Sunday, January 22, 2017

Colorful Twigs and Newts (and a Bonus Owl)

In my last post, I mentioned that our snow had melted and temperatures had gotten unusually warm. Well, here we are, 10 days later, and there still hasn't been any snow! OK, patches of old snow and ice are still hiding out in places, but it's gotten distinctly spring-like out there, all muddy and wet. And on top of that, this weekend was beautifully sunny, with temperatures in the 50s; perfect sweatshirt weather, really. So while I prefer my January to be suitably crisp and white (I haven't yet been able to bring out my snowshoes this winter), I just had to get outside yesterday afternoon and again today to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. As usual, the nearby Roy H. Park Preserve turned out to be a great place for a walk.

Most of the landscape is uniformly brown, but I kept noticing a couple different plants with brightly colored branches. Red Osier Dogwoods definitely stood out (and almost every twig's tip had been clipped off by deer):

Another area of the preserve was dotted with these shrubs whose branches faded from green at the base to orange/red at the top:

I've narrowed this plant down (I think) to some sort of willow, but I haven't been able to get further than that. Native or introduced? I have no idea! But I like how these plants add subtle swathes of color to the otherwise flat brown wetlands:

And I love the colors on this twig, growing out of the bank and set off by the water:

I saw lots of closed buds on plants, but these Quaking Aspen buds in another area of the preserve were actually starting to open, showing the tips of fuzzy gray catkins:

I'm still learning about Quaking Aspen (I didn't know until today that this tree's emerging flowers look a bit like Pussy Willows, for instance), but this seems awful early to start coming out of dormancy. Spring isn't here yet, plant!

Back at the water: I know Red-spotted Newts can stay active underwater throughout the winter, but it was still really cool to see several of these creatures in these ice-free pools. Amphibians in January! Every minute or so, a newt would swim up from the murky bottom of the pool:

Push its wonderful face past the surface of the water:

Pause just long enough that I could admire all that bright yellow on this tiny spotted creature:

And then dive back down:

Several newts were making these quick trips to the surface. Perhaps they were grabbing a breath of air? Or a meal? (I didn't see anything on the water's surface, but for all I know there may have been something tiny and delicious there.) Whatever the reason, I'm certainly happy I got to see these lovely creatures.

On the way home yesterday, I also stopped by our neighbor the Eastern Screech-Owl's tree to check in on this guy/girl. What a puffy owl, filling its entire hole! (And with its little ear-tufts sticking out.) I guess that must be a comfortable place to snooze in the sun:

:D Owl!

So sun and warmth is nice for a bit, but where's my January weather?

1 comment:

  1. I love your screech owl pic, Elizabeth! These little birds have a special place in my heart. Also enjoyed your newt sighting. Thanks for taking us along on your walk.