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Observations by Gary Fewless for Green Bay WI (Lat.N 44.51° Long. W 88.02° ), except as noted. For flowers lacking conspicuous petals or sepals I define "anthesis" as release of pollen by mature anthers.

March 2003

Observations by Gary Fewless, except as noted

Introductory highlight paragraph and photo go here.

Date Observation (Click on links for photos)
Mar 30

Great Egrets, Eastern Phoebes and first Leopard Frogs heard
this year, even though most of the small ponds were iced over!! Rock County (Andy Paulios).

First flicker, eastern phoebe, and field sparrow; fox sparrows common, Town of Cooperstown, Manitowoc Co. (Joel Trick).

Thin ice re-formed on many local ponds and puddles, Brown County (Matt Welter and others).

Mar 29

Snow flurries throughout the day and some brief periods of heavy snow. Numerous people were viewing returning waterfowl in the Shiocton area where the Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes and many ducks were readily viewable in the large, open weltands.

Rhinelander had low temperature of 7 F!! Green Bay's low was 26 F.

Mar 27

First active Little Brown Bat, spotted in the Neville Public Museum (Matt Welter).

About 3000 Tundra Swans near the Wolf River (Shiocton area) yesterday, and smaller numbers on lower Green Bay (Tom Erdman).

Rhinelander, WI received 6 inches of snow.

Mar 26

First day of flower for speckled alder (Alnus incana, previously Alnus rugosa), City of Green Bay. This species is often referred to as "tag alder" in this area. It is typically a day or two later than silver maple--more if the weather turns cold (Gary Fewless).

Common Loons, Pied-billed Grebe, Madison (Andy Paulios).

Wild turkey gobbling, town of Cooperstown, Manitowoc Co.(Joel Trick).

Killdeer, Elton, Langlade County (Steve Janke).

Mar 25

First day of flower (anthesis) for silver maple (Acer saccharinum), City of Green Bay. The average date for this tree is March 25, ranging from March 6 to April 5 (18 years) (Gary Fewless). This is the earliest flowering individual of which I am aware, but others typically follow with a couple of days.

After a long, drawn out process the ice is finally gone from the East River at my usual site in Allouez. Later in the day more ice blocks floated into the area from upstream, but the local ice is gone. Removal of the ice was delayed by the virtual lack of a spring flood stage and the shallowness of the river which allowed the ice blocks to rest on the bottom in many areas. Last year the ice came off 03/28. The average since 1986 is 03/23, the earliest was 02/24/1998(!) and the latest was 04/10/1996 (Gary Fewless).

Eastern Bluebirds now back on territory, Town of Cooperstown, Manitowoc County (Joel Trick).

White Throated Sparrow, City of Green Bay (Matt Welter).

The first Whooping Crane has returned to Wisconsin, Dodge County.

The Prairie Pond on UWGB refroze last night (but quickly melted later in the day).

Tree Swallow, Virginia Rail, Rock County (Andy Paulios).

Song Sparrow, Elton, Langlade County (Steve Janke).

Lower than average snowfall in the Great Lakes area and an early snowmelt have contributed to higher fire dangers and there are already several wildfires in Minnesota. The fires are primarily in grassy habitats so far, but if dry weather continues forest fires are a possibility. Wisconsin is also notably dry.

Mar 24

Flocks of Tundra Swans flying over the lower Green Bay area; Eastern Phoebes back (Tom Erdman).

Honeybees out in large numbers, Oconto Co. (Tom Erdman).

Pied-Bill Grebe, Horned Grebe, Cormorant, Eastern
Meadowlark
, Golden Crowned Kinglet, Lesser Scaup and Woodcock, Riverside Trail, De Pere (Matt Welter).

Mar 23

First Song Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck. Ruffed Grouse (drumming), Barkhausen Waterfowl Refuge, Brown County (Matt Welter).

Butterflies: 1st Mourning Cloak and Anglewing sp., Barkhausen Waterfowl Refuge, Brown County (Matt Welter). - [These species overwinter as adults and can appear virtually anytime there is a period of warm temperatures. The "anglewing" is probably either a "question mark" or "comma", both named for the appropriate mark on the wing undersurface, requiring a good close look to be sure which species it is. Anglewings have also been reported from Oconto County over the weekend (gf).]

Mourning Cloak, Hammond, WI near St. Paul (Andy Paulios).

Two Milbert's toroise shell butterflies chasing each other
T. of Cooperstown, Manitowoc, County (Joel Trick).

Northern Flickers, Eastern Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Mourning Cloak butterfly. Pied-billed Grebe (in the bay); in the open water offshore there are many waterfowl, mostly Common Goldeneyes (1000s) but Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Ducks are also present in small numbers, Pt Au Sauble, Brown County (Jon Reisenbiechler).

Red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) bark which fades to a dull red over winter has begun to turn bright red, City of Green Bay (Gary Fewless).

Mar 22

Pussy Willow (Salix Discolor) buds have begun to open, Baird Creek area, Brown County. This begins the phase during which people call them "pussy willows", but in most years they do not actually flower until April--on average about 2-3 weeks from now (Gary Fewless).

A few Tundra Swans (at least 8) have returned to Brown County, Town of Scott (Bob Howe).

Ice is now totally gone from Prairie Pond, UWGB.

Woodchuck out and about on UWGB.

Mar 21

We have a sizeable year-round Canada Goose population in Green Bay and they have become conspicuously more active over the last 10-12 days.

Over the last few years I've noticed that many skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) plants on the UWGB campus appear to be suffering from a disease in the spring. The early emerging flowers (a spherical collection of flowers inside a hooded structure called a spathe) wilt and die before producing fruit. The symptoms appear to be similar to those associated with fungus related problems in other plants, although that is just a guess. Some populations have declined drastically in the last two years. Here's a comparison photo of healthy and diseased individuals from the March 15, 2001 phenology page, when I first noted this problem.

Woodcock "peenting", Oconto County (Tom Erdman).

Mar 20

Wisconsin DNR reports 2-3 feet of ice remain on some northern Wisconsin Lakes. Ice fishing continues, although there is water on top of the ice in some cases, from rain and melting snow.

The "tapping" of maple trees for sap to make syrup has begun.

Some Tundra Swans are back along the Mississippi River in western WI.

First report of an Eastern Chipmunk out and about, City of Green Bay (Amy Wolf).

Mar 19

Belted Kingfisher, Manitowoc County, Cooperstown (Joel Trick).

A few Marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) are close to flowering in the springy sites where the soil doesn't freeze, Green Bay (Gary Fewless). Other populations of Marsh Marigold may not flower for several weeks--the latest sites as much as 5-6 weeks later in some years.

UWGB's Prairie Pond is frozen again this morning.

13-lined Ground Squirrel out and about, Portage County (Andy Paulios).

Significant rains predicted today and tomorrow will probably cause some flooding and will certainly begin to move out some of the remaining ice on local streams.

Mar 18

Red-winged Blackbirds return, Langlade County (Steve Janke).

Many reports of Killdeer and Sandhill Cranes in our general area yesterday and today.

The St. Lawrence Seaway will delay its spring opening for shipping traffic for 6 days because of the thick ice resulting from our cold March weather. It is the first time in 44 years that the spring opening has been delayed.

The extreme low water levels of Lake Michigan reflect the general balance of precipitation versus evaporation in the watershed over the last few years. The drier conditions, plus the relatively low snowfall this winter have contributed to the Federal fire management experts prediction of higher than average risk for brush and grass fires in our region this spring.

Mar 17

New bird reports: Fox Sparrow, Brown County, Scott (James P. Moore).

First American Robins in Langlade County (Steve Janke)

Rusty Blackbird, Brewer's Blackbird, Ring-necked Duck, Fox Sparrow, Green-winged Teal, all first noted in Rock County (Andy Paulios).

Mar 16

New returning birds: Song Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark, Manitowoc County (Joel Trick).

A few of the earliest Skunk Cabbage plants in flower, UWGB. Most plants are barely visible or not visible at all yet, but a few in the best springy sites are in anthesis today (but none in my long term monitoring site) (Gary Fewless). In these same spots, the basal leaves of American willow-herb (Epilobium ciliatum) are also green and growing. A few mosses on logs in sunny sites have also produced their new spore-producing capsules. I even saw a new mushroom on a log (Gary Fewless).

Water Striders out (and mating) on Mahon Creek, UWGB (Gary Fewless). They didn't show up until March 31 last year.

Ice off UWGB's prairie Pond (except for a little floating remnant in the middle). If you have forgotten how cold last spring was (2002), the ice didn't melt off the prairie pond until April 7! Last year's March was exceptionally winter-like, with a total of 17.1 inches of snow and the coldest temperature of the entire winter (-13 F on March 4).

Mar 15

A big day for the return of Spring in the Green Bay area -- a high temperature of 59F and sunny skies. A large reduction in snow cover was noted widely and there is plenty of running water in streets. Red-winged blackbirds returned to the East River marshes in Allouez (Gary Fewless) and also in Brown County, Depere (Matt Welter), Greenleaf (Kathy Grahek), Manitowoc County (Joel Trick, Cooperstown; Jon Reisenbiechler, Centerville ).

Sandhill Cranes returned: Brown County, Neshota Park (gf) and Manitowoc County, Cooperstown (Joel Trick).

Grackle and American Robin Manitowoc, Cooperstown (Joel Trick), Brown County, DePere (Matt Welter), various other sightings throughout the area. Killdeer by both above reporters plus Kewaunee County (James P. Moore).

First song sparrow, Brown County, Holland area (Matt Welter).

Brown-headed Cowbird, Brown County, Allouez (Gary Fewless).

Red-shouldered Hawk on Territory, Eastern Bluebird back,Waushara County (Andy Paulios).

Eastern Chipmunk, Shawano Co (Joel Whitehouse).

As long as I'm listing spring phenology items a couple of people-based phenology items were also noted. First day for recreational bikers (not including those hardy souls who bike all year round) and the first big backyard grilling day.

Mar 13 First reports of returning Red-winged Blackbirds in southern Wisconsin (wisbirdnet).
Mar 12 A second warm day but still not much sign of spring in the plants and animals. A few reports of large flocks of horned larks along highways and I've heard of a few reports of Sandhill Cranes in southern Wisconsin. If the predicted warm weather arrives for this weekend, we will begin to see returning birds very quickly.
Mar 11 Today's high temperature of 38F may not sound like much, but it is a welcome change from recent cold weather. There is conspicuous melting of the roads and the gusty winds feel more like spring than winter. Green Bay.
Mar 08 There have been reports in the news media of complete or nearly complete ice cover on Lake Superior. The very cold weather of late February and early March have accomplished this feat that is rarely seen.
Mar 07 It has only been about one year since we first learned that deer in Wisconsin had been diagnosed with CWD (chronic wastic disease).
Mar 06 A few skunk cabbage plants in springy areas have begun to emerge from the soil, although they do not appear close to flowering yet. Skunk cabbage is notorious for flowering extremely early in the year. See our photo of the week for March 11, 2001 for a photo and discussion of skunk cabbage.
Mar 04 The water level in Lake Michigan has reached the lowest level since March of 1965. Changing water levels are primarily a natural function of the balance between precipitation and evaporation in the drainage basin.
Mar 03

Another 0.9 inches of snow and a low temperature of -5F.

In spite of the snow, there is a report of a chipmunk out in Door County (Charlotte and Roy Lukes via wisbirdnet).

Mar 02 Warm temperatures were short-lived. Low of -3F this morning and 0.4 inches of snow.
Mar 01

High temperature of 40F in Green Bay. Several more skunks out and about.

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Last updated on November 4, 2014