Take a Walk on the Greenway

A cold and stormy February is transitioning into a warming seasonable early March. Along the Four Mile Creek Greenway from Bevington to the large cattail marsh, the changes are evident. Red-shouldered hawks and barred owls, the ambassadors of the greenway are growing more vocal. Two or three pairs of hawks nest each year along that stretch. They are wildly conspicuous with their raucous screaming as they fly through the tree canopy. Nest building is well underway and intruders are not welcome.

Red-shouldered Hawk
 Photo by John Ennis

Barred owls are not as conspicuous but it is not uncommon to hear them hooting it up day or night. One or two pairs call the stretch of greenway home. You may not see or hear them every time you walk it but be assured they are watching you, often from a close distance. The hawks and owls share the same habitat of flood plain woods and diet of crayfish, snakes, and frogs. One hunts by day and the other mostly by night so they don’t compete with each other, and therefore tolerate each other’s presence.

Barred Owl
Photo by Lee Weber

Rusty blackbirds also prefer wet flood plain. As they begin to move north in March small flocks are drawn to the greenway woods. Rusty blackbirds have experienced close to a 905 decline in their population in the last thirty years. The reasons are not clear but a suspected cause is the acidification of the boreal bogs where they nest.

Rusty Blackbird
Photo by John Ennis

Red-winged blackbirds return to the cattail marsh in March. Look for the males perching on old cattail stalks while they flare their red epulets and sing their pleasing “con-ga-ree”.     

Red-winged Blackbird
Photo by John Ennis

As far as greenway vocalists go the real volume is supplied by the frogs. Choruses of late winter breeders like spring peepers, upland chorus frogs, and Southern leopard frogs can be deafening when all the males start calling at once. The chorus frog call sounds is a rough grating, described by some similar to running your finger along the tines of a stiff comb. Spring peepers do just that, sounding off with high pitched peeps. Southern leopards sound like the rubbing of an inflated balloon. 

Use the following links to hear the late winter frog calls you will hear along the greenway: