Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring is Right on Time - According to Forest Indicators

The Myrtle Warbler was the first of the warbler clan to arrive
I've been hearing lots of people complain about the slow approach of spring this year, but for the natural world, a labored onset of warm conditions is not a bad thing. In fact this is more or less how it's supposed to be. Extended periods of warm weather at this stage (or before) can cause much more damage than cold or even snowfall. Migrating birds coming up from the south should be in sync with the emergence of foliage-eating insects. These (primarily) moth larvae appear with the unfurling foliage in the forest. When warm weather comes too early,  leaves and insects emerge too early and long-distance migrant birds miss out on important food resources. The trees also lose out on the insect control that transient songbirds provide.
Fox Sparrows are more apt to be found at the forest edges or at bird feeder
A recently returned Field Sparrow sings at the field edge
Tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglets are virtually everywhere right now
Pine Siskins were common at the bird feeder for one day only
In the forest, relatively cold weather has delayed the blooming of some spring ephemeral wildflowers. Some others have had there bloom times extended. Bloodroot flowers, which sometimes only keep their petals for a few days, have been in bloom now for over a week.
Not surprisingly, Skunk Cabbage was the first of the wildflowers to bloom
Coltsfoot blooms on the north shore of one of the ponds
Sharp-lobed Hepatica was the first woodland flower to bloom
Foliage of Wild Leeks push their way out of the forest leaf litter
Blue Cohosh is very prolific in the older woods

Bloodroot - another early blooming species
Like the other hardy spring ephemerals, Bloodroot can tolerate freezes and even some snow cover
Spring Beauties are the most common blooming plant in the woods right now

Round-leaved Yellow Violet is the first of many violet species to bloom in the forest
So far flowers have emerged on only a few tree species - this is the American Elm
Last week we saw the first butterflies emerge on the property. As expected they were both anglewings - hardy species that overwinter as adults. The Mourning Cloak and the Eastern Comma were found in various places in the forest. The first snakes of the season were also encountered last week. I was not the only one to notice them. At the beaver pond, in the span of 2 days, I saw both a mink and an American Kestrel making off with Eastern Garter Snakes.
The Mourning Cloak Butterfly is usually one of the first butterflies to emerge in the spring
An Eastern Garter Snake - sunning itself on the side of a foot trail
An American Kestrel flying off with a freshly caught snake

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