations in North American Forests

If you have read my blog for any length of time you know I warn against earthworms. There are indigenous earthworms which are in harmony with North America ecosystems, then there are introduced invasive species. The introduced earthworms are very disruptive to the soil web and below ground ecosystems. Well there’s a study that suggests earthworms are very disruptive to aboveground ecosystems, too. Read about the study on the Environmental News Network

Global Warming and Forests: How much is too much?

A team of researchers has compiled the data from forested continents around the planet to determine at what temperatures and lack of rain forests are at risk of death. The study was compiled by letting the forests speak for themselves by using the data. Read the article explaining the study on the University of Florida website. The actual paper, “Global field observations of tree die-off reveal hotter-drought fingerprint for Earth’s forests,” can be accessed at nature.com/articles/s41467-022-29289-2.

Plan B folks, Plan B. Read my ideas on developing a Plan B.

humans_young birders at Tinicum
Young Birders at John Heinz NWR at Tinicum, Philadelphia, PA

Spring Birding

The year-around, permanent resident birds are nesting. Migration is in full swing for birds in the southern regions to move to northern nesting sites.

The Neotropical migrants are on the move. The birds that “winter” in the Caribbean, Central and South America, are flying north. They’ll be breeding and nesting in Mexico, the United States, Canada and point in the Far North.

Now is the time to bird during the spring migration. I know that birds that just pass through my area for breeding sites further north are on their way. If I want to see Blackpoll, Cape May, or Tennessee Warblers now is the time. These birds don’t nest or breed in Pennsylvania. If I want to see them I have to spot them during migration.

If you want to figure out which birds only pass through your area, here is what I do. I have a field guide Birds of Pennsylvania by Haas and Burrows.

I flip through the book looking at the range maps. The maps are color coded. In Birds of Pennsylvania, any map which is all yellow signifies that the bird doesn’t breed, nest or live in Pennsylvania. Those birds migrate through to other breeding areas. Those are the birds that I need to look for during spring migration.

Turn Off Outside Lights

As the birds are migrating from the tropics to point north to breed, they are encountering nighttime lights. Excessive nighttime lights distract and disorient migratants. And most songbirds migrate at night. In the City of Philadelphia, municipal and commercial buildings, dim their lights during the spring and fall migration. See my post Bird Migration.

My outside lights are on motion detectors and are off most of the time. The bathrooms in my neighborhood have skylights and some people leave their bathroom lights on all night. These lights reflect light into the night sky. Perhaps a switch to a small night light would be good. It would certainly reduce the electric bill.

humans_boys

Observing Animals in Spring

  • A Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa) emerges from hibernation in my garden.
  • The Eastern Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) are out and about.
  • Turtles are out summng themselves on rocks at the pond’s edge.
  • Join a BioBlitz (see BioBlitz above) and record the species growing and active during this month.

Observing Native Plants in Spring

The sequence of bloom in my backyard garden is snowdrops, daffodils, then grape hyacinths. The Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) in my garden. are getting ready to bloom. The Shadbush buds are ready to burst. Henry David Thoreau was known his town as knowing the local “floral calendar”, knowing the sequence of bloom. What is the sequence of bloom in your backyard?

  • Visit a place you haven’t been before and note what plants are blooming. When you return home note which plants are blooming. Now you know a natural calendar in both places.
robin feeding earthworm to chicks
Robin feeding earthworm to chicks

Spring’s Key Happenings

  • Spring Equinox – March 20, 2022 in the Northern Hemisphere. On the natural calendar this is the midpoint of Spring.
  • Summer Solstice -June 21 at 5:14 a.m. EDT in the Northern Hemisphere. For natural-living people this is summer’s midpoint not a beginning.
  • Spring last 92 days, 19 hours from Spring Equinox until the the Summer Solstice.
  • Earth Day – April 22nd. Love your mother.

In the Sky This Month, April 2022:

  • April 1 – New Moon Pink Moon, Moon When the Geese Lay Eggs, The new moon always rises near sunrise.
  • April 9 – First Quarter Pink Moon or Geese Laying Eggs Moon, First Quarter rises near noon
  • April 16 – Full Pink Moon or Geese Laying Eggs Moon, The full Moon always rises near sunset.
  • April 23 – Last Quarter Moon
  • April 30 – New Moon – New Flower Moon

This Month’s Moon is called the Pink Moon. The ‘Pink” refers to the blooming of the creeping phlox a indigenous flower that is pink in color. The “Geese Laying Eggs”is self-explanatory. The Next Moon, the flower Moon refers to the blooming of many spring flowers.

More on Algonquin American Indian Moon Names 

The Moon’s path across the sky changes with the seasons. Full Moons are very low in the sky between May and July.

Moonrise occurs about 50 minutes later each day.

sky_circumpolar stars
Circumpolar stars in the night sky. Photo credit: NASA Planetary Photo Journal Collection.

Stars in the Spring Sky, April 2022

Circumpolar Constellations – from latitude 40 degree north – these constellations are always in the sky: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Draco, Cepheus, and Camelopardalis.

Spring Constellations

Leo, Bootes, Virgo, Corvus, Crater, and Cancer are in the night sky.

In the Southern Hemisphere Sky look for the stars Alpha Centauri and  Beta Centauri the southern pointers that point directly to the Crux (Southern Cross) constellation. March thru September is the best time to see these stars.

Meteor Shower in the Sky – The Lyrid Showers are seen in the predawn originating in the southern portion of the sky. April 22nd is the date for the maximum number of meteors of about 10 per hour. The best viewing is in a dark sky without much light pollution.

Meteors are fast, moving falling stars. Comets are slow moving balls of ice and dust.

Nature Study and Nature Journaling Activities

Nature in Spring: An Overview

Spring Nature Journal and Prompts

Citizen Science Events to Participate In April 2022

Project Budburst.org (year-round)

BioBlitz near you. Search online using your area name and “bioblitz”

BioBlitz with Tookany Tacony-Frankford Watershed Events at https://ttfwatershed.org/events/

The Journey North

That’s it for this issue. Look for the next issue at the end of May.

If you have a comment or suggestion, as always leave a comment below.

Last April’s Nature Almanac

Happy Nature Journaling!

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