Monday, April 8, 2019

The Creatures Are Stirring Along Bog Meadow!

 What a lovely spring-like day it was, Sunday, along Bog Meadow Nature Trail!  Shirtsleeve warm, with calm winds and a sun beaming down through high thin clouds. And best of all, my pal Sue Pierce came along as my companion.  Not only is she great company, content to mosey along at a stop-and-go pace that would drive most of my other friends crazy, but she also can see so much more than I can -- especially those critters whose cryptic coloration would definitely hide them from my nearsighted eyes. In the marsh she's surveying in the photo above, she didn't even need her binoculars to spy this mother goose nesting atop a beaver lodge.  And she also could tell, at a single glance, that the furry brown critter swimming across the open water was a muskrat and not a beaver. What a gift it would be, to be able to see that well!

Mother goose lowered her head to glare at us, warning us to keep our distance from her nest.

But when we got to this stretch of the trail, neither of us needed our eyesight to detect the Wood Frogs gathered in a vernal pool hidden off in the trailside woods.  We couldn't even see the pool, but we sure could hear the loud cacophony of their mating croaks:  not the most melodic song of spring, but a definite sign that spring is here at last!

Here's a recording I made of the Wood Frogs' mating calls

Here was another sign of critter activity: numerous Skunk Cabbage spathes torn open so that the spadix inside could be devoured by some unknown animal.  Although most animals avoid eating this plant because it contains calcium oxalate crystals that cut and burn the mouth and throat, I have read that deer can eat the leaves and flowers. But these plants were growing in such deep watery mud, I couldn't imagine a deer would want to venture out into it.  Does anyone know if muskrats eat the flowers?

Another creature out enjoying this balmy day was this little stonefly.  Although I have found some species of stoneflies crawling about on the snow or bobbing their mating dances on the cold February air, I can't imagine that even a winter snowfly wouldn't prefer the kinder air of a warm spring day in April.

This Garter Snake was so relaxed, basking in the warm sun on a moss-covered log, that it really seemed loathe to leave when I poked my camera in close.  It did, however, flick its bright-red tongue at me, the better to take in my smell.  But I guess I must not have smelled that scary, since the snake never even budged.

Different snake, same story.  A sleepy Northern Water Snake resting atop a second log, letting the warm spring sun chase winter's chill from its body.

So animals, rather than plants, were the major signs of spring we discovered today along Bog Meadow Trail.  But we did find some vigorous shoots of False Hellebore thrusting up from the forest floor.  Their tightly furled, pointed and pleated leaves resemble green rocketships when they first shoot up from the winter-cold soil, before a warming spring sun can coax them into opening their big, voluptuously curvaceous leaves.

We'll have to wait a bit longer yet before we find many blooming wildflowers, but even the remnants of last year's plants were a welcome sight, especially when they looked as pretty as these rosy Foamflower leaves ornamenting a mossy log.

And an even more exciting find was a new spot to look for some Loesel's Twayblades when they come into bloom this next summer.  Did I mention my friend Sue's excellent eyesight?  She was the one who spotted the pale-tan leftover seedpods of this little orchid at a new location before we arrived at the spot where we'd found them before.  This orchid is not that easy to find, even when in bloom with its tiny wispy florets the color of grass.


The Furry Gnome said...

Great signs of spring! Love the frog calls.

Woody Meristem said...

We heard the first spring peepers yesterday but have yet to hear any wood frogs -- unusual, since the wood frogs usually come first.