We are in that time of fluctuating temperatures that heralds the approach of a new spring season! Just as flowers of early bulbs peek through the frozen ground and the Maple sap works its way up to the tree buds, we notice the warmth of the March sunlight.
The last snows melted quickly and fed into the Blind Brook and adjacent wetlands. Robin calls now accompany the sunrise and migrant birds like the Great Blue Heron are seen overhead.
One of my favorite spring signs is the silent emergence of the Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa, from its winter hibernation. This butterfly is a fairly large insect with brown wings bordered in gold. It can be found sipping tree sap dripping from a broken branch or a recently fallen tree. As the days edge into April, the females seek out mates and then lay eggs on leaves of willow, cottonwood, and birch.
The noisy emergence of Wood Frogs, Rana sylvatica, in our ponds is also an early spring event. The male frogs have a song that can be confused with the quack of a duck. In addition to their call, these frogs are identified by their brown color that camouflages perfectly with the leaf litter and a dark eye patch. The females are attracted to the water by the male chorus and after mating will lay their cache of eggs in shallow water near the pond's edge. The spawn will hatch in approximately one to three weeks as the sunlight warms the water. The adult frogs return to the forest to look for insects while the young tadpoles feed on the spring flush of algae.
Enjoy the longer days with a hike through the woods and keep an eye and ear out for our hidden friends!
-Mary Gillick, Program Director