March Prompt

March is here, and with it brings blossoming flowers and Spring showers. This March has not let me down as I have gotten a glimpse of the warmer weather while also having to still wear a coat to class. In the book, Naturally Curious, the author explains that “for several centuries The British parted ways with the Gregorian calendar and declared March 25th the first day of the new year.” (Holland, 2019). She goes on to explain that, “many hibernating mammals and amphibians resume their normal metabolism, mating seasons begin, a few flying insects appear, migrant birds return from their southern wintering grounds, sap flows in shrubs and trees…” (Holland, 2019). Factors such as daylight savings have drastically changed the feeling of seasons. Sunset is now at 7:30 as opposed to the previous 4:45 in Centennial Woods. From an ecological standpoint, March does seem like the beginning of the year, and my phenological site proves that.

While the snow is melting and the flowers are budding, a sickness began to rapidly spread throughout our country this month. For this reason, I had to return to my hometown of Buffalo, New York, and pick a new site to study. To get the most out of my phenology site, I decided to go to a spot that I frequently visit throughout all seasons – Niagara Falls. I live less than a 15-minute drive away, so I thought it would be an excellent way for me to get out of the house during this quarantine and appreciate the beauty that nature has to offer even during these difficult times.

I have not been able to visit Niagara Falls since the beginning of the academic year, and I immediately noticed stark differences. The first difference I immediately noticed was the lack of vegetation. I’m used to being surrounded by green trees that provide shade while I walk along the trail. The second difference I noticed was the color of the Niagara River. I was shocked at how green the water appeared so I dug into the cause of this and discovered that the green color is a result of a visible tribute to the erosive power of water. Niagara Falls website claims, “an estimated 60 tons of dissolved minerals are swept over Niagara Falls every minute. The color comes from the dissolved salts and ‘rock flour,’ very finely ground rock picked up primarily from the limestone bed but probably also from the shells and sandstones under the limestone cap at the falls.” (Niagara Parks, 2020).

During week one, I went to the Niagara Falls Gorge on Saturday, March 21 at approximately 1:00. I made sure to capture photos of my site which will allow me to see the changes that occur through May.

While I was there I observed some wildlife.

Figure 6. Robin

I identified this bird as a Robin because of its physical characteristics. After doing some research, common characteristics of the American Robin are a yellow beak, a rusty belly, and a black-colored head. (Bradford, 2017).

Figure 7. Pigeon

Living in the city, I know pigeons all too well and was able to identify this bird without searching the web.

I also observed some budding on a twig that I removed from a nearby tree

Figure 8. Close-up of a twig.

Since I was on a trail I observed many signs of human interaction such as litter scattered throughout the floor, trees cut down, and graffiti on the rocks. There are also homeless people that often spend the night in this park and I found a large log that appeared to be on fire to provide warmth. I took some photos to show the extent of this human interaction.

The next week I visited I did not notice much difference.

Due to my VERY messy handwriting, I made the point to transcribe my notes onto here:

Saturday, March 21, 2020 1:28 p.m. partly cloudy. 28 degrees (Fahrenheit)

Location: Niagara Falls, NY, US (43 5’50″N, 79 3’38″W). elevation: 499 feet

humidity: 62% wind: N 8 mph feels like: 21F UV Index: 4

vegetation:

  • no signs of leaves on trees
  • buds beginning to form on certain trees
  • some flowers seen (red flower)

Wildlife

  • robin bird
  • pigeon
  • sound of birds but not visible or captured on camera

Human disturbance

  • graffiti
  • trash
  • broken glass and drugs found on some rocks
  • trees cut down
  • construction at the entrance of the trail
  • log burned

Friday, March 27, 2020 3:41 p.m. sunny. 41 degrees (Fahrenheit)

Location: Niagara Falls, NY, US (43 5’50″N, 79 3’38″W). elevation: 499 feet

humidity: 31% wind: N 12 mph feels like: 38F UV Index: 4

vegetation:

  • no signs of leaves on trees
  • buds beginning to form on certain trees
  • grass appears to be greener from warming temperatures and rain that occurred over the week

Wildlife:

  • several seagulls flying above tree canopies
  • bird chirping apparent but not visible or captured on camera

Human Disturbance:

  • graffiti
  • trash
  • broken glass and drugs found on some rocks
  • trees cut down
  • construction at the entrance of the trail
  • log burned (an additional one to last weeks)

While reflecting on the changing times and the difficult transitions that millions of Americans are going through right now, it is calming to see that while our economy is plummeting, loved ones are dying, ecological patterns are still continuing. It helps me realize that the world still rotates, the sun will still come up, and life continues to thrive in other areas. I decided to paint my view of the falls to keep this reminder fresh in my head.

Figure 19. Painting of Niagara Falls

Until April. Stay healthy. Stay home. Stay positive.

Sources Cited:

Bradford, A. (2017, March 14). American Robin photos and videos for, all about birds, Cornell lab of ornithology. Retrieved from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Robin/media-browser/60412911

Holland, M. (2019). Naturally curious: A photographic field guide and month-by-month journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England. North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square Books. 

Niagara Parks. (2020). Niagara Falls facts | Geology facts & figures. Retrieved March 29, 2020, from https://www.niagaraparks.com/visit-niagara-parks/plan-your-visit/niagara-falls-geology-facts-figures/