Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Early Season Botany

Things are finally really starting to happen: I had my first butterflies of the season recently, new birds are coming back every day, and today I had my first blooming wildflowers of the season. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is a non-native species, but a very welcome one in my opinion, as it is one of the very first wildflowers to come up in spring. The flower emerges before the leaves.

Trout lilies (Erythronium sp.) are one of our most characteristic spring forest flowers. Although for the most part I haven't found any new leaves coming up, there is one exception. This firepit has been in use almost continuously for the last few weeks, and the heat has induced an early emergence for a number of trout lily leaves.

Of course, most of our trees also produce flowers, and several maples are very early bloomers. These flowers belong to Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum).

A number of our ferns are evergreen, and on a recent hike along the Niagara Escarpment I found a couple characteristic species of this formation.

Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes)

Walking Fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum)

Despite their radically different appearance, these two ferns are in the same genus. According to the Peterson Guide to ferns of the Northeast, these species do not hybridise, but each will hybridise with a third species, Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron).

Not long until our forests and fields turn green again!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

First Herps of the Year

With a very warm winter and early spring, the first reptiles and amphibians have emerged somewhat earlier than usual. So far this year, I've seen or heard six species, including Spring Peeper, Red-backed Salamander and the four species pictured below.

Leopard Frogs are not quite ready to really begin their breeding season, but have still emerged in large numbers. I thought this individual had a really interesting pattern of spots on the back.

Most of the amphibians that spend the summer on land begin their breeding very early in the spring, and I encountered large numbers of Wood Frogs at vernal pools this week. They can get a little bit too excited sometimes, and a couple of times I noticed 3, 4 or more males all clinging tightly to a single female.

Wood Frog Eggs

Western Chorus Frogs were also singing away, and using my best Great Blue Heron impression I was eventually able to sneak close enough for good views. Normally they stop singing as soon as you get anywhere close.

My first and so far only reptile of the year was this Northern Map Turtle in Rondeau Bay.

Hopefully more to come as spring progresses!