The recent mild days seem to foster not only migration but other summer preparations as well, for wildlife as well as people. Ospreys have returned to their nest platform and are finding and carefully decorating their nest with an assortment of items- a pine bough, some reeds, a piece of cardboard, part of a corn stalk- one wonders what they are thinking as they rearrange their treasures over and over.
Some winter visitors are still lingering- a few juncos and tree sparrows and pine siskins at the feeders. Now they’ve been joined by song sparrows and redwings and grackles and towhees- each day is different. Tree swallows and bluebirds have returned, and in the forest the first yellow-rumped warblers (affectionately known as butter-butts) are in the trees finding tiny insects that our senses don’t detect. Winter seems so lifeless sometimes, but warm spring nights reveal the multitude of moths and others that have somehow survived the cold and are ready to get spring going. All around are caterpillars and spiders and many others which must have been frozen the last few months but miraculously come alive now- no wonder we celebrate Easter in the spring.
While maintaining the trails in the preserve, we were treated to the sound of thousands of wood frogs and spring peepers now singing from the wet swales in the swamp forest. The call of wood frogs is like a quack or chuckle, and it always sounds to me that they must be telling jokes to each other. Of course their intent is solely romantic, ok, reproductive in nature, and they seem to have lost much of their common frog sense. Woodies can be plainly seen crossing roads and driveways even in the daytime, and on the surface of seasonal ponds. This must be by far the most dangerous part of their lives, exposing themselves to tire squashing and being eaten by birds and snakes and mammals. Probably its just their enormous capacity to breed, and the preservation of wetlands, that allows them to continue.
After a rest break and back on the trails, one notices too that the true mosses and clubmosses, fungi, and lichens are starting to brighten and come to life also. And evergreen plants such as goldthread and partridgeberry and wintergreen are looking especially green and glossy now. Sedges are starting to emerge, as are the maple and poplar flowers, while at the same time the skunk cabbage flowers are losing their vigor and pussy willows are at or past their prime. Soon the marsh marigolds will really brighten the swamp.
So perhaps the best thing about spring cleaning, be it in our yards or on the trails, is that it encourages us to be outside where we can appreciate the preparations wildlife is making for the coming season as well.