News & Notes

Welcome (but not so charismatic) Signs of Spring

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Posted on:

It’s hard to be optimistic about the arrival of spring in just 17 days when there is another 3-5 inches of snow in the forecast for this evening. However, we have seen some ‘warmer’ days over the past week that presented some welcome (though not-so-charismatic) signs of spring:

Snow Fleas

Measuring 1/16th of an inch, you may overlook Snow Fleas (Hypogastrura nivicola) as dirt on the snow but these tiny springtails (subclass: Collembola) are actually amazing little insects. On warm winter days they crawl to the surface looking for food and can be especially numerous near the base of trees. They are active in freezing temperatures thanks to the presence of an anti-freeze-like protein (I should point out that similar synthesized proteins might be the answer to the perfect ice cream).


Snowflea (Hypogastrura nivicola)

Featherduster Agonopterix

Although we’ve seen Pantry Moths (Plodia interpunctella) inside all winter, we spotted our first (outdoors) free-flying moth of the year on February 25 when a Featherduster Agonopterix (Agonopteris pulvipennella) was seen on our Environmental Center’s patio.


Featherduster Agonopterix (Agonopteris pulvipennella)


Another fun sighting at Gilsland Farm this week was the first report of Chris Maher! Entering her 17th year of studying woodchucks (Marmota monax), she brought out her University of Southern Maine class to look for signs of emergence from the early male woodchuck (but they came up empty on March 2). I did hear that the first Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) of the spring was spotted, though!

Woodchuck pup nibbling (Eric H)LR

A nibbling woodchuck at Gilsland Farm


Just kidding, American Robins should NOT be considered a sign of spring in Maine. If you want to know why, please see my post from last week.

As you may have noticed throughout this post, there were links to This is a great citizen science database we are using to catalog the biodiversity at Gilsland Farm. Please consider submitting your observations to the project or you can enjoy what others are seeing. And make sure to submit your bird sightings to eBird!


Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.


Submit your question for Doug: