Gems in the woods

It was a beautiful day in the woods yesterday. A blue sky with warm sun and cottony clouds, and gusty winds. The air was cool and fresh, and the woods had the aromas of spring: earth, humid air, and occasional faint flowery scents of pollen.

It was the day after a full day of rain. Although the trail was quite dry and walking was easy, there were signs of additional water in the leaf-filled gullies, and a few muddy spots on the trail.

The Barred Owl was not in his tree this week. I scanned swaying treetops but no sign of him or the hawk along my route.

New greenery arrived on the scene since last week. New green stubble emerged in patches along the forest floor in some places, the ivies are creeping up the trees, and young trees are unfurling their new leaves.  Mosses appear glowing green.

Small flowers had popped up along the forest floor. Where last week there were small clusters of flowers, this weekend there are many more clusters and colonies of flowers dotting along the trails and off into the woods filling in around the trees and fallen logs. Yellow marsh marigold and purple periwinkle flowers and newer flowers this week confidently faced the sky. With their delicate petals fully illuminated by the sun, they looked like gems scattered around the woods’ floor.

The small white flowers from last week have appeared and opened more around the woods. And some new plants are here. Purple and green spotted leaves had grown up along the trail near the creek, threading themselves up through the pillowy cover of marsh marigolds. As I knelt to take a closer look, I happened to be looking at a slender stalk with a long yellowish flower bud. It was a type of trout lily. Based on the other spotted leaves emerging, there should be a beautiful show of yellow flowers before too long.

There were several newly emerged green umbrellas which might be Mayapple plants (Podophyllum peltatum).  On the embankments next to the trail a fern was sending up new fiddle heads, while some other plants sent out flowers or grass like stalks that released dustings of pollen.  Beautiful purple violets have also appeared along the wood floor!

A reminder that things can quickly change in the woods, a great dead tree had fallen across the trail in one location. Perhaps it was related to the heavy rains the day before. Only a very small portion of roots were uprooted, most of the bark from the trunk was knocked off in the fall and some higher branches snapped off.  There are many dead trees in the woods which could fall as this one did.  As the trail was blocked, we had to walk around this tree and over the crunchy leaves. A bright red mite was crawling on a downed piece of wood nearby.

There were some beautiful bird songs from birds too well hidden to be seen from the trail.  At different points along the trail there were different songs; one was sweet and sighing, others were brisk chirps, some bubbly and chattering or complicated melodies, and even the clucking of the squirrels on lookout for travelers coming down the trail.

One small fluffy bird looked like a chipmunk from a distance and sat on a log for a while looking back. It must have been a type of sparrow, with a rusty colored back and wing and a long white stripe over its eye.  A pair of slate blue and grey birds skipped about high in the tree tops.

I heard what sounded like a loud knocking on a door and looked up to see a busy woodpecker making its way up a tree branch and tirelessly working an angle to find snacks. Due to the red coloring on its head from beak to neck, white belly and black and white markings on its back, it appeared to be a red-bellied woodpecker.

With another few days of sun, the woods will continue to add even more brilliant jewel colors.  Photos from this weekend walk will be posted throughout the week.  So, until next week, enjoy!

Erythronium americanum – trout lily

Centurus carolinus – red bellied woodpecker. According to the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, this woodpecker eats insects, beechnuts, acorns, and habitually stores food.

Trombidioidea – Red Velvet Mite. According to the online sites InsectIdentification and Whats That Bug, the Red Velvet Mites feed on insects and larva and often emerge after a rain.

The day after heavy rains, water has returned to the woods

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Green mossy patches appear glowing in the sun
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Marsh marigold in the foreground, and the elongated leaves of the snowdrops beyond
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These white flowers dot the leafy floor
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