Monday, May 14, 2018

We have waited so long for this

By Beth Sullivan
Finally! While the Connecticut College students were busy doing their projects and writing the blog for the last several weeks, winter finally breathed its last and spring jumped in with both feet, making up for lost time. It is amazing to me, that despite the long extended cold, things seemed to catch up and happen on time, as they always have.

Spring has arrived

My Quince bushes were a little delayed in flowering, but my Hummingbird returned to the yard, looking for the feeder, right on target: April 27. The cold weather seemed to keep down the insect populations early in the season, and I truly hoped the insect-eating birds would take their time and maybe take a bit of an extended rest stop farther south. It seems they did. At least my Phoebe was a week later than usual in announcing her presence. But everything is on schedule now. We are beset with gnats and flies, and the sweet little bird spends hours at the edge of the woods, making quick upward and outward flights to grab her meals.
I hope I am not jinxing anything by reporting that many flowering trees seem to have come through the winter and early blooming time, without showing the devastation from the winter moths, as they have in previous years. Barring a severe freeze, this could be a bumper year for beautiful blossoms and later abundant fruits. Of course we also have to hope all the species of native bees have survived the winter to do the pollinating. We can also hope that last year’s severe die-off of Gypsy moth caterpillars will result in fewer areas of devastation this year. There is still time to search out egg masses and scrape them away. I found a number inside my birdhouses as I cleaned them for their feathered occupants.
This is just such a spectacular time of year, creating a welcome sensory overload for those of us who are truly passionate about watching every little natural change. Every day brings something new: the arrival of a new bird, the opening of a favorite woodland wildflower. Sometimes things happen over hours, like the unfurling of a fern fiddlehead, or the chorus of spring frogs starting slow then reaching a beautiful peak at sunset and for a few hours beyond. Every night is different as voices change over the weeks. The Wood Frogs seem to be finished, the Spring Peepers continue but less vigorously and have now been joined by Gray Tree Frogs.
The wetlands seem to be where spring life really begins, and over the weeks they have changed from brittle brown to lush green and yellow: Skunk Cabbage, False Hellebore, Sphagnum Moss and Marsh Marigolds. Standing pools are alive with water striders, swarms of small flies, and masses of amphibian eggs are that just days from hatching. The single heart-shaped leaves of thousands of Canada Mayflowers create a carpet of green occasionally dotted with the white or lavender-blue of violets. The very precious Dog tooth Violet makes a brief appearance in the moist wet woodland soils.
The Hummingbirds arrived right on time, finding a full feeder.

A Phoebe relies on warm weather hatches of flying insects to survive. Photograph by Dennis Main. 

Lush green with yellow and violet create a wetland mosaic.

Canada Mayflowers will carpet the woodland floor by the thousands. 

So much to see, so much to share

 The season is fleeting. The trees and shrubs will leaf out, closing our views and shading the forest floors. Wetlands will dry out and the chorus of frogs will change to the more solitary vocals of the larger species.
Please take some time for yourself to seek out a new preserve, or an old favorite, and make note of this wonderful season. We can be so grateful that Avalonia has, over the years, preserved 4000 acres of springtime beauty, just for us to enjoy. The website lists all the trails and Hike and Seek gives you a challenge to open your eyes and look for some very special features. Enjoy.
The Trout Lilly or Dog Tooth Violet is a fleeting gem.

Brooks and pools in the Woodlot Sanctuary teem with life.

You can almost see the fiddlehead ferns uncurling in front of your very eyes.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

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