Spring in North Carolina

Looks like we’ll be lucky this year and experience two Spring bloomings! Vacationing in North Carolina last week we saw dogwoods, azaleas, lilacs, oxalis, violets, buttercups, wild strawberries and vincas in full bloom. The timing was too early for the garden roses, although there were buds present, and we were just in time to see the first garden iris bloom.

This beautiful iris just opened to greet the sunrise.
This beautiful iris just opened to greet the sunrise.

On our next trip to North Carolina I’ll get a cutting of this gorgeous Formosa azalea — its blossoms are probably two to three times the size of a typical azalea bloom.

Beautiful Formosa azalea practically shouted — It's Spring!.
Beautiful Formosa azalea practically shouted — It’s Spring!

A wildflower that caught my eye was the Star-of-Bethlehem which appeared in the lawn. The white blossoms contrast nicely with its bright yellow stamens. It has a habit much like the oxalis in that its blooms open in the sunlight and close without the sun. It took until about noontime on a sunny day for the blooms to fully open. The Star-of-Bethlehem has basal leaves that are entire and have a pale midrib. The white petals have a distinctive green stripe on the backside.

The white blossoms of Star-of-Bethlehem open only in the sunshine.
The white blossoms of Star-of-Bethlehem open only in the sunshine.

We stayed with friends on our vacation to collect marine fossils from sediments that date back to over one million years. Their very affectionate cat, Squeaky, found a great place to soak up the morning sun as he lay near the pink azaleas in full bloom.

Squeaky soaks up the sun!
Squeaky soaks up the sun!

We had a fantastic time on our trip and can’t wait to repeat it. During the recuperative days when we were not crawling around on our hands and knees looking for fossils, we enjoyed our time visiting with our friends and watching the hummingbirds chase each other from the sugar water feeders. The plentiful flowers attracted many swallowtail butterflies like this female on a lilac blossom.

A female swallowtail butterfly sipping nectar from a lilac.
A female swallowtail butterfly sipping nectar from a lilac.

Thanks to Pat and Ken for a fantastic vacation! See you again real soon!!

Coltsfoot by the Covered Bridge

Out for a Sunday drive today we came upon a one-lane covered bridge.

Go thata way!
Reconstructed wooden bridge in Central Pennsylvania.

Plank wooden floor clappety-claps when you cross the bridge.

Covered bridge in Pennsylvania.

Close-up of the covered bridge. Were all of them red?

Trees to the left along the creek give away their identity by showing off their beautiful white trunks. These cottonwood trees are almost always found near water.

Cottonwood trees along the creek.

Cottonwood trees along the creek sporting white bark.

Covered bridges were constructed in sections to help fortify the roof and the entire structure. Large wooden members make up this reconstructed covered bridge.

Look inside to see how the bridge was made.
Inside the covered bridge you can see how it was constructed.

Just after passing through the bridge we spotted a nice grouping of Coltsfoot growing near the roadside and an active spring. The weather has been quite dry of late so I wouldn’t expect this to be any runoff other than from a natural spring.

Coltsfoot growing in a moist area near a spring.
Coltsfoot growing in a moist area near a spring.

Coltsfoot blossoms are probably mistaken for dandelions by many due to its bright yellow blossoms. Closer inspection reveals the blossoms are atop scaled stalks with some reddish tones, not a smooth light green stem like the dandelion. At this stage of growth the green leaves have not yet appeared. The outline of a leaf is in the shape of a colt’s foot, so that is where coltsfoot gets its name.

Bright yellow coltsfoot blossoms along a road in Central Pennsylvania.

Bright yellow coltsfoot blossoms along a road in Central Pennsylvania.

Driving back to the house we saw a brave little groundhog run across the road and back again before we got very close to it. These chickens were out of the coop for a breath of fresh air, too!

Rooster and chickens out in the barnyard.
Rooster and chickens out in the barnyard.

When we got to our dirt road we watched a pileated woodpecker as he moved from tree to tree in search of lunch. Sounded like a great idea to us!

Blustery March

The water in the outdoor cat dishes has been frozen solid for three mornings in a row. This morning it was 32 degrees and the wind chill was 22, so the cats must have appreciated staying in the garage for the night. The suet feeder in the backyard was knocked to the ground, opened and emptied of its goodies. Since the dog went crazy sniffing around the area and barking quite excitedly this morning, we wonder if the neighborhood bear made a late night visit for a snack. This time of year must find the bears quite hungry! There has been a lot of bird activity at the window-mounted feeder — they just love the sunflower seeds, don’t they? We hope the window feeder is too high up for the bear to reach.

Well, as far as the plants go, they are not making much progress in emerging from their winter rest. Now that the weather is colder than normal the Spring emergence has been put on hold for a short time. A few more maple trees have cracked open their winter buds, but we don’t expect many more signs of Spring until the nights get above a chilly 30 degrees.

Birds on the Move

This past weekend saw a lot of bird activity. Canada geese resumed their northward flights in giant V-formations. The sound of them coaxing each other further on is delightful! Rarely do we get to hear such natural communication by wild creatures as we sit on the back porch.

Other birds were seen and heard in action, especially the bluebirds calling for mates and taking turns standing on the bluebird nesting box. There have been a small group of bluebirds appearing here and there for a few weeks now. Here’s another true sign of Spring, a few robins searching the ground for a meal.

Early Spring robins looking for a meal.

The first robin of the season was spotted last Thursday. Since then we have been having quite warm, but windy and rainy weather. The last few days have reached into the 60s and the nights very mild in the 40s and 50s. Forecasts call for more blustery skies early in the week, so nature walks for flower pictures are on hold until the skies are partially clear and the wind is a bit more calm.

Spring is not far away!

Two days ago I spotted my first signs of Spring. I figured the lilies that poked through the ground a week ago next to the house didn’t really count, but when I saw the raspberry buds pushing out on Saturday I knew that the mild Winter was probably going to trade off with an early Spring. I could not see a flock of Canada Geese flying North, but I certainly did hear them as they coached each other to their frozen destination. A cold front was coming in later in the day and we were still on the warm side of it when the geese flew overhead. Wind blew hard that night the cold front came in and, again, we lost our electricity for a few hours until the winds died back.