If it hadn't been so damp, dark, and cold today, I would have been able to post a photo of the third flower of spring to come into bloom. Oh heck, I'll post it anyway, even if it was closed up tight against the damp dark cold. At least it was open enough so I could see its bright yellow buttons, strewn like gold coins along the edge of Spring Run Trail here in Saratoga Springs. Even though it's not a native wildflower, I always love to find Coltsfoot, the first flower of spring that actually looks like a flower!
When the sun comes out again, those tight little blooms will open wide, and the trail will be lined with miniature sunbursts. As for today, it was not only dark and cold, it also rained a bit. I was glad to take shelter under a bridge until the shower lightened into little more than a mist.
In addition to the Coltsfoot, I found other splashes of color along the trail, including the bright-yellow branches of small willow trees.
Red Osier Dogwood also added its vivid coloration to the trailside swamp.
Here was another small tree (a willow, I believe) that had the most amazingly colorful branches of green, red, orange, and yellow, and they were also delightfully twisty and curly. I wonder if this could be the ornamental willow called Curly Willow, escaped to this swamp from somebody's garden.
I puzzled over what this fruit-bearing shrub might be, until I got home and found a matching photo of its fruits and twigs in G. W. D. Symonds's The Shrub Identification Book. Another escapee from cultivation, no doubt, since this is Privet, the same shrub that gets trimmed into dense hedges around the garden, while it assumes a much more open pattern when left to its own devices in the wild.
All along the trail, I could see the curvaceous red spathes of Skunk Cabbage protruding from the mud, now opened wide to release this plant's distinctive "fragrance" on the springtime air.
The springtime air was also filled with the songs and calls of birds, who find the stream-side thickets and swamps along the Spring Run Trail very much to their liking. The loudest of those calls were those of the Red-winged Blackbirds, sounding their shrill "conk-a-REE-ahs" throughout every cattail stand. I could hear Robins, too, singing their cheery rain songs. The birds are convinced it's truly springtime, even if we humans still feel a little doubtful about it.
PS: My friend Jens Zorn had some fun with my photo of Red Osier, using Photoshop and his own creative gifts to transform it into a Pollock-like action painting. I just had to share it here: