As I chase Spring in search of wildflowers, critters and other natural phenomena, I am reminded of something special that is often a backdrop for more popular subjects rather than the main attraction. Artists and photographers know it well, and they also know the challenge of capturing its stunning, ephemeral beauty at the right time and place. I’m referring to the palette of fresh, spring greens that appears as plants emerge from dormancy.
These images, in chronological order over a period of about two weeks, are my most recent attempt to capture “green-up” in Central New York.
Aspen clone (May 4)
Wild apple tree bloom and woody plant leaf development (1 of 2; May 10)
Dairy farm (May12)
Sugar maple foliage (May 14)
Canada geese in a field of barley (a gang of newly hatched goslings at her feet; May 15)
Although mostly cool, overcast and rainy, the month of May is yielding a rich assortment of scenes and subjects. Where to begin?! I’ll start with a recent trip to a small, swampy site where fiddlehead ferns and marsh marigolds were the dominant visual element.
A common wetland scene like this has marsh marigolds carpeting the low, waterlogged places, while dense clumps of cinnamon ferns occupy the high ground – raised tussocks of dense roots and emerging fronds.
Young ferns with developing fronds aren’t limited to swampy sites….there are many species adapted to almost any site imaginable.
Several years ago friends gave me a flowering shrub as a retirement gift: a Purple Leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena). It persisted through droughts, monsoons, subzero temperatures, snow, ice and benign neglect, as well as transplant shock, and has finally produced a major bloom. Strategically positioned between two bird feeders, it has been the focal point of backyard songbird activity this spring. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!
Goldfinches, the males now sporting their bright breeding plumage, swarm a ‘Nyjer’ seed (thistle-like seed) feeder throughout the day and brighten even the darkest days!
The Spring songbird migration is in full swing so any of a dozen species can appear unexpectedly, and disappear as quickly as they arrived. I had about 30 seconds to interact with each of these colorful visitors.
Early spring wildflowers, the spring ephemerals, are vivid reminders of the fragile beauty and existence of life on earth. They tease and please with spectacular, short-lived blooms. They always leave us wanting more, and we’re quite willing to wait another year for another show. It never gets old.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier), a small flowering tree
Marsh Marigold in the wet soil along a small stream
White Trillium, a woodland wildflower favoring rich, moist soils (1 of 2)
Red Trillium in filtered light on a rich woodland site
The highlight of recent walks has been a frenzied spring chorus emanating from dozens of American toads in shallow waters. Breeding season! The toads are extremely active in the late morning sun and warmth, perching, calling, chasing and breeding. Sometimes the water is “boiling” with breeding activity as several males battle over a female. The mating calls, loud trilling sounds lasting several seconds, are one of the more distinct and pleasing sounds of spring.
This is their story, as I’ve observed it, among emerging cattails in the shallow water of the Chenango Canal in Central new York.
Actual breeding, referred to as amplexus, involves the male grasping the larger, more colorful female and fertilizing her double strand of gelatinous eggs as they are extruded.