There was lightning way off to the north as I left the house this morning. A few robins were calling. The sky lit up in the distance and I counted to 50 seconds without hearing any thunder. I stopped counting after the third lightning flash. By the time I got to the high school, I could hear a very low thunder in the distance and feel a few rain drops. The full moon was mostly hidden behind clouds.
I reached the gates and took the road along the east and north edges of the woods. The thunder picked up. I scared a skunk at the edge of the road, and he scampered into the low fields heading toward the woods. A deer shot across the road full speed, and I considered the unpleasant prospect of a head-on collision with a deer while I was biking. I once heard a horrifying story of a deer who came through someone’s windshield after a collision and, frightened and dying, kicked until he and the driver were both dead. I have no idea if this is true, but always think of it when I see a deer cross the road. Lightning flashed bright now, and it occurred to me I was riding under high tension lines and mostly in the open. It was still dark when I locked up by the visitor center and started up the trail around Meadow Lake.
I walked the path through the geographic collections toward Bur Reed Marsh. Song sparrows had begun singing. The sky was clearing and I could see a bit more now. There was a fallen red oak I’ve never noticed before, enormous, base facing the trail. False mermaid has already begun to yellow. I came abruptly into a stand of flowering bloodroot. Last week I noticed only the emerging flowers. This morning, there were bloodroot in flower all around the edge of the woods by the marsh, and petals had already begun to dehisce. Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a few inches high… when did that happen? Geranium leaves are full-size or nearly so. The buds on the oaks are beginning to swell noticeably. Stamens still appear not to have pushed out of the open ironwood catkins.
I stood at the marsh and listened to the peepers and the chorus frogs, who refuse to stop. It’s been almost two months now, hasn’t it? I know it was an early spring, and they do still sound great, but don’t the frogs get tired of this showboating? Walking east from the marsh, I scared two wood ducks from a tree branch overhead. In the oak collection, the little marcescent post oaks (Quercus stellata) I’ve been watching seem to be getting the idea that spring is on its way: they are still quite leafy, but they’ve lost most of last year’s leaves from the upper half of their crown. Not so the blackjack oak (Q. marilandica), which is still entirely covered with leaves. A field sparrow was calling from the south side of the road, and two chipping sparrows were moving around among the smaller oaks
Past the oak collection I turned north at Parking Lot 8. Flocks of false rue anemone (Enemion biternatum, the old Isopyrum) are in bloom, along with some rue anemone (the old Anemonella thalictroides, now Thalictrum thalictroides, the “thalictrum-like thalictrum”). I walked down to the bottom of the ravine. On the west-facing slope, dutchman’s breeches are in full flower. I walked the bottom of the ravine back toward the road. I ran across a little colony of Carex spregelii with bright green spring foliage.
The rain started to pick up. As I put my raincoat on, I noticed that the mayapples have opened almost fully, umbrella-like, since I was last out. Timely. An eastern towhee called. On the walk back, I watched a kinglet move around in the shrubs, I believe a ruby-crowned kinglet, though I wasn’t certain. I walked back along the edge of meadow lake and found, to my delight, Carex richardsonii in flower at the very edge of the plantings. Who planted that? It’s a little mystery I can ponder during work today.
What was I thinking?!! I walked past that “Carex richardsonii” today, and it’s no such thing. Carex pensylvanica, good old fashioned Pennsylvania sedge. Little mystery my foot!