Yep, I missed it because I was inside proctoring a test, but apparently we had some snowflakes falling this morning. On May 23. The low tonight is supposed to be 23°F. Naturally, I went looking for wildflowers this afternoon.
Specifically, I wanted to see if there was polygala in bloom along a trail where I found some last year. If it was there, I missed it, but I did find some other flowers in bloom.
Wood anemone, I think? I guess it’s closed up because of the cold weather.
There are something like twenty species of violet in Wisconsin, so do not ask me to identify these guys specifically for you. I did take the time to look up this old post on violet ID from Ohio Birds and Biodiversity, which describes a couple characteristics to look for – color, of course, but also whether the stems are caulescent (leafy) or acaulescent (not leafy, with the leaves on individual stalks). So we have here a white violet, a purple violet, and a light purple violet, all (as far as I can tell) acaulescent.
What’s blooming where you are?
Who doesn’t love Killdeer? These bold birds are perhaps the most habituated to humans of any North American plover, nesting in almost any open area. This spring a pair have nested in the corner of one of the wildflower beds in the school garden.
Even though they nest on the ground right out in the open, the nests can be surprisingly hard to spot – the eggs are very well camouflaged! If you do approach a Killdeer nest, the parents will try to lead you away with a distraction display, pretending to drag broken wings to make themselves look like easy targets for predators. That’s what the bird below was doing.
I like this photo because you can see the bird’s eyes even though you’re looking directly at the back of its head. Prey birds like this can have an almost 360° field of vision.
I’ll try to get some more photos once the eggs hatch. Killdeer chicks are cuuuuuuuute. Tiny little plover fluffballs!
Above is a photo of the town of Long Creek, Oregon, population
197 soon to be 198.
Today, after two years of work, I officially graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources with a master’s degree in environmental education. The “graduation” is only theoretical; I’m not bothering to attend the ceremony, since I actually live about three hours away from campus. But now I can officially say I have the degree, despite the fact that my commitments to my graduate fellowship program here at the northern end of the state last for another month.
And after that? I’m moving to Long Creek. I’ve accepted a job with the local watershed council, where I’ll be splitting my time between planning educational and service opportunities for the local school and working with landowners on habitat restoration projects. After years of bouncing from internship to seasonal job to volunteer gig and back to graduate school, this will be my first real grown-up job.
It’s going to be a big, big change, and there’s a lot that I’ll miss about Wisconsin’s North Woods, but I’m excited. Anyway, I’ve got a few more weeks to enjoy the loons and bogs before I go…
The trees are still bare, but that doesn’t mean there’s no greenery in the forest. The weather was finally warm and sunny again this afternoon, so I took off for a walk to see what I could find. These green shoots sprouting in the bog are the beginnings of blue flag iris (Iris versicolor):
In the slightly higher, drier habitat of the forest floor, the tiny partridgeberry plants (Mitchella repens) have been waiting all winter for the snow to melt and the sun to return:
And, on the way back from my walk, I got very excited to spot hepatica in bloom. Hepatica flowers are my favorite sign of spring.
After the long, long winter, spring is finally asserting itself. And I have a big transition of my own coming up – watch for a new post on Saturday with a major announcement.
P.S. Are you – yes, YOU – interested in writing a guest post for Rebecca in the Woods while I’m in the backcountry in a few weeks? If so, get in touch with me using the “Contact Me” link above. See the previous post for more details.
I’m going to be leading another backpacking trip to the Porcupine Mountains from May 31 to June 4, so just like I did last fall, I’m putting out the call for anyone who’d be interested in writing a guest post for this blog during that time. (About two posts would be ideal to fill the gap.) If you’re interested, use the “Contact Me” link above to let me know. The guidelines are pretty broad – I’m open to posts on anything to do with the natural history of the place where you live or a place that you’ve visited, preferably illustrated with your own photographs, or posts on anything to do with the relationship between people and nature. If you have your own blog, I’ll link back to it when your post goes up here, but people who don’t have their own blogs are also more than welcome to contribute. Last fall I ended up with posts on water scorpions, a reader’s trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia, and the lizards a friend of mine saw in Europe.
Anyway, here is your semi-regular roundup of interesting nature and conservation links from the last couple weeks (bird-heavy, as always).
That’s all I’ve got! After getting an inch of snow over the weekend (yes, really – my boss broke his record for the latest he’s ever been able to ski the trails) our weather is finally warming up again. Have a good week!
We have two shrub-sized plants here with similar names: leatherleaf and leatherwood. Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) is the shrub that carpets the bogs, green in summer and russet-brown in fall and winter. Leatherwood (Dirca palustris) is a plant of the forest understory, and most of the year I walk past it without even noticing it’s there, but at a certain point in spring it catches my attention.
Its leaves don’t amount to much yet, but this is leatherwood in full flower, with tiny yellow-green blossoms along each twig.
Not every flower is big or colorful – just look at the flowers of the wind-pollinated aspen in my last post for another example. There are all sorts of different strategies for plants to achieve pollination, and there are all sorts of different flowers as a result.
Last spring when I first noticed these fuzzy oblong shapes in the grass along the path, at first I mistook them for caterpillars.
Upon closer inspection, definitely not caterpillars. These are the catkins (male flowers) of aspen trees, and they are all over the place right now. Another sign of spring.
Dear Angry Squirrel,
If your temper tantrums weren’t so photogenic
I wouldn’t linger so long with my camera at the foot of your tree
and you wouldn’t have reason to be so angry.
Some of our woodpeckers – Downy, Hairy, Pileated – are year-round residents in the North Woods. Others – the Northern Flicker and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – are migrants, only here for the breeding season. Both of the migratory woodpeckers have just turned up here on campus in the last week or so, and my first inkling that the sapsuckers had arrived was hearing their distinctive irregular drumming. Taptaptap-tap-tap–tap—tap! (Click here to listen.)
This morning while I was rambling around a male flew in and landed on a nearby trunk at eye-level, posing for a few photos.
I’ve written before about sapsuckers’ interesting foraging habits – as their name suggests, they drill small holes in tree trunks and feed off the sap. I like these guys. That red cap and throat are a beautiful pop of color.
After a long, snowy winter, it is awfully nice to see (and hear) the spring birds returning to the forest.
(Lep = Lepidopteran = butterfly or moth. Come on, you knew that, right?)
There is hope for spring yet! In the past week we’ve had more and more migratory birds – sapsuckers, sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers – arriving back on campus, and yesterday afternoon I was out in the woods in just a t-shirt, though admittedly at the time I was slogging through a couple feet of slushy snow in my snowshoes. At this time of year, insects that normally might not catch my eye become cause for celebration. Case in point? This tiny, drab moth.
These little critters, each one about a centimeter long, were fluttering over the surface of the snow in the bog. I haven’t had much luck identifying them – there are many, many species of tiny drab moth, and I posted photos on BugGuide and Twitter but people suggested, like, three different possible families – but finding any moth at all feels like cause for celebration after this endless winter. Hooray!
Shall we take bets on what my first butterfly of the year will be? Mourning Cloak, Eastern Comma, Spring Azure?