“Heyyy, Sweetie”

The woods this morning may have looked (and felt – more sub-zero temperatures) like the depths of winter…

Frost on fir needles.
Frost on fir needles.
Entrance to a squirrel's cache under the snow.
Entrance to a squirrel’s cache under the snow.
Looking out across the snowy lake.
Looking out across the snowy lake.

But they sounded like the very first stirrings of spring: for the first time this year, I heard chickadees practicing their whistle songs and woodpeckers drumming in the trees.

Listen to these sounds yourself at the Macaulay Library website by clicking on the links below:

Spring Arrives at Last

This is a Pickerel Creek phenology post, held over from last Friday.

High temp – 72°F
Sunny and WARM
Sunrise at 5:33AM, sunset at 8:17PM, for an incredible fourteen hours and forty-four minutes of daylight

Green, green, green!

This will be my last post in this series (the assignment it’s for is due this week!). The alders are finally leafing out noticeably, and the rain we got recently has brought the creek level up again after a few weeks of dry weather. While walking out to my site I saw 10+ species of butterfly on the wing and the trees were full of singing birds. It feels like summer – over the weekend I biked into town to get ice cream! Looking back at the first photos I took of Pickerel Creek back in February, it’s a pretty dramatic change.



Thanks for tagging along with me this spring! Summer is just around the corner.

The Green Grass Grows All Around…

This is a Pickerel Creek phenology post.

High temp yesterday – 55°F
Cool and sunny
Sunrise at 5:53AM, sunset at 8:00PM – fourteen hours and seven minutes of daylight, sounds like summer to me!

Doesn’t look like summer, though. Still waiting on those alders to leaf out enough to be noticeable. Regardless of the lack of leaves, I was so distracted by all the butterflies I spotted while walking down to the creek (painted ladies, tortoiseshells, whites, azures…) that I was almost late getting back for a meeting, and the grass has definitely gotten much taller and greener since the last time I visited.

Pickerel Creek Turns Green?

This is a Pickerel Creek phenology post.

Temperature – 61°F
Sunny and breezy
Sunrise at 6:28AM, sunset at 7:34PM – thirteen hours and six minutes of beautiful beautiful daylight

Okay, it’s not that green, because the alders have yet to leaf out. But if you compare this to a couple weeks ago you can see that there is a new blush of green along the banks of the creek where new grass is starting to grow up through last year’s brown. There were Golden-crowned Kinglets and Song Sparrows singing while I stood on the bridge to take the photo, and on my walk down there I kept stopping to admire all the lovely hepatica blossoms along the trail. (Interestingly, ever single hepatica flower I’ve seen here has been white, unlike in Ohio where there were always a smattering of blue-purple ones mixed in.)

Anyway, this blog is going to go silent for the next week or so while I’m traveling for spring break. I’m sure that by the time I return the woods will be drastically greener than they are today!

Alders in Bloom

This is a Pickerel Creek phenology post.

High temp yesterday – 68°F
Damp and partly cloudy
Sunrise at 6:58AM, sunset at 7:13PM – that’s exactly twelve hours and fifteen minutes of daylight. MORE DAYLIGHT THAN DARKNESS! HECK YEAH!

The creek looks vastly different than in did the last time I took a photograph from this spot, which was eleven days ago. No snow! And, consequently, much higher water. Also, the alders along its banks have changed dramatically since the last time I posted about them – they’re in bloom now.

(Forgive the blurry bit around the bottom, I accidentally jiggled the tree a bit as I was taking the photo.) The catkins, the male flowers, have burst open to start spewing pollen everywhere. Sorry, allergy sufferers.

It took me an embarrassingly long time staring at the plant before I could spot the female flowers, the ones that will eventually develop into those characteristic cone-like fruits. Compared to the catkins, right now they’re tiny.

Also, take a look at that leaf bud in the background. Is that a green tip I spy…? Indeed it is! After spending last winter in south Georgia, where winter doesn’t really amount to anything and therefore spring is pretty meaningless too, spring in the North Woods is a lot of fun.

Spring Is a Hundred Tiny Miracles

We’ve been watching the water level in the creeks rise this week as the snow melts until they are seeping out of their banks and spilling over into the meadows. It’s hard to enjoy the coming of spring with real innocent wonder when you know that the fact it’s coming so early is a sign of trouble ahead, but I still love cataloging all the little signs and events, the little miracles, that make it up.

  • Tuesday morning a pair of Tundra Swans flew by high overhead as I was walking in to work. Robins appeared, as if conjured here by magic, and started to sing. The goldfinches started singing too.
  • Yesterday I spotted my first flock of juncos since last fall, as well as a tiny wasp, the first flying insect I’d seen (although I’m sure they’ve been around for a bit already).
  • Today we heard a Brown Creeper singing its high, wispy song, Sandhill Cranes turned up in the fields, Red-winged Blackbirds were singing in the brush along the road, and the grouse started thumping. (The display of the male Ruffed Grouse involves compressing air under their wings to produce a sort of low, accelerating drum beat that sounds remarkably like an engine starting.)
  • Also, the willow buds have “broken,” shedding their coverings to reveal little cottony tufts.
  • (Edited the next day to add—) Chipmunks! Also chipmunks! I forgot about them when I was writing this originally but they came out of hibernation this week.

Still waiting for the first butterflies, dragonflies, and herps to appear, but we may go on a wood frog quest tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Signs of Spring

This is a Pickerel Creek phenology post.

High temp yesterday – 55°F
Breezy and sunny!
Sunrise at 6:19AM, sunset at 5:57PM – 11 hours and 22 minutes of daylight! Nearly an hour gained in the three weeks since my last phenology post!

This may not look like the most springlike picture, with all the snow and bare trees (no sign of leaf buds breaking yet), but it certainly felt like spring yesterday when I took this photo. I was keeping my eyes peeled for signs of spring as I hiked out to the creek – drowsy red-bellied snakes sunning on logs on exposed south-facing banks? Early Mourning Cloak butterflies on the wing? Maybe a wood frog, or a chipmunk emerging from hibernation? Returning migratory birds? I saw none of these things, but in a snow-free patch of ground at the base of a tree, I finally found this.

The very beginnings of a spring wildflower? (The bigger compound leaf in the foreground was the size of my thumbnail.) If so, I’m not sure what kind, but I was happy to see it. Spring is coming!