Wearing of the Green – and a sleepy owl

The day after St Patrick’s Day and the woods were wearing a mantle of new green!

Since last week, fresh green grasses have sprouted up adding new green hues to the woods’ floor where just two weeks ago the only color variations were the browns and tans of the leafy carpet dropped last year. Green ground covers continued to creep forth, deep green English ivy, and the pachysandra and periwinkle had fluffed out and filled in extending along the path and into the woods.  More periwinkle flowers had opened and were dotting and floating throughout the lively green ground cover.

There were a few small patches of snow that hadn’t melted, but the meltwater that had seeped into the ground had brought some changes to the woods. A small trickle was flowing down the ordinarily dry stream bed, and the path was muddy in lower areas and printed with shoe prints, paws, and an occasional deer hoof.

About flowers: the daffodils have been blooming for a second week adding a bright sunny yellow to the forest floor. Some daffodils are still unopened including a clump of daffodils which have bloomed first in previous years. The snowdrops which dazzled the woods two weeks ago have mostly gone by. A few clusters could be found with fading snowdrop flowers still hanging on, however most of the short thin leaves are now blending in with the newer green growth among the fallen tree leaves and along the path. Quite a change from just two weeks ago when the snow drops sprang out of the brown leafy ground with bursts of slender green leaves and pure white delicate bell flowers. Colonies of hundreds of snowdrops cascaded down the wooded hillsides, lighting up the forest floor after a long winter.

Today was beautiful weather, cool air, blue skies, and a warm soft sunlight. It was a good day for bird-watching as the branches are all still bare and there is increasing busy-ness among the birds at this time. There were many robins here and there shuffling leaves aside to look for food and hopping along the path ahead of us. Many birds were singing in the trees including small grey birds. We heard and watched a lovely pileated woodpecker knocking on a fairly low branch looking for snacks, with a bright red feather cap! And a male cardinal was visible far in the upper most branches of several tall oaks, he was singing away quite loudly as we walked along. I was scanning the upper branches on our way back looking for the hawk I saw perched high up last week, I think it was a Cooper’s Hawk. I spotted an unusual wide circular shape high on a branch of a tall thin tree which had been enveloped in a leafy green climbing vine. It was difficult to see what it was, whether it was branch, or plant or animal, but it was a roundish shape and looked fluffy. The round-headedness of it seemed owlish and there was a hint of two possible eyes and a vertical beak. A passerby noticed it as well and remarked that it might be the great barred owl he heard calling a week ago along this path. What a thing to hear an owl calling along the woods’ edge! By this time the owlish face was more prominent as the great bird had woken up and was now staring at us with dark curious eyes! It seemed to be measuring us as if to determine whether we were a good size for it to eat. When it began to turn its head from side to side we knew for sure it was an owl. I had never before seen an owl in these woods, and still an hour to go til sunset. It was wonderful to be able to share and enjoy this rare sighting. Eventually the owl must have gotten annoyed by our staring and flew to a neighboring branch with its back to us. It was then out in the open and we could clearly see this large beautiful bird looking out over the woods from its high perch, and sending disapproving looks at us over its shoulder every few moments. As we continued along the woods’ edge path, we then saw far above and ahead of us a hawk soaring over the treetops before it disappeared beyond the farthest branches. An excellent day for bird watching in the woods! And just a short walk today.

Snowdrops – Galanthus

Pileated woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus

Barred owl – Strix varia

 

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