- Pay special attention to the sky from now until
the middle of May. While waterbirds may be the most
prominent flyovers this month, other migrants may
be spotted at almost any time of the day. This is
especially true later in the spring.
- Tundra Swan flights tend to be concentrated,
sometimes as early as late February or the first
week of March, often the second or third week of
this month. Day or night, they usually can be heard
long before they are seen. It is a treat to see and
hear a flock of these long-necked white birds
against a blue sky, leading spring northward.
- Weather changes in late winter and early spring
are often dramatic. Check lakes and reservoirs
within 24 hours of the passage of a front while
waterbirds may still be present waiting out the
severe weather and adverse winds. By the time
temperatures moderate and winds die, migrants often
have moved on. Occasionally, skies will be clear
locally but there will be snow or sleet over the
Great Lakes, causing waterfowl to drop onto local
lakes waiting out unfavorable conditions before
proceeding north. Weekdays (when there are few
boats on the reservoirs and lakes) are usually the
most rewarding. Although reservoirs should not be
ignored, many migrant ducks (including divers) will
be found on relatively small ponds or on the
county's four large lakes. The majority of
waterfowl pass through this month and into the
next. Numbers drop after the first week of April; a
very few birds may linger into May.
- Check for scoters from late March through
mid-April on reservoirs and large lakes. Most
appear during heavy rainstorms, especially when the
rain is accompanied by high winds. Most do not stay
more than a single day.
- Cock Ring-necked Pheasants are vocal this month
early in the morning. Unfortunately, the
county's pheasant population has dropped
dramatically in the last few decades. The most
recent breeding bird atlas did not confirm nesting
for this species, although they were recorded in
eleven blocks. Within the last few years, pheasants
have been sighted at Schooley Mill Park and along
roads in the vicinity of Warfields Pond Park and
Western Regional Park. A few county individuals
raise and release pheasants.
- The last week of March and first week of April
normally produce peak numbers of Horned Grebes.
Although they may appear on any large body of
water, they have been most consistent on
Triadelphia Reservoir, Lake Elkhorn, and Centennial
- The earliest Great Egrets begin to appear
around the middle of March.
- Cattle Egrets used to start showing up in
April; the earliest record is mid-March. During the
last decade they have become so scarce that they
have not been reported each year; many years there
is a single record only.
- Black-crowned Night-Herons may begin appearing
this month. Watch for them at any of the large
county lakes or on the reservoirs in early morning
and again at dusk. Wilde Lake and Lake Kittamaqundi
are the two most consistent locations with Lake
Elkhorn a good third option. During the middle of
the day, a bird can sometimes be found roosting in
trees (particularly willows) along shorelines.
- Red-shouldered and Red-tailed hawks continue
February's courtship and nesting activity.
Migrants are also passing through.
- Usually, American Coots can be found on local
lakes from mid-March through most of April.
- Wilson's Snipe numbers jump and sometimes
peak near the end of the month.
- American Woodcock courtship at dusk and dawn is
most vigorous from now until late April in
clearings or in fallow fields not far from a stream
valley or a moist woodland thicket. Migrants have
been present in recent years at Mount Pleasant,
Warfields Pond Park, and Annapolis Rock. The Middle
Patuxent Environmental Area, which once was a
reliable site, has seen a drop in population as
fallow farm fields have given way to more advanced
stages of succession. The tract is being actively
managed for woodcock to enhance both migrant and
breeding populations. Perhaps, within a few years,
the species will again be reliable there as more
than an occasional migrant.
- Ring-billed and Herring gulls are still in
evidence, mostly near water, sometimes in fields or
on parking lots.
- Barred Owls start to call more frequently,
especially just before dawn (5:00 a.m. – 6:00
a.m.) and from dusk to about 10:00 p.m.
- Northern Flickers and other woodpeckers are
noisily engaged in courtship. Prime drumming sites
may be houses as well as dead trees. Woodpeckers
are protected by state and federal law so any
methods used to discourage them cannot endanger
them. The majority of locally breeding woodpeckers
are choosing nest sites and beginning to excavate.
- A few Eastern Phoebes may winter, but migrants
begin to appear during the first half of March; the
peak is late this month and early next.
- Both American and Fish crows are nest building.
Watch for them carrying nesting material. Various
species of pines are favorite nest sites. Both of
these normally vocal species are quiet in the
vicinity of their nests.
- Horned Larks are paired, courting, and
beginning to nest. School grounds with poor turf
and farm fields with bare earth are good places to
listen and look for them. Although this species has
become increasingly difficult to find, Western
Regional Park and its environs is a reliable site,
especially the soccer fields in the park and the
fields on the south side of Carrs Mill Road
(opposite the park entrance). Underwood Road, near
the junction of MD 99, has often produced this
species along with pipits. They can be seen and
heard from the road. This is private property so do
not go into the fields!
- The Purple Martin vanguard should arrive during
the last half of the month; the first Tree,
Rough-winged, and Barn swallows arrive in early to
mid-March although the majority wait until late
March or April.
- Chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice begin to
choose and excavate nest sites in late March. March
and April are good times to observe the courtship
and nest-building behavior of these cavity-nesting
- Most American Robin flocks have broken up by
late in the month; territorial song is increasing.
- Brown Thrashers begin to arrive in late March
and early April.
- American Pipits are moving through this month
and next. The major migration is from the middle of
March to mid-April. Plowed or manured fields are
prime localities. Scan fields carefully, they are
hard to see. It may be easier to spot them in
flight, uttering their two-note call. Horned Larks
may be present in the same fields.
- Flocks of Cedar Waxwings may descend on
hawthorn, crabapple, or American holly trees and
strip them of their remaining softened fruit. Some
years this species will be scarce until late April
or even May.
- Listen for the lazy trill of the Pine Warbler
in pine stands beginning the last half of the
month. A few may arrive earlier, especially if the
winter has been mild.
- Eastern Towhees should return in numbers from
mid to late March.
- Migrating American Tree Sparrows may sometimes
be seen about the first week of the month. Be
especially careful about identifying any after the
third week of March as few linger into April.
- Look for the first Chipping Sparrows at feeders
in late March; their long trill can be heard in
most suburban locations.
- Seek Savannah Sparrows from mid-March to early
May in sparsely vegetated expanses with nearby weed
patches or in weedy fields.
- Fox Sparrows are found in greatest numbers from
late February through mid-March. Almost all
disappear by the end of the month.
- Song Sparrow migration is usually heaviest the
first half of the month. Swamp Sparrows move in
large numbers from late March through much of
- The bell-like trill of the Dark-eyed Junco is
now heard, especially near feeders where they
- Predicting the location of Rusty Blackbirds is
difficult, especially with a dwindling population.
Seek them during most of this month and next in
swampy, floodplain woods with standing water and
along muddy pond edges. Peak migration is usually
from the last week of March through mid-April.
Among the places where they have been consistently
observed are Gwynn Acres Path, the Middle Patuxent
Environmental Area, Centennial Park, and Lake
- About the middle of the month, American
Goldfinch plumage begins to change. People who feed
thistle (nyger) are able to watch the gradual
development of the male's bright colors.