Archive for the 'Phenology' Category

Mar 16 2013

Greening Up

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Honeysuckle leaves, 15 Mar 2013 (photo by Kate St. John)

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day…

The first plant to open leaves in my neighborhood is always the invasive bush honeysuckle across the street.  Though I’m not fond of the species I’m always happy to see these particular bushes green up.  They’re one of my signs of Spring.

Yesterday, March 15, was the first time the leaves were green enough to see at a distance.

A year ago the hot weather put us well beyond honeysuckle leaves and into magnolia flowers by this date.

Here’s a picture from March 16,2012.

Magnolia flower opening, 16 March 2012 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Frankly, I’m quite happy we’re having a normal spring.

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Feb 20 2013

Morning Song

Mourning Dove in Urbana, IL (photo by Dori on Wikimedia Commons)

On February mornings, the mourning doves sing songs of love.

The males perch high and puff their throats when they sing.  Though they are slender, they resemble pigeons when they do this.

Coo-OOOO Cooo Cooo Cooo.

Some say they sound like owls but those who think the sound is mournful named this dove.

Click here to hear their mourning morning song.

 

AND A QUIZ!    Identify the other bird singing in the recording.  His song is not normally heard in southwestern PA in the summer.  The mourning dove lives year-round from Maine to Mexico, from Canada to Cuba.  The other bird will give you a hint on the location of the recording.

 

(photo by Dori on Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

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Jan 01 2013

2012: The Year In Review

Nature was busy and interesting in 2012.  The weather was hot, stormy, dry, and sometimes wet. This brought exciting developments in the natural world.

Here’s a month-to-month roundup of my favorite high points with each photo linked to an article about the event.  Some link to my blog, others link to information on the web that I didn’t point out at the time.

 

  • January: Snowy owls were abundant in the northern U.S. into March. (photo by Shawn Collins)
  • February: The warm winter prompted a massive Canada goose migration on February 27 in eastern Pennsylvania, New York State and Ontario. (photo by Chuck Tague)
  • March:  Pittsburgh’s temperatures averaged 11.9 degrees above normal with some days 20 degrees above normal. Spring wildflowers bloomed 4-6 weeks early. (photo by Kate St. John)
  • April: There was a mass migration of Red Admiral butterflies in mid-April. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
  • May: Birds who wintered in the U.S. migrated early but the warblers were right on time. (photo by Bobby Greene)
  • June: A new peregrine family was confirmed at Tarentum, PA when their nestlings appeared on the bridge. (photo by Steve Gosser)
  • July: Drought! (photo from NOAA NWS)
  • August: Every year I count nighthawks passing my home during their August migration.  Every year there are fewer.  Sadly, 2012 was no exception. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
  • September: Arctic sea ice at its lowest extent ever. (photo from NOAA)
  • October: Hurricane Sandy brings unusual birds to western Pennsylvania. (photo by Jeff McDonald)

  • November: A surprising number of western hummingbirds visit Pennsylvania: rufous, calliope, Allen’s (photo by Scott Kinsey)
  • December: Evening grosbeaks visit Pennsylvania after decades of absence (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

 

Happy New Year!

 

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Nov 04 2012

The Trees Are Bare?

Lots of the trees are bare now that Hurricane Sandy came through Pennsylvania.  But not everywhere.

Here, the trees look wintry in Schenley Park on November 1.

But just around the corner the view from Panther Hollow Bridge is mixed.  The large sycamore is bare — see the ghostly white bark? — but the red oaks still show off their russet tones.  (These pictures are dark because it was raining. It rained every day last week.)

 

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, winter comes earlier.

Here’s a picture from the Quehanna Wild Area taken on October 13.  Three weeks ago most of the trees were already bare in this part of Clearfield County.

What’s it like where you live?

(photos by Kate St. John)

 

 

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Oct 06 2012

Fall Color

The maples are changing color in Schenley Park. The weather is changing too.

If you haven’t turned on the furnace yet, you’ll need it tonight. Fall is here.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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May 06 2012

Golden Yellow

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Have you ever noticed how many things are yellow in the Spring?

Many warblers are yellow — it helps them hide among yellow-green leaves.  Many flowers are yellow — their pollinators are attracted to that color.

Golden ragwort (Packera aurea) is yellow too.

It’s blooming now in western Pennsylvania.

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

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Apr 29 2012

April Apples?


Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) got their name because they bloom in May.

Last Wednesday, April 25, I found the first ones blooming in Schenley Park.  This feels very early but my records on Mayapple blooming times are sparse and unreliable.   :(

The ones in Schenley may be three weeks ahead of schedule.

Perhaps they should be called April-apples this year.

(flower closeup by Dianne Machesney)

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Apr 24 2012

Toadshade

Published by under Phenology,Plants

This flower never cares if it rains or snows because it never opens.

Toadshade or Sessile trillium (Trillium sessile) has a stalkless flower of three, small, dark red petals that always remain in the closed position.

Sesslie trillium is usually found in clumps because the plants sprout from rhizomes.  Its true leaves are papery coverings on the rhizomes.  What we call “leaves” are actually three bracts.  Sometimes they are mottled with dark spots as in the photo at this link.

Those in the know say Sessile trillium smells foul to attract its fly and beetle pollinators.

I have never approached close enough to smell it, but I wonder…  Do toads wait in the shade beneath sessile trillium to nab an unsuspecting fly?  Is that why it’s called toadshade?

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

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Apr 22 2012

Cream Violet

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Here’s a beautiful flower you can find in the wild.  It goes by many names — Pale Violet, Cream Violet or Striped Cream Violet — but it has only one scientific name:  Viola striata.

Dianne Machesney found it blooming at Buck Run last weekend.

 

If you live in Pennsylvania go look for it early today.  The weather will soon become awful.   I heard the word “snow” for tomorrow!   :(

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

 

p.s. Fill your bird feeders!  The birds will need extra energy to wait out the storm.

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Apr 10 2012

Out of Synch

After stunningly warm temperatures in mid-March, Nature hit the pause button and produced lower than normal temperatures for more than a week. That hasn’t been enough to halt the onward march of plant development.

Trees are leafing out four weeks early and the insects that eat them are hatching too.   Tent worms are a case in point.

Eastern tent caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum) feast on trees in the Rose family, especially wild cherry, apple and crabapple.  Last summer the female moths laid their egg masses on the branches of host trees.  The eggs remained dormant all winter and then, just as the hosts’ buds began to swell, the eggs hatched and the larvae began to spin their tents.  In the past this happened in early May.

This year I saw the first tiny tent on April 1 at Moraine State Park.  A week later I found this much larger tent crawling with activity.

Most birds won’t eat tent caterpillars because they retain cyanide from the host plants but cuckoos eat them with relish.

Black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos spend the winter in South America and time their arrival to coincide with the emergence of eastern tent caterpillars.  A few yellow-billed cuckoos have been seen in the Gulf Coast states but the bulk of them aren’t in North America yet.  The leaves and tent caterpillars are four weeks ahead of schedule but the cuckoos are not.

What will happen to the cuckoos when the tasty caterpillars they expect to find have retreated to cocoons?  What will happen to our trees if this causes an excess of caterpillars?

Nature is out of synch.  Some things can cope, some cannot. We’ll just have to wait and see.

For more information on climate change’s effects on bird migration listen to this interview with Powdermill’s Drew Vitz on The Allegheny Front.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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