Nature Notes, May 2024

Bearsville Center Nature Notes - May 15, 2024 - “Spring is Sprung”

The Lady has doffed her snowy mantle, exchanging it for her verdant Cloak of Life. As each day goes by, more and more bright-green leaves unfold from the safety of their buds, to take a chance on a new season, and while Spring seems to happen in ultra-slow-motion, its process is as inexorable as an incredibly massive, hemisphere-wide green glacier - a veritable tsunami of new life, oh-so-gradually flooding the earth, working its way up the hollows and valleys, rising up the side of the mountains, re-infusing the Land with the very Life-force that has been dormant these long months. In other words, Spring has sprung - to the great relief of all.

Verdancy in Field and Meadow

Once the forest quietly succumbs to its newfound cool darkness the flower-action will shift to our more open spaces. The fields and meadows are already getting pretty with Bluets, Coltsfoot, Dandelions, Violets, both White and, well…Violet! Flitting about them are some early Comptons Tortoiseshells, Gypsy Moths (now called Spongy Moths), Mourning Cloaks, Sulphurs, Whites and a couple of early Yellow Swallowtails. At least there are some Bumble Bees (usually Ground Bees) and Honey Bees out there (hopefully, with more to follow) with more and more Paper Wasps showing up. On the pesky side of the insect spectrum are the Non-biting (but very annoying) Midges.

Our flowering trees - Apples, Cherries, Crabapples, Dogwoods and Shadbush - are just now dropping their petals. As the Bee Balm, Goldenrod (not an allergen), Milkweed and Ragweed (the real culprit), and all the other plants of the open, sunny areas grow, more and more butterflies will hatch from their chrysalises. Most notable will be the ancient symbiotic relationship between the Monarch butterflies and their Milkweed.

The Monarchs have already started their epic journey from the Oyamel Fir forests high in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico and are on their way here to their ancestral summer fields and meadows. Always something to look forward to and hopefully their numbers will be increasing (see for information on all the migrators).

More Spring Fauna

Our first Tree Frogs are out now and will entertain us for the season and will be joined eventually by Crickets, Katydids and Annual Cicadas. The egg-masses of Spotted Salamander (white) and Woodfrogs (light green) will be hatching into tadpoles soon. If you wonder why they incessantly dart back and forth, ducking under submerged branch and leaf in their vernal pools - they have good reason!

They are prime food for many others, including (but not limited to) Great Blue Herons and Raccoons. This is why their egg-masses are so large - because only a few will survive to hide under the leaf-litter come next winter. In the meadows the Deer Mice, Jumping Mice, Meadow Voles and Moles will revel in their protection under the new-grown ground-cover at the base of the burgeoning Bee Balm, Goldenrod, Milkweed and Ragweed, giving them some protection from the hawkish knife and the deep-prying eyes (and ears) of owls.

The extremely sensitive noses of our wild canids - Eastern Coyote and Grey- and Red Foxes - tells these creatures that the mice are there, but it will be harder for them to be rooted out. Remember - you can pick up a birds egg and put it back in the nest, but do not touch a newborn fawn - BIRD’S EGGS - YES, FAWNS - NO, and for opposite reasons. Birds have no sense of smell, so their parents won’t smell your scent on the egg; whereas, since the fawn was born scentless (yes, it’s incredible - but true) to help it avoid predators while it is helpless as a newborn, you could imbue it with your scent if you do touch or move it, possibly causing its mother to reject it.

Black Bears are out now, roaming the valley looking for food, at least until the Blueberries and Huckleberries fruit up in the hills. Some will have cubs, of which Momma Bear will be very protective - one more reason to keep Fido close to hand. Spring Turkey Hunting has started, so please wear orange and stay on the trail.

Thank you all, “Ranger” Dave Holden.