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Posts Tagged ‘spring’

red squirrelRed squirrels aren’t usually keen on sharing their dining room with others. The presence of other squirrels and birds is seldom tolerated, especially when black oil sunflower seeds are on the menu.

snowshoe hare in spring coatBut sometimes, on very rare occasions, a special someone comes along whose company can actually enhance the dining experience.  Who knew snowshoe hares had more than just an interest in large families to bring to the conversation, or a palate for fine seeds?

snowshoe hare and red squirrelSnow continues to cover so much of the ground this spring that animals seem more open to eating outside their usual fare and tolerating the presence of other species.  These two have become regular dining partners near the back deck.  I wonder if they’ll continue their ‘friendship’ once the snow cover is gone and dandelions are ripe for the eating.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2015

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hopping down the bunny trailWith so much snow still in the woods, it doesn’t look much like Spring here.  Thankfully, the Easter Bunny hopped by this morning to remind us that not just Easter, but Spring too is on its way. Its coat of blended tawny brown and white indicates the lengthening daylight hours.  Surely all that extra sunlight will help us see grass again soon.

white tailed deerIt’s been a rough winter for wildlife.  Relentless snowfalls have covered food sources and made movement on all types of terrain difficult.  Deer have been frequent visitors in the yard, looking for anything edible.

snowshoe hareNot all creatures are as lucky as the snowshoe hares to be able to leap with ease on top of the snow.  Bobcats haven’t been able to keep up with them in deep snow and have suffered the consequences in their dwindling numbers.  With their small prey buried deep in tunnels beneath the hard snow cover, snowy owls have also suffered.

Sometimes hard winters make it seem like warmer days will never come again, especially when snow continues to fall for weeks after the vernal equinox.

Hopefully, the real spring is just around the corner.

The deep roots never doubt spring will come.

~ Marty Rubin

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2015

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Easter bunny Spring 2014

Local bunnies are quickly changing their winter coats for brown ones these days.  Though they may still be streaked with white above their noses and along their backsides, soon the snowshoe hares will be wearing solid brown.  Make that, solid chocolate brown.

snowshoe hare spring coat

Peter Rabbit on the runActually, it’s more like tawny brown.  But let’s not split hares.

Why you ask?  Well, it’s neither because brown is the new white in the Spring fashion world.  Nor is it because Peter Rabbit wore brown in Beatrix Potter’s children’s books.  Though naughty as he was, he did look quite charming.

They’re not wearing brown because the snow has *finally* disappeared from our neck of the woods and with it, all winter season apparel.

No, the reason why the local hares are wearing brown this week is because the daylight hours are getting longer.   Snowshoe hares have the most sensitive of eyes when it comes to differences in light.  Perhaps this is why they respond so readily with a change in fur color in spring and fall.

Easter bunny in woods

And since Easter takes place in late April this year, I’m sure the Easter Bunny will also be wearing a tawny coat.  However, in years when Easter takes place in March, he may very well be wearing white.  It’s all about camouflage with bunnies, whether they’re keeping a hop ahead of predators or sneaking around to hide Easter eggs.

bunny thinking

Wondering where the best places might be to hide eggs in the yard.

Hoppy Easter to all!

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

 

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Cone Talk

The cones have tales to tell this fine spring day.  Do you have a minute to hear what they have to say?

old black spruce cones

Let the old gray cones speak first.  They’ve likely seen better days but are still holding on tight to the even older black spruce that bore them years ago.  Neither the young nor the old should underestimate the value of tenacity.  Hang in there baby!

spruce cone leftovers in woodpile

These spruce cone leftovers on the woodpile reveal a spot where at least one red squirrel likes to dine regularly.  Hopefully the neighborhood cats aren’t paying attention.

closed spruce cone in bog

A closed cone in a boggy area doesn’t want to expose its seeds to the wetness if there’s still a chance it can disperse them farther in drier weather.  It’s only natural for all of us, even small pine cones, to aspire to reach out to the world beyond our little neck of the woods.

open cone indicating dry forest

A spruce cone on the forest floor is already open, even though it rained heavily here a couple of days ago.  A sign of a dry summer ahead, it’s also showing an increased risk for wildfire.

speckled alder cones and seeds

Speckled alder cones have only a few seeds left in them, but are proud to say they helped feed a good many hungry chickadees this past winter.   When you hear the chickadees sing, you can thank the alders.

red spruce cones

Red spruce cones announce to the world that they’re open for business.  Pollination business that is.  Their bright red bract scales are ready to receive the male gametophytes that will produce a new crop of seeds.  They’re so spectacularly beautiful, a close-up is warranted…

red bract scales on red spruce

Green cones appear for the first time atop a tall balsam fir I transplanted as a seedling years ago while holding a baby on my hip.  It’s always a thrill when your babies start having babies of their own, whether these babies are humans or trees 😉

green balsam fir cones

Get outside and hear what nature has to say to you today.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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snowshoe hare up close

Wild snowshoe hares are frequently seen in the yard.  They’re present year-round, but most visible during the spring and summer months.

Watching a hare through the window

Watching a hare through the window

We often watch them through the window as they munch on the lawn or rest under the trees.

Snowshoe hare resting under fir trees next to driveway

Snowshoe hare resting under fir trees next to driveway

One in particular often lays under some trees next to the driveway. It was looking especially relaxed yesterday afternoon.  If we are quiet as we come up the driveway and walk into the house, it will usually just open its eyes for a moment and then go back to its rest.

Hare with blended coat of brown and white fur in early spring

Hare with blended coat of brown and white fur in early spring

Unlike most rabbits, hares don’t make underground burrows.  When startled, they either freeze or leap out of sight.  Blending into the landscape is made easier by their varying coat color which is white in winter and brown in summer, a change dictated by daylight hours rather than how much snow is on the ground.  Consequently, a lack of snow cover in winter, or snow on the ground in late spring makes them vulnerable to predators.

snowshoe hare next to deck

Lately I’ve been looking for hare nests in the yard.  Unlike rabbits, hares are born with fur and open eyes, making them more alert to their above-ground surroundings.  In the past, I’ve replaced leverets (baby hares) back into their nest as they’ve jumped out after being startled by my lawnmower.  Leverets are left unattended during the day, visited by their mother only at night.

I haven’t found any nests yet this year, but it’s still early in the season.  Unfortunately, I’m not the only one looking…

Trespassing cat on the prowl

Trespassing cat on the prowl

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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Sometimes it’s difficult to tell one cat from another, especially if they’re plants, not animals.

A cattail from last year looking ragged in springtime

In the spring, last year’s cattails look shabby and ragged.  An aggressive native species, colonies of this spike-like plant are commonly found in ditches and freshwater wetlands.  The soft down-like seeds are easily dispersed by the wind.  Besides being employed by birds to line nests, the down was used by First Nation’s people as a firestarter and to line moccasins and papooses.  Many parts of the plant are edible.  (For more see the Wikipedia page for Typha at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typha) New green cattails will appear later this summer and turn brown as the season progresses.

Cattails growing in a ditch.

Cattails are often confushed with catkins, the male (and sometimes male/female) reproductive part on some trees and bushes.  Below are catkins on an alder tree.    The word ‘catkin’ is derived from the Dutch word for kitten.  In late spring, these catkins certainly look like kittens’ tails.

Male catkins on a speckled alder in May

In the next image, you can see the greenish catkins as they appeared earlier this spring, hard and closed.  Also visible on the leafless branches are small brown cones leftover from last year.  These cones hold many small seeds that are a favorite of chickadees.

New catkins on speckled alder with last year’s cones

Below are the pussywillows that are such a welcome sight in early spring.  Their soft grey fur invites petting by young and old.  As a child I recall my first grade class glueing these to an image of a kitten to provide texture and color.  It was a common craft back then when most children had access to pussywillows near their homes.

Pussywillows are a type of catkin growing on willow trees or bushes.  Eventually, they go to seed and appear quite different than when they first emerged from the branch.

By now, it’s difficult to find evidence of  pussywillows in our woods.  However, fresh green catkins can now be found on the yellow birch trees.

Yellow birch catkin

With such staggered and changing appearances, cattails, catkins and pussywillows can seem as mysterious as their feline namesake.  Perhaps that’s part of their charm.

Text and images copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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