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.

Brisk, Windy and Cold

The weather today is quite brisk with the trees swaying in the wind and making ocean sounds. It is surprising how well the leafless trees do sway in the wind. One would think that there is not much there for the wind to hold on to. Mornings have been in the upper 20s or low 30s and the high temps are struggling to get over 42 degrees. Never mind the wind chill.

Scared up a rabbit near the plentiful wild roses by the gravel drive as I took a walk this afternoon. Some of the greenery is starting to re-appear after the long, mild winter. Chives, garlic mustard and cinquefoil were all coming up. Ferns that had been protected by the fallen oak leaves for the winter are starting to get green again. Mosses in the woods and the grass on the lawn look a little brighter green, too.

A couple maple trees are just starting to bud out, but no other trees seem to be ready to join them yet.

6 Hours to Bloom

A few hours ago these crocuses were under cover of snow. The sun is warm but the wind is making for a brisk and cold day. The sun has been out long enough between fast-moving clouds to warm up the ground and melt the snow.

Purple crocuses blooming six hours after the snow.
These little purple crocuses must be the freshest blooms I’ve seen!

Winter is Baaack!

On Monday we had to check the calendar to verify that we were still in Winter as the temperature soared to 75 degrees. This morning is quite another story as gusty winds are whipping the snow around sideways. I wonder if the tulips by the house will survive the last throes of Winter.

Tulips poking through the ground are experiencing snow.

The tulips adjacent to the house may have been faked out by receiving extra heat, but certainly not the little purple crocuses that are 50 feet or so across the drive. They must be own their own cycle.

Purple crocuses should be able to withstand the light covering of snow.

A curiosity — Are plants more likely to respond to the warming trend in Spring or to the lengthening days? Scientists may not even know the real answers because increasing temperatures and longer days are so closely intertwined. The "Ides of March" are upon us!

The ground seems a little warm for the snow to stick on the drive.

I’ll let the snow squall pass before I venture out today. Even as I write this the clouds have cleared to reveal a blue sky, and yet, stray snowflakes are being whisked around by the winds.

Small-flowered Bitter Cress

The tiny white, four-petaled flowers of the small-leaved bitter cress were in full bloom yesterday. A low-growing plant, this bitter cress is indeed inconspicuous as are its eighth-inch flowers.

Small-flowered bitter cress grows close to the ground.
Tiny white flower measures 1/8th inch in diameter. Single leaves are deeply lobed.

Describing the leaves is more difficult. What appears to be many pairs of opposite small leaves on a stem is actually a single leaf that is deeply lobed or divided. The leaves alternate up the main stem.

Small-leaved bitter cress leaves alternate up the stem.

Relatives of the small-flowered bitter cress are said to be good in salads, but this Cardamine species basically tasted like grass.

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.

Hemlock in a Crowd

Taking a nature walk, hiking your favorite trail, driving to work, walking on campus, or taking your child to the bus stop are all opportunities to see what is blooming in your neighborhood. As you go about your daily business do take time to stop, look and listen! Chances are that you will see something new, or something that you never noticed before.

Even though I have walked around my wooded property many, many times, I still notice new things as the seasons change. Yesterday, I took notice of a small hemlock tree that I had never really observed before. The tree was small, for a hemlock, only about 12 feet high. It was being crowded by some witch hazel and white pine trees. Since the hemlock was not very close to any large, mature trees, I decided to give it a little more space by cutting down the white pines next to it.

The witch hazels I left in place as they would not grow much taller for they are understory trees in our eastern woodlands. However, I have made a note to myself to check on their growth this year to judge if they may be crowding the little hemlock. After all, the eastern hemlock tree, Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carr., is the state tree of Pennsylvania. I think it fitting to protect and encourage the growth of a beautiful specimen of this stately tree.

Icy Morning

Looking out the kitchen window on the ice-covered trees as I made coffee, I thought that I must get some pictures of the thousand lights blinking back at me. The early morning sun reflecting in each drop of frozen water made a starry scene of blue and white bright twinkling lights on the frozen vegetation. Will my little red azalea ever come back to life?

Icy drips on a little azalea plant.

Surely the white pine boughs will spring back up when the ice melts away.

Ice weighing down the white pine boughs.