Making Ripples: Time For Spring Break Travel
Students aren’t the only ones migrating right now
Humans have spring break, and wildlife have spring migration. Wildlife want the best breeding grounds, while humans search for the best beach (which is sometimes more or less the same thing). Migration is going on now for our animal friends, both distant and local. The extreme cold temperatures in February are suspected of slowing down the spring migration in some areas, so you might see arrivals a bit later than in previous years. But be prepared just in case!
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are crossing the Louisiana-Arkansas border at the time of this writing on March 15, according to the 2021 spring migration tracker HummingbirdCentral.com. Everyone is encouraged to report their first sightings, and there are several websites to choose from. JourneyNorth.org tracks a variety of species, including hummingbirds, and on March 10 the first Arkansas sighting was reported. “One male came by empty feeder. Caught us by surprise!” read the report from Magnolia. Returning hummingbirds often visit the same feeder in your yard for years, as they favor familiar sites. Now is the time to get out those nectar feeders, give them a good cleaning and remember not to use any artificial food coloring in the nectar. Red dye could harm the hummingbirds’ health.
Turtles are on the move after several recent rainfalls encouraged the start of their migration. Even before the rain, red-eared sliders awakened from brumation. I’m not sure how far the sliders will travel (if at all), but I’ve seen them cross roads, hills and valleys. Box turtles typically roam within a couple of acres and search for mates each spring. Beware of turtle crossings, and if it’s safe, help them cross to the side they were facing.
Monarch butterflies are about to cross the Oklahoma-Texas borders and fly into Arkansas as of March 11, according to JourneyNorth.org. They’ve already spread east into the southern states as far north as Charlotte, N.C., a similar latitude to our own.
Some species take mini-trips (in human terms) rather than crossing continents. The American toad may travel more than half a mile to reach water and find a mate during their spring breeding season. Spring peepers, chorus frogs, toads and other species have already been calling loudly throughout the night for about a month in Northwest Arkansas.
While there are a lot of animals embarking on their own “spring break trip,” many species that migrate may also overwinter here. We have year-round populations of robins and bluebirds, for example. So you may notice them first in the spring, but it does not necessarily mean that they all traveled a long way to get here.
The iconic Canada goose has long been associated with spring and fall migrations, and we’ve enjoyed hearing them honk south of Fayetteville, but don’t overlook the little toad or turtle that’s migrating, too, or the year-round resident posing as a traveler. Spring break is a fabulous time to get outside without traveling at all. Let the travelers come to you!
Amanda Bancroft is a writer, artist, and naturalist living in an off-grid tiny house on Kessler Mountain. She and her husband Ryan blog about their adventures and offer tips to those wanting to make a difference at www.RipplesBlog.org.