Spring Happenings

Last week started cool, temperature-wise, but ended with a warmth that brought out all manner of creatures and plants that had been lying in wait for just that moment to arrive.

There are a lot of photos to show and things to discuss, so let’s start with the snake above.

It was pointed out to me that someone here at the museum had seen a water snake back at the end of February or in early March. We had some unusually warm days back then, so I do not doubt the sighting. However, the first northern water snake of the season for me was during last week’s heat-up on 30 March.

The snake’s appearance coincided with the breeding of American toads.

American toad calling from log in small swamp next to path in wetlands.
A mating pair of toads.
Disinclined to give up easily, the male toad in rear keeps on calling.
This northern water snake was on the pond side of path in the wetlands area.

The snake soon crossed over the path (top photo) into the swamp where dozens of toads were calling and mating.

It didn’t take long for the snake to snatch a toad.

The snake made quick work of capturing what may have been its first meal of the year.
Trying to get the toad in the proper position for swallowing, head first.

Some breakout plants.

Red maple leaves opening to the light.
Red maple seeds ready to disperse and helicopter to the earth below.
Tiny tulip poplar leaves bursting out.

And, one strange and unexpected bit of flora, a trout lily. I had never seen a trout lily here at the museum in the ten years I’ve spent on campus. Oh, there used to be a cultivated wildflower trail on the south side of the property with bloodroot, dutchman’s breeches, trillium, trout lily and other springtime specialties but that has more or less been taken over by progress. Many of the plants were rescued, but for the most part they’re all gone. So, it was quite a surprise for me to spot the two leaves of a trout lily on the north side of our 84 acres, far from the wildflower garden of old.

More surprising is the fact that I hadn’t noticed the plant earlier. You see, the lily had already bloomed and set forth seed. In this part of the world trout lilies bloom in early March. I didn’t see the plant until the end of march. The single stalk that both the showy yellow flower and seed had once been the terminus of was still present as were the leaves. But how had I walked by this spot countless times and not noticed it? It’s just feet from the main path, “someone must have planted it there while I wasn’t looking.

Typically, where there’s one trout lily there’s more. Perhaps this will be the start of a colony of these plants, though that may take years. Wishful thinking? In the mean time, I’m still scratching my head as to how I hadn’t seen the plant while in bloom.

How had I not spotted this trout lily when in bloom?

Redbud finally came out in full force, along with a familiar insect.

Carpenter bee flies in to sip nectar from redbud blossoms.
Hazel alder’s leaves are popping.

And an unfamiliar tree, Amur maple.

The only Amur maple that I’m aware of at the museum is about to bloom.

An early season butterfly.

A female falcate orangetip (3/31/18).

I’d seen a few males earlier in March, but this (above) was the first female.

Male for comparison.

I found the spider below in a hole excavated by a carpenter bee. It had taken over.

Jumping spider peeks out from carpenter bee hole.

And two herons.

Great blue heron has captured a bullfrog.
Ready to gulp down, head first.

I usually see the first green heron in mid April here at the museum. This one is an early arrival.

Green heron’s early arrival (3/31/18).

There’s lots more happening out there, I saw a couple of rough-winged swallows the other day, dogwood and wisteria are blooming…but don’t take my word for it, get out and have a look for yourself.

Cooler weather has returned, short-lived I’m sure. It may slow down the progress of spring, but it certainly won’t stop it!

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