The Month of Transition

While April weather can be fickle, there is generally a significant transition toward warmer days, punctuated by regular periods of rain.  Of course, the higher sun and milder air set the stage for severe weather as an active spring jet stream undulates across the Heartland, ushering in a series of Pacific storms.

In concert, greenery climbs through the shrubs and trees and, by the end of the month, the leafing process is nearly complete.  Wildflowers, limited to a host of bulb plants in March, now spread through the woodlands and a wide variety of trees and shrubs begin to bloom; wild cherry and magnolias generally lead the way, followed by peach, apricot, chokecherry and crab apple trees.  By mid April, most of the drab winter songbirds have departed for the north and colorful summer residents are now more numerous and diverse; among the latter are gray catbirds, brown thrashers, northern orioles, indigo buntings, ruby-throated hummingbirds, house wrens, blue-gray gnatcatchers and chipping sparrows.  For many birders, late April is the highlight of their year as both summer and migrant warblers appear in the Heartland, feasting on the growing hordes of insects.

Out in the wetlands, the chorus frogs and spring peepers become less vocal as the month progresses, yielding to cricket, leopard, green and bullfrogs.  As the lakes and ponds warm in the high April sun, aquatic turtles and water snakes are more evident, basking on logs or muddy banks.  In our suburbs, garter snakes emerge, toads trill, young cottontails and opossums wander through the yard and a host of bees and butterflies grace the flower beds.  Before it ends, April takes us from the tentative recovery of March to the feverish growth of May.