Thursday, April 16, 2015

Out to Play with My Friends

Another stunningly gorgeous day today, cool but with a warm sun and bright blue sky.  And what better way to spend it than playing outdoors with your friends?  Especially when those friends share your love for nature and are willing to stop and smell, not just the roses, but also the Skunk Cabbage along the way.  I am so lucky to have such friends among the group that calls itself the Thursday Naturalists, and today we gathered at the Ballston Creek Preserve in Malta to hike through the woods to the shores of Ballston Creek.

It was here, where Ballston Creek widens into a swamp, that we lingered to observe the most amazing display of avian nesters any bird-watcher could dream of: not just dozens of Great Blue Herons perched on their huge nests, but also a pair of Ospreys guarding their own gigantic construction of a nest, as well as a solitary Great Horned Owl snuggled down in a former heron's nest that she and her mate had appropriated from the original builders.

This photo shows one heron standing on the edge of its nest and, to the left, the owl sitting down in hers.  The Osprey nest was on the opposite edge of the swamp, and we wondered if maybe the female was settled way down in the nest where we couldn't see her.  The other Osprey was perched in a nearby tree and never moved all the time we were there.

Although we in the Thursday Naturalists are passionately interested in all aspects of nature, I would say our primary interest was in plants, so of course we searched the woods for any flowers that we might find.  The sight of these speckled Trout Lily leaves gave us hope that the beautiful yellow flowers would soon be blooming.  (The bright-red berry belongs to Partridge Berry, an evergreen groundcover whose fruits stay red all winter.)

On our way into the woods we saw a few Carolina Spring Beauties still in tight bud, but by the time we returned, we discovered the warm sun had coaxed those buds into bloom.  Soon, the forest floor will be carpeted with hundreds, even thousands of these dainty pink-striped flowers.

I did not expect to see Bloodroot today, since one place I usually look for them showed no sign of their presence as yet.  But that's what's so great about having other nature-nut friends.  Somebody always knows another spot to look.  Our friend Don led us there, and lo!  The Bloodroot was in bloom!  What a beautiful sight!


The Furry Gnome said...

You are indeed lucky to have such a nearby naturalists group to join with on walks. And such a neat group of nesting birds! Our flowers are a little behind yours yet.

Don Butler said...

Can anyone tag along with the Thursday group? Are their outings publicized? Also, can you recommend a spider field guide? I enjoyed your post on arachnids some time ago.