Bioacoustics Almanac — March Listening Together Project
March is the month when our woodlands begin to come to life with the approach of spring. Thus, this month we feature the wildlife species whose calls remind us of this enlivening and whose names are taken from their woodland habitat.
(click on the white speaker icon in upper left corner of graphic for sound)
Beginning in the first week of March, the American Woodcock returns to Nova Scotia to breed. By the end of the month, the vast majority of migrants will have arrived. For many birders and naturalists, heading out at dusk to hear the “sky dance” of the woodcock could be called a ritual to mark the end of winter. In a forest opening, or in old field surrounded by young forest, you will first hear the “peent” of the male, as he rotates on the ground, the loudness of the “peent” will grow louder or softer as the sound moves toward you or away from you. Then a pause, the male takes off going straight up with wings twittering. Reaching the peak of his flight, the male begins making repetitive, melodious chirps as he descends. Returning to the ground, he ends his aerial display with more “peents.” Turn up the volume, and listen to the whole 50 seconds of the attached recording to enjoy the dance of the male woodcock. (Painting: Louis Agassiz Fuertes; Recording, Xeno-Canto, Doug Hynes and Andrew Spencer).
The Wood Frog is a woodland species that breeds almost exclusively in vernal pools that form temporarily during the spring run-off. The frog emerges from its winter hibernacula under leaf litter to migrate to one of these pools. In Nova Scotia, they can be heard calling in late March, at about the same time that Spring Peepers emerge. During the breeding season, Wood Frogs can travel hundreds of meters between breeding pools. (Photo: Nova Scotia Museum; Recording: wildearthvoices, Mark Brennan).
In the past, the general arrival of Wood Ducks in Nova Scotia was in early April. With a warming climate, Wood Ducks are seen more frequently in winter, and it is difficult to discern over-wintering birds from early arriving pairs in March. It is a bird of streams, wooded swamps, and marshes. It is one of several species of ducks that nests in tree cavities. The nest cavities of Pileated Woodpeckers are large enough to serve as a home to the Wood Duck. The most well known call of the Wood Duck is its “reek” call which can be heard in the attached recording. This call is only made by the female when expressing alarm or contacting a male. (Painting: Louis Agassiz Fuertes; Recording: Xeno-Canto, Paul Marvin).
The Pileated Woodpecker chisels out a nest cavity in the trunks of trees. Because of the large size of this cavity, the woodpecker requires trees of considerable girth. Some conservationists believe the cutting of large trees in old growth forests is the main threat to this species. The Pileated Woodpecker is a keystone species in the forest. It’s nesting and foraging cavities provide homes for Wood Ducks, Northern Saw-whet Owls, and American Martens. Its strong drilling ability speeds up the recycling of wood in the forest, and it eats beetles and ants that could pose a threat to forest health. The call of the Pileated Woodpecker is somewhat similar to the Northern Flicker but shorter in duration. It drumming is similar to Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker but trails off slightly, but perceptively, at the end with a softer sound. (Painting: Louis Agassiz Fuertes; Recording: Xeno-Canto, Melani Sleder, Peter Ward, & Ken Hall).