Hellebores Under Snow For Now

The Spring Nor’easter has dumped quite a lot of snow in the Northeast USA. Records will be broken for the amount of snowfall in many places for this second day of Spring.

In Central Pennsylvania, at least up here on our mountain ridge, we’ve measured 12 inches and the snow is still falling but tapering off.

Hellebores Protected Under 12 Inches of Snow
Hellebores Protected Under 12 Inches of Snow

Way different than the 2 – 5 inches forecast yesterday.

Guess some Atlantic winds blew harder than expected.

Many places to our south bore the brunt of the storm and racked up more than a foot of snow. That’s a lot for locales not used to this upstate New York weather!

The temps are predicted to be in the low 40s for highs in the day and lows in the 20s at night for the next few days. The snow on the ground will become compacted before it lifts out of here.

And…for the hellebores? They’ll be ok. Hellebores like the cold and the snow has an insulating effect. We’ll keep a watch on how they’re doing.

Hellebores Heralding Spring for Central PA…Eventually

As I let the dog out in the backyard right then I knew a flock of Canada Geese was heading home on their Spring migration. I heard them first making quite a racket so I looked up and was overjoyed to see a huge V-formation of these impressive flyers. Spring!

A little later in the day I went outside to enjoy the fresh air. It was a gorgeous day yesterday with a pretty, deep blue sky.

Caught some really cool looking cloud formations with the sun bursting through. Kinda like how I’m feeling now!

Sun Peaks Through the Chatter in the Clouds
Sun Peaks Through the Chatter in the Clouds

Even though the chatter in the clouds foretold the winter storm that is on our doorstep, I didn’t let that ruin my day. This sunshine felt amazing although the temp wasn’t very warm.

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Triangle Vine Weed with Cool Blue Berries

The coolest looking blue berries drew my attention to this weedy plant the first time I saw it when taking a walk near the Conestoga Creek. I was reminded of that Autumn day trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania a number of years ago when I recently spotted the same kind of plant scrambling along a cement bridge in Snyder County, PA.

Tear Thumb Vine Scrambles Up and Over the Bridge
Tear Thumb Vine Scrambles Up and Over the Bridge
(Photos taken 25 August 2017. Click on any image for a larger view.)

Right away I could see its vine-like nature and that its leaves were triangular. The vine had climbed from a stream bank up and over the top of the bridge and down onto the guard rail.

The vine appeared to be growing well and it seemed to be liking its sunny spot very much as many small white flowers were present.

The Noticeably Triangle Leaves of Tear Thumb
The Noticeably Triangle Leaves of Tear Thumb

Triangular leaves and pink stems with thumb-tearing spikes. Don’t try to weed out this plant without a sturdy pair of gloves on your hands!

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Turk’s Cap Lily Blooms by the Red Covered Bridge

Driving around the countryside you have to keep your eyes open because you never know what you’ll see. Recently, we saw a momma deer crossing the road with her two fawns, a few other deer here and there, a bald eagle sitting up high in a tree, and for me a new plant. One that I hadn’t seen before in real life.

We slowed down to look at a covered bridge and then stopped to take a few pictures. Right there next to the berm that used to be the old road leading to the bridge were a few blooming lilies. They were about 30 feet away from the bank of the stream that the bridge spanned.

Orange Lilies As Seen From Red Bridge Road
Orange Lilies As Seen From Red Bridge Road

I recognized the Turk’s Cap Lily, Lilium superbum, from a distance, or at least I thought that’s what it was by the way the orange petals were swept back. I needed a closer look to be sure of the identification. What was the greenery like and how did the flowers look close up?

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Black and Yellow Striped Caterpillars Love Blueberry Leaves

Last week the yellow-necked caterpillar made a return! We hadn’t seen these voracious caterpillars for a couple of years then outta nowhere they’re seen huddled together on an almost naked blueberry branch.

Yellowneck Caterpillars Gorging Themselves on Blueberry Leaves
Yellowneck Caterpillars Gorging Themselves on Blueberry Leaves
(Photos taken 13 August 2017. Click on any image to see a larger view.)

Take note of the thin yellow segment just behind the black head. That’s how it got its name, Yellownecked Caterpillar.

If I just let them go on eating, I wonder how much of a single blueberry bush they could eat? Funny, when I noticed them these black and yellow caterpillars were huddled in a group on a bare stem. Do they eat at night? Or were they just finishing their meal when I happened upon them?

This morning I see another bare stem on a blueberry bush so I’ll have to go out with some clippers to prevent more damage.

One cool thing about the yellownecked caterpillar, Datana ministra, is its habit of curling both ends of its body when threatened. It’s a defensive posture that they make, but I’m wondering what other caterpillars do this?

Yellowneck Caterpillars Make a U-Shape When Disturbed
Yellowneck Caterpillars Make a U-Shape When Disturbed

If you see these caterpillars on your ornamental trees, shade trees or fruit trees, shake the branch they’re on and they’ll show you who’s the biggest!

What kind of butterfly makes the yellow-necked caterpillar?

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Swallow-Tailed Kite Spotted in Pennsylvania

I saw a new bird this week! It’s exciting because I don’t often get that experience of seeing one new to me. Funny, I don’t keep a bird list, but when you spot one that you haven’t seen before, you just know it.

While driving to a nearby Amish lady’s farmer stand to pick up some corn and tomatoes I noticed this large bird flying low. It was doing some acrobatics or maybe loop-t-loos and that made me wonder what kind of seagull is that?

This bird was about the size of a seagull, but we’re not near the ocean. Sure, we see seagulls in autumn sometimes and definitely in winter, but in the summer not so much.

Its tail was forked and the wings pointed and I was pretty sure it was some kind of kite, but I’d never seen a kite in real life. I’d have to run home and check my bird book, I like Peterson’s Eastern Birds, to see the images and descriptions to be sure.

The one thing I was totally sure of was that I had never seen one before. Cool, a new bird!

I stopped the car in the middle of that country road and glanced in the rear view mirror as I reached for my camera. Not much traffic to worry about in these parts so I pushed the lever into “P” to park for a minute.

As I watched the bird criss-cross the road and fly over the cornfields on either side it didn’t seem to be bothered that I was there.

The photos could be a lot better but you can still tell what it is…a Swallow-Tailed Kite!

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Gardening Help from Audubon Native Plants Database

In my reading I came across this link to Audubon’s Native Plant Database. Where, for the mere mention of your zip-code and an email address, you can find the native plants for your area that will help to bring birds to your yard.

Goldfinch on a Purple Coneflower
Goldfinch on a Purple Coneflower

Cool thing is, the image on that page was of a male goldfinch standing atop a purple coneflower, Echinacea.

We’re treated to this site every summer and fall season. As the purple flowers mature and the cones grow taller the finches visit more often. They dine on the seeds whenever they’re deemed ready. I really do get enjoyment seeing the brilliantly colored birds carefully standing on the spiky seed heads to get at their lunch.

We have a perfect view from the kitchen window to spy on them being so busy. If the window is open, you can hearing them chattering to one another!

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Coltsfoot Flowers Next to the Creek

When it’s raining or even on a cloudy day you’ll miss out seeing the sunny yellow blossoms of Coltsfoot. It blooms in Eastern North America in early Spring each April.

Coltsfoot is one of my favorite Spring Ephemeral flowers because it’s such a bright happy color when it’s in bloom and everything else is still old winter drab.

It’s also fun to show people that it’s not a dandelion! Driving past the coltsfoot that bloom next to a country road most people probably do think it to be dandelions in flower. Neither would be noticed on the cloudy days because their flowers will be closed up tight.

Flowering Coltsfoot Near the Spillway
Flowering Coltsfoot Near the Spillway

During the first week of April coltsfoot was blooming in all its glory along the creek near the spillway on the Mill Race Trail at Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, PA. I had never seen such a display as I was treated to that day.

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