It’s mid-February, which means it’s time to start checking around here for some early signs of spring! I had limited time yesterday and needed to stay close to home, so set off for the Judge Morris Estate feeling confident that I could find an early bloomer.
As I headed out on the trail, it quickly became a quagmire of mud in one area, thanks to the recent warmth that had melted the snow. It was slick, shoe-sucking mud, and I was happy to reach some dryer sections. But in order to find what I was looking for, I needed to descend to the creek, as my treasure would be found in wet areas.
I made my way down, being treated to the calls of a red-bellied woodpecker, distant cardinal, and handful of crows during my descent. The first area I enthusiastically checked was void of this plant. So was the second. I was beginning to wonder if it was too early, but I plodded on, knowing, just knowing, that there had to be at least ONE plant emerging.
I came an area of the stream that curved quite distinctly. I felt drawn to move closer, as the melting snow dropped from the roots along the bank into the water, with a delicate “plink…plink” in a seducing, delicate rhythm. As I stepped onto the low-lying flat area, I took my time checking for deep mud before proceeding.
And then I saw something sticking up out of the ground, green and purplish. And then I saw another, and another, and another! Eureka! I had found the first skunk cabbage flowers of the season! When they emerge, they look an exotic flower with their purplish dotted hue. The first time I ever saw one, I fell in love. Not only was it a harbinger of spring, it was simply gorgeous.
I rejoiced in my find, knowing that we had turned the corner. Even though there are still some cold days and possible snow ahead, the land is shaking off her winter cloak! I followed the creek for a bit, and came upon a dead tree with very large holes in it, signs of a busy pileated woodpecker. As I stood there admiring his work, I heard him laughing somewhere off in the distance.
Today, my kids and I headed to Ashland Nature Center in search of another early bloomer and to see if skunk cabbage had emerged there as well. It took some serious looking, but we did find two just-emerging skunk cabbage flowers blending in with the leaves on the ground.
We continued our journey into the marsh, aiming for the wooden bridge near the Red Clay Creek, hoping to be rewarded with a glimpse of blooming snowdrops. We easily found these white beauties right off the trail near the bridge. It’s so joyful to see flowers blooming in February!
We walked along the marsh boardwalk trail, eagerly anticipating the return of the amphibians. We just need a few warm days followed by some rain and the wood frogs will make their appearance, filling the marsh with their quack-like calls, laying eggs by the thousands in large masses. It will truly be music to my ears when that sound finally arrives, as it will shortly be followed by the peeps of spring peepers, squawks of returning migratory birds, and visions of lovely spring ephemerals (woodland flowers that bloom only in early spring).
The next 6 weeks will be filled with nature’s surprises, so I hope you get a chance to get outside often and see what’s happening. I’ll be there out there for sure, filling my lungs with the fresh air and these pages with updates and pictures!
Love & Light,