Monday, March 26, 2007

Silver Maple, Red Admiral, frogs and sunshine

Spring has arrived for the animals. I've seen several nuthatches and lots of juncos and a whole big flock of grackles has moved in across the street. Lots of robins. A pair of mallards were walking around, shopping for real estate, but the joggers running by out front were not to their liking. Coots, still a flock of coots on the pond, not as many as before. And Canada geese. No grebes.

The dogs herded the woodchuck out from under the front porch but, being herding dogs and not killers, they then didn't know what to do with him. So they herded him under a bush and kept him there until I pulled them away by their tails. He made a chattering noise I never heard before. He seems to have moved away, can't imagine why!

Frogs are in evidence, twittering from every bit of lowland. I don't hear any of the singers though, just the spring peepers. At the lake, before it was developed, we heard the singers first; their unearthly chorus was my first introduction to the strange and wonderful wildlife of Michigan. They don't seem to do well around people, and many Michiganders don't seem to know what I'm talking about. "You mean the peepers?" they say. No, the singing toad, Bufo americanus, with the long trill, sung in choruses of different, harmonious trills, rising and falling. Sometimes they sing in perfect intervals, thirds and fifths; sometimes they drone while one breaks away, higher, like a soloist. There is a recording here: . Multiply that times twenty or a hundred and you have something to take your breath away. (The same website also has a recording of the spring peeper's shrill whistle, also better in big groups but not the same as the singing.)

Flitting around the dried leaves is a single Red Admiral butterfly, too quick for my camera.

The warm weather has caused a surge of growth. Red leaf-buds are all over the silver maples, especially where they hang over the water. I see marsh-marigold leaves (no buds or flowers yet) in my swamp. The skunk-cabbages have doubled in size and the ones in the sunniest spots are growing leaves.
It's the annual race between the new sprouts and the flowering plants and the killing darkness of the nonnative Norweigian maples. When they leaf out -- before any native trees -- that's the end of the flowers and the end of the growing season for natives. I wish I could get rid of them, but they are too big.

Thunderstorms are predicted, and it's in the high 60s. I had the back door open last night and some big mosquitos came in.