Every time I go to the woods, even if I walk through exactly the same places as I did just the day before, it seems like there's always something new to see. I guess this probably has something to do with the fact that I can't look everywhere at once (which is unfortunate), so I'll always be missing some things one day with the possibility of seeing them the next.
So here's my new discovery for today: a whole big patch (several square feet) of these dainty little violets, each plant just a couple of inches tall, which I completely missed when I walked by this spot yesterday. As it turns out (and as I have just learned), there are many different species of violets (and subspecies, and hybrids, etc.), and several of them look very similar to each other. After some research, however, I'm reasonably confident that this is a Small White Violet (also called a Northern White Violet, Viola macloskeyi) -- these plants were growing in a very wet, swampy area, which is characteristic of this species, and they were quite small as the name suggests (and the leaves and flowers were a good match as well, but that was true for some other potential species as well). I'm open for corrections, though, if anyone reading this knows otherwise!
This is another one of the Yellow-rumped Warblers that have been flitting around the woods recently, a male this time (brighter and more colorful than the female). These guys are actually much flashier in real life than this washed-out picture shows, but I think you can still get an idea of the prettiness of these birds. The males are fun to watch, too, because they keep flying up to a perch, fluffing up their feathers, and trilling so that their whole body shakes -- I bet the ladies are impressed. :P
I don't think I've ever payed attention to pussy willows past their small-gray-fuzzy stage, but the catkins on this American Willow were stunning today (there's a lot more detail in this picture if you click on it to zoom in). I actually think this tree was past its peak, with some flowers already falling off into the river below, but it was beautiful nonetheless, and very cool to see up close.
There were many more plants with buds just about ready to burst into bloom -- before too long the forest floor should be awash with color, and then it will really feel like spring. :)