Sunday, April 30, 2017

Two Wonderful April Creatures, And Some Wildflowers

This is my catching-up-with-April post! This month has been so busy that I can't tell whether it's gone by really fast or really slow.... Either way, there have been a lot of good things happening, and in between all the busy-ness, I saw some very cool creatures while wandering outside this month. I can't let May start without sharing some wonderful sights from April!

First: Peepers! I started hearing a few scattered Spring Peepers calling in our neighborhood way back in late February, but these tiny frogs definitely reached their peak activity in April. They called basically all month from the marshy area across the street from our house, and we got pretty good at going out at night and finding the creatures amid their clouds of ear-blasting sound. On April 9th, we first tried looking for the frogs during the afternoon because many of them were already calling, but they were too well hidden in the marshy grass. I found one peeper that jumped out as I walked by, but he wasn't about to call while I watched; still, I got to admire his subtly intricate camouflage:

What a handsome frog, even with his weird baggy throat:

When we returned with flashlights the same night, it took us quite a while to find our first peeper, but we did it. Look, a tiny inflating bubble in the reeds!

Sorry, little guy, just one picture with flash, because you're so cool (look at those veins!):

We got better at finding peepers every time we went out looking for them: two the next time, then three the time after that. As I'm writing this, only a few peepers are still calling, and I'm so glad I got to see these tiny neighbors up close while they were doing their springtime thing.

Here's my second awesome sight from this month: On the afternoon of April 23, I went for a walk at the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve with friends. It was sunny and warm, and we were admiring the wildflowers and a few birds, when wonder of wonders, a bat flew past over the creek, and even more incredibly, it landed on a tree just ahead of us, right next to the path, at eye level. Oh my goodness, a bat!

As best as I can tell, this is a Little Brown Bat. (But I'm happy to be corrected! I haven't had much opportunity to build bat identification skills before now.) This is one of the most common bats in New York, and probably the species we used to get in our family's house every once in a while when I was little. But common or not, I hadn't seen a bat at all in quite a while (even nighttime sightings seem rare now), and this is by far the closest and clearest I've ever seen a bat in the wild. So pardon the small explosion of photos!

The bat took a nice break on the tree (I'm guessing it had been busy hunting over the creek) and it stayed there for a few minutes while we watched. I can't imagine having to maneuver with all those membranes between limbs. There's its tail!

Look at that face:

The bat even scratched for a bit under its arm with its back claws, so much like a fuzzy little dog:

Ah, that looks like a good scratch:

Really though, how adorable and beautiful is this creature?

The bat took off for another fluttering lap over the creek and came back to land on a different tree for a few seconds (look closely to see a tiny bat tongue!):

And then it was off and down the creek and out of sight. What an amazing encounter!

The rest of the walk was filled with lovely ephemeral wildflowers, and I'm so glad I got to be in these woods in early spring. Trout Lilies are some of my favorite first flowers, not only for their yellow lantern-like blooms but also their pretty dappled leaves:

White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) was just starting to bloom:

We were just a bit too early to see Wild Ginger open its blossoms, but I was still happy to see this cute little plant for the first time (at least as far as I can remember):

Also new to me (outside of seeing pictures of it) was lovely Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Anemone acutiloba):

Spring Beauty flowers with their tiny pink stripes are always a happy sight:

And that's April! Today, on the last day of the month, I went for a gray-day walk (not good light, so no pictures) and saw Palm and Yellow Warblers, a female cardinal building her nest, and many Trout Lilies already past their peak. The earliest stages of spring have finished, and now the really intense part of the season begins. Here comes May!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Spring Beginnings, with a Dash of Snow

We got a sprinkling of snow last night, and temperatures were hovering around freezing when I went with some friends to check out the Etna Nature Preserve this morning:

It may not look it, but spring is happening, I swear! Up until today, we've had a streak of rainy and warm-ish weather, and these woods were showing signs of spring. Skunk Cabbage was blooming (although it's probably been blooming for a while) and starting to unfurl green leaves:

Tiny Trout Lily leaves were coming up, looking like little spears in the snow:

We even found pink flowers on a small leafless shrub that turned out to be a non-native garden escapee, Daphne mezereum:

A couple of Eastern Phoebes were calling and flycatching and working on constructing a nest under the eaves of a nearby house. Hello wonderful birds, and welcome back!

So yes, it felt like winter today, but we're well into the beginning of spring. Spring Peepers have been singing loudly every night (except last night) around our house, and I saw this Red Eft (juvenile Red-spotted Newt) wandering across marshy water at the Roy H. Park Preserve earlier this week:

Hooray for amphibians and flowers and returning birds! Hooray for spring!