Despite this month’s cold weather yesterday’s outing* to Cedar Creek found two early-spring wildflowers.
Bright afternoon sunshine encouraged the wildflowers to bloom but it washed out the colors on the forest floor. We all searched hard to find this Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa). Here’s a poor photo of the entire plant with an oak leaf for scale. It’s tiny! One leaf is sufficient to hide it.
We also found a lot of Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale) in bloom but I had to be shown each flower because I couldn’t see them in the glare. My best photo is of the one I stepped on. Oh how embarrassing!
* This was a joint outing of the Wissahickon Nature Club and the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Feel free to join us as we explore the flora and fauna in western Pennsylvania. Click here for Wissahickon’s 2015 outing schedule (page 3 of the pdf) and here for the Botanical Society’s calendar.
(photos by Kate St. John)
Closeup of bush honeysuckle leaves about to open, 25 March 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)
In my neighborhood bush honeysuckle is the first to show leaves in the spring. Last Wednesday these tiny leaves broke the bud. I was excited! Spring was here!
Not today. This morning it’s 17F degrees and it was so cold yesterday that it set a new record.
The wind will swing from the south today and warmer weather is coming this week. Let the leaves begin. (Please!)
(photo by Kate St. John)
p.s. Bush honeysuckle is an alien invasive from Asia so its internal clock is out of synch with our seasons.
p.p.s This morning’s walk in Schenley Park will be brief so we don’t freeze.
The first crocuses bloomed in Pittsburgh last week but the rest of spring is taking its time. Until today the month of March averaged 3F degrees below normal. (Yesterday’s brought it up to -2.6.) With that kind of track record, when will Spring get here?
Two years ago I wrote about the rule of thumb that “Spring moves north 13 miles a day“and showed how to watch it online at Journey North’s Tulip Test Garden. I even used the rule of thumb to predict that the tulips would bloom at Clarion Area Elementary School’s Test Garden in Clarion, PA on April 20, 2013.
Was I right? I looked up Clarion’s 2013 Tulip Test Garden results which said the tulips bloomed on April 22. But … April 22 but was a Monday that year. Maybe the tulips bloomed on Saturday, April 20 while the children weren’t at school to see them! (The vagaries of data collection…)
Let’s try it this year. Click here to read about the Rule of Thumb so you know how I’m doing this. Then I’ll estimate …
On the 2015 Tulip Test Garden Map Durham, NC’s first tulip bloomed on March 20. That’s 362 miles or about 28 days south of Clarion Area Elementary School (they’re participating again this year), so Clarion should bloom on April 17.
April 17 feels too early but we’ll see. By the end of April we’ll know if “Spring moved north 13 miles a day” in 2015.
p.s. A big flock of American robins sang in the dark this morning in my neighborhood. One more Sign of Spring!
(photo from Wikimedia Commons. This tulip was photographed by Laslovarga on May 21, 2014 near Burlington, Ontario.)
Throw Back Thursday (TBT) is a day late in honor of the Spring Equinox.
During today’s sun event there will be a Stonehenge effect in my neighborhood.
Click on the link to learn how the position of our houses causes Stonehenge At Home.
(photo of Stonehenge in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
Ta dah! We’ve reached a milestone in The Signs of Spring. It’s time for the crocus report.
Yesterday morning the crocuses at Phipps Conservatory’s outdoor garden were just about to pop open. The bright sun warmed the mulch and after another hour they had opened halfway. I can say with confidence that they bloomed on March 18.
Is this late for crocuses? I checked back through my blog posts, linked below, to collect their blooming history in Pittsburgh’s East End:
So … though this winter has seemed very cold the crocuses are not delayed too, too long.
(photos by Kate St. John)
p.s. They may have bloomed during Monday’s heat but I didn’t walk over to Phipps until yesterday.
Winter was so long and cold that it’s been hard to predict when the birds will arrive and the flowers will bloom, but suddenly this week we are out of winter’s grip.
What else can we expect to see outdoors, now that Spring is springing? Here’s a brief phenology for March.
- Ducks, geese and swans visit our lakes on migration.
- First-of-Year red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, killdeer, tree swallows, phoebes and meadowlarks arrive from the south.
- Large flocks of robins poke through soggy lawns and sing at dusk and dawn.
- Peregrine falcons court and lay eggs. (Yes, we have seen courting!)
- Blooming later this month: coltsfoot, forsythia, snow trillium, harbinger of spring and violets.
- Frogs and salamanders will be courting and mating. Listen for spring peepers and wood frogs. Be careful not to kill salamanders that cross the road at night!
- It’s Mud Season and Jacket weather. No more winter coats!
Have you seen these signs of Spring yet?
Yesterday I heard my first red-winged blackbird! Soon they’ll be singing from the cattails, as in this photo by Bobby Greene.
(photo by Bobby Greene)
(*) definition of Phenology from Google: the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.
Speaking of First Bird of the Year, who’s the first bird to sing in your neighborhood? Have you heard any singing yet?
In Pittsburgh most birds stop singing in mid summer, though a few late-nesting residents keep it up until autumn. They’ve been silent for months now.
A few hardy souls sing in January. The First Singer in my backyard is usually a Carolina wren who pipes up just before dawn. On a good morning his voice echoes off the hills and prompts competing wrens to respond.
… But this is not a good morning. We have freezing rain today.
Even on a good day he’s silent within 15 minutes. I’ll know it’s spring when he sings all day.
(photo by Gregory Diskin)
Red, green and gold holiday decorations are brightening Pittsburgh’s gray December days.
Nature paints with these colors all year long.
Chuck Tague photographed an orange sulphur butterfly on a cardinal flower in mid summer.
Christmas in July.
(photo by Chuck Tague)
This long Columbus Day weekend is a good time to get outdoors and enjoy the fall colors, especially in the forests north and east of Pittsburgh.
Steve Gosser photographed this beautiful scene in October 2011.
(photo by Steve Gosser)
Throw Back Thursday (TBT):
In a few days it will be September. Plants and animals are changing as fall approaches. What will we see outdoors in the month ahead?
Phenology is the study of the times when natural phenomena recur. Back in 2008-2009 Chuck Tague and I collaborated on a year-long phenology series for western Pennsylvania. His website held much more information than mine but, alas, it disappeared when Apple discontinued web.me.com. My series remains as a collection at the Western PA Phenology tab at the top of this blog.
What can we expect in early September? Click here for the phenology forecast.
(photo of turtleheads by Tim Vechter)