Spring Crashes In

By Boak Wiesner

A warm wind greet me as I mosey along the boardwalk. It is clear that winter is over and spring is here but there’s a few small remnants of winter’s icy grip that remain. This ice will certainly be gone by later today though it gives me pause to reflect on the winter that wasn’t.

Ice and water, two phases of the same substance, but how different they are. Water molecules are strongly attracted to one another, so much so that its solid form floats on its liquid form. It also takes a lot of heat to get ice or water to warm up and a huge amount to melt or evaporate it.

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The main songs I’m hearing around me are the “ham-bur-ger” sounding mating calls of Black-capped Chickadees. Pairs of them alight in the branches all along my walk today.

Black-capped Chicakdees (Poecile artricapillus)

Black-capped Chicakdees (Poecile artricapillus)

Now at the first vestiges of spring, not a lot of activity is apparent, the birds are not back yet, the trees have yet to come into bloom, so I’m left to be able to look closely at that which is around me. There’s a few Black Cherry trees around in the Arb – they have the most interesting patterns of lenticels on their bark. Lenticels allow air to get into the trunks of the trees.

Black Cherry bark (Prunus serotina)

Black Cherry bark (Prunus serotina)

As they age, the cork layer of the bark starts to split, and they create interesting and arresting patterns up the trunks of the trees. Among the much more familiar patterns of the main trees of our forests, they offer a welcome strangeness.

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A bit further on up the hill, male flowers, called catkins, have emerged in the spring sun from a small Paper Birch. Perhaps more of these water loving trees will grow as the north end of the bog is being restored to a wetland community.

Paper Birch catkins (Betula papyrifera)

Paper Birch catkins (Betula papyrifera)

Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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