The season “officially arrived” a couple of weeks ago. And even before that, the red-winged blackbirds had tried to push winter north in late February.
Not until the first hepatica blooms will I concede that winter has passed, however.
Thus, we poked among the leaves on the north slope, enjoying the early-April warmth, hoping to see a hint of white or purple accenting the dead-brown oak and maples leaves.
Mother Nature didn’t disappoint. A clump of white hepaticas almost glowed in the afternoon sun. The hairy stems, rising from the flat, mottled, liver-colored leaves on the ground, held the blossoms erect to capture the rays.
The more we moseyed around in the woods, the more traces we saw off the new season. Most spring beauties had just begun to emerge from the cool, damp forest soil. Only their grass-like leaves hinted of the flowers to come. Some leaf axils sprouted tiny buds, however, and a few plants on a south-facing bank had opened to reveal their pink-veined, white petals.
Clusters of feathery green leaves announced the coming of Dutchman’s breeches – but it may take another week or more of warm weather for the pantaloon flowers to hang themselves on the clothesline stems.
A few insects joined our woodland safari. An eastern comma butterfly – a bit ragged after over-wintering under some loose tree bark – sat quietly to soak up the sunlight.
A tiny wasp lit on my fingertip and posed for several minutes, as if not wanting to leave the warmth of my skin.
We should have known that the insects had emerged, since a phoebe arrived last week to explore its traditional nest site under our house eaves.
Song sparrows returned about the same time, announcing their presence with a cheerful, chattering song. (But what would you expect from a bird whose species name is “melodia?”)
The song sparrow’s strident singing contrasts with the bluebird’s quiet chortling. And often the bluebird is content to sit silently in the tree just outside my window, where his oh-so-blue feathers are radiant in the morning sun.
The once-noisy Canada geese have suddenly fallen silent, however, after they built their nest on the island of the neighbor’s wetland. Don’t approach the incubating goose too closely, though or the gander – whose chief duty is to stand guard – will honk vociferously and even charge menacingly at a human or animal intruder.
Talk about noise? Just after sunrise, the tom turkeys are having a gobble-fest. They challenge each other, the cawing of crows, and perhaps even the sun itself. Later, two old toms strut in a clearing at the edge of the woods, puffing their feathers and fanning their tails to lure an unseen hen.
OK, it really is here! SPRING!