Monday, May 4, 2020

Happy? Spring?

By Beth Sullivan
We are all painfully aware that some things are just not right. And we also have to be thinking that they may not be right, or normal, for a long time. But just for right now, let’s remind ourselves that this is truly a miraculous time of year, and some things do not change.
Maybe you have had some quiet time in the evenings to notice the chorus of our littlest frogs, the spring peepers as they wax and wane in their calling depending on the temperature. On the cold nights we have had, they hunker down underwater, in the vegetation, and stay silent. But with the rollercoaster of temperatures we have had, the very next lovely mild night, their sounds fill the wooded wetlands.
The birds have been busy and maybe you have had time to notice. Every year a pair of cardinals nests in a holly bush by the house. This year I can see the nest pretty well and hope to get some photos. Take some time to watch your yard birds and see where they go and what they are doing. I seem to have more titmice than ever before, and several of them have discovered little piles of dog fur stuck in my wood decking. They spend a lot of time picking and gathering the fur. I can spend a lot of time watching them.
Just as usual, the osprey have returned to their nest platform at Paffard Marsh. That site is noticed and photographed by so many. The Bluebirds at Knox are taking a stronger stand this year against the house sparrows, and we have several pairs nesting. We also put out the gourds for the purple martins and have had some activity, but the cold wet weather has been lethal for them.
The osprey return every year to the Paffard Marsh nest site. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Bluebirds have claimed several nest boxes at Knox Preserve. Photograph by Rick Newton.

The martins don't have to abide the rule about social distancing. Welcome mats are out.

Take a walk in the woods

A walk in the woods is completely acceptable activity. It should be mandatory. I have noticed that many of our trails are becoming very worn and hardened. Enjoy them gently and with attention. We have had Facebook comments on trailside flowers that were never noticed by people before. Right now there are many yellows: dog tooth violets or trout lilies, marsh marigolds or cowslips. Notice where the most beautiful yellow appears; it is often accompanied by some lovely purple violets. Artists know that these are complementary colors. Mother Nature is the best artist.
While we are considering yellow, have you noticed the goldfinches? People are asking: where did they come from? Where were they all winter? They were right here, often fully visible at our feeders, but only now, in the heart of spring, do the males transition to their brilliant yellow and black. Listen for their chatter in the trees. They will not be nesting for quite a while yet. They wait until mid-summer when there is an abundance of native seeds.
Trout Lily,  fleeting beauty.

Yellow marsh marigolds and purple violets. 

Male goldfinches are like rays of sunshine. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Or take a drive

I like to go out for some longer back country road drives. Looking at the changing scenery now is well worth the price of gas, especially now that it is so cheap. Head inland and uphill to get some overviews of the bigger landscape. You can still see the rocks and walls and ledges that give hard structure, bones, to the land. They are soon to be hidden by foliage, so enjoy them now. In many areas, usually wetlands, the red maples are still showing their red flowers, tinting the woodlands with misty rose color. Elsewhere Norway maples, while not native, are abundant, and their lime green-yellow flowers are truly outstanding when seen across a span. Over the last weeks there have been subtle changes in the succession of flowering trees. There were willows and the maples, now delicate shadbushes , several types of wild cherries or choke cherries. There are fruiting trees like crabapple and pear trees that have escaped cultivation and dot the wild landscape. Of course while driving around, you can enjoy everyone’s home landscaping and flowering shrubs. With the quince in full bloom, the hummingbirds should be arriving any day.
Normalcy is earlier sunrises and later sunsets. That means more daylight hours to get out and enjoy. So many things are not dependent on human presence, or absence, for so much of nature is on its own schedule, slow and steady. Take some time to savor that pace. It’s spring.
Flowering trees dot the landscape.

The hummingbirds are running a little late this year.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

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