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.

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!

Snow, Snowshoes, Snowshoe Hare

This is a Pickerel Creek phenology post.

High temp today – 37ºF, so mild and springlike!
Sunrise at 7:01AM, sunset at 5:25PM – that’s 10 hrs 25 min of daylight, another 20 minutes more than last week

Compare this photo to the last one I posted from the same place – even though we’ve had mild weather the last couple days, Pickerel Creek remains iced over for now.

Turning around on the bridge to face the other direction, I snapped this photo of tracks where something crossed the creek on top of the ice.

The “something” was a snowshoe hare. Their name comes, of course, from the enormous size of their hind paws, which are the same size as a wolf’s! Check out this photo showing a full set of tracks (the big ones are the hind paws, the smaller ones the front paws). Not only do my feet show you the scale of these tracks, but they also demonstrate how deep the snow is – I’m sinking over my ankles, while this large member of the rabbit family barely made a dent thanks to the large surface area of its feet.

I have yet to actually lay eyes on a snowshoe hare, only on their tracks. Brown in the summer, they turn white in winter to blend in with the snow. You can read more about them here.

Creek Landscape, with Alders

This is a Pickerel Creek phenology post.

High temp today – 16ºF, quite cold when the wind is in your face!
Sunrise at 7:09AM, sunset at 5:17PM – that’s 10 hrs 7 min of daylight, about a 20 min gain in the last week

This photo is from Monday, the day before our freak thaw ended. The creek is no longer open like this. Yesterday it was covered with a delicate layer of ice, and today the ice was blanketed under fresh snow, so that in spots the creek itself was all but invisible.

The small, shrubby trees you can see along the creek banks are alders, Alnus sp. Even in winter their reproductive parts, the pollen-bearing catkins and cone-like fruit clusters, make them instantly identifiable.

After the unseasonably warm weather last week, I haven’t adjusted to the cold again yet – I was surprised by how quickly my fingers started to hurt if I took my mittens off outside this afternoon. The groundhogs here must have seen their shadows last week, because winter isn’t gone just yet.