By Boak Wiesner
Considering the brief burst of snow just a day ago, it’s a shocking change to be out in the broiling sun. A stiff wind from the south brings warmth, a reminder of the strong high pressure system that just passed by over the last few days.
Pussy willow catkins add some welcome yellow to an otherwise drab landscape – drab for just the moment, though, as the sense of things being completely ready to burst out is fairly palpable.
The remarkably loud call of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet greets me at the south junction of the boardwalk. Such aloud call out of such a small bird. The steep hill here minimizes the wind so that lots of calls can be heard. Early spring is a great time of year to look for birds because, with no leaves on the trees yet, they can be spotted much more easily.
A couple, literally, of Chickadees are part of the festivities. A pair of Hermit Thrushes flit through; however, it’s too early in the day for them to be singing – too bad for me, as they are some of the forest’s most melodious singers! Songbirds fall into two main groups, the Oscines and the Tyranni, based on the structure of the syrinx, the singing organ.
A bit further on, the first singing of Chorus as well as Wood Frogs – and there’s no surer sign of spring! – more than makes up for that. Frogs have a larynx like other vertebrates but use a lot of energy singing, up to 15% of their total expenditure. (There’s a joke here about politicians and I’ll leave you to finish it.)
I come across a downed branch of a Bur Oak. On it grows not only fungi, some kind of Polypore, but also lichens. At a glance, I see three of the six kingdoms, the lichens being a symbiotic pairing of an alga and a fungus.
Glistening in the sun, the wet ends of willow stick up out of the water. The tooth marks were made by a beaver the remnants of whose dam can still be seen just back there on the south side of the boardwalk. Things in Nature are never static.