Black-throated green warblers

Between 4:30 and 4:45 this morning, the sky went from essentially black in the east to glowing. Venus is still bright in the mornings. It’s been raining almost incessantly since Friday, five days. This is the first really nice morning, but there was still haze in the air, and not many stars visible. By the time I reached the Arboretum, it was light enough to see the ground clearly and make out some plants. There were already field sparrows and song sparrows singing when I locked up at P10, and the flowers of Enemion stood out clearly in the twilight. White-throated sparrows started up a few minutes into my walk. No frogs or toads this morning, but it is gloves weather, and I hear that it dipped down to 30 F nearby.

The woods have developed considerably in the past week. The sugar maple leaves are unfurled but not yet fully open, like butterflies’ wings fresh out of the chrysalis, waiting to harden off. Basswood leaves are the diameter of tennis balls. Geranium is in bloom everywhere. Wild ginger leaves are overtopping each other. Low areas alongside the trail are all filled with water. As I walked toward P8, a great horned owl called.

By the time I crossed the road at P8, it was bright enough to see everything. There was a Viburnum lantana in bloom alongside the road. A number of sedges are already fruiting: Carex albursina perigynia are filling up and just peeking around the edges of their bracts, C. hiritifolia culms that were in flower a week ago are now arching with the weight of developing achenes, C. sprengelii is dangling with perigynia. The Vignea sedges aren’t there yet: C. rosea flowers aren’t even open, though in the groundcover garden (which I would expect to be at least a week or two ahead), the close relative C. radiata has been in flower for at least a week. This morning I did not see any Jacob’s ladder in bloom, but I saw some in on my ride out through the woods last night. The mayapples have mostly started to fruit, though some are still in flower. Trout-lilies are all in fruit, onions are about to flower (though the wild leeks still look exactly the same, leaves out, flowers hiding underground), nodding and big-flowered and prairie trillium are all still in bloom, Solomon’s plume is coming into flower. False mermaid was beaten to the ground by this rain and has nearly given up the ghost. I picked a plant and bit the flower: the fruits are developing, though not as far along as I would have expected them this late in the season. I’ll have to watch more closely in the coming week or two to see if they are really done for the year. They don’t have much time left in which to drop their achenes, which will wait for winter to germinate.

I crossed the road again toward P12 and, perhaps 50 feet from the spruce plot, I heard a wood thrush. Walking into the spruces was like entering a cathedral in midday: there is the noise of the road, the heat of the day, then with the step over the threshold the temperature drops a few degrees and the sound of the city outside is muted, softer than the sound of the still reverberation of the hall. The thrush’s song filled the spruce grove and was mixed with calls of other birds I didn’t recognize but probably ought to have. There is no song like a thrush’s.

I crossed the road at P12 and walked to the east end of the woods. A fog was settled over the east prairie, and I walked further east to see it. I was immediately in a monoculture of Virginia bluebells, which are going to fruit. They form a denser stand than I had realized. Where the bluebells are growing, essentially nothing else does. Can this be natural? Is this a cultivar of some kind? They are as dominant here as garlic-mustard is in other places. Wood nettles are thigh-high in the openings, along with native celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) going to fruit. Little else grows through except for some poison ivy and Virginia creeper.

By now the sun had come up, and I was antsy to get back to work. A wood duck squeaked about 20 feet overhead in a red oak. I have been worried about the warblers lately, as I’ve only seen yellow-rumps and perhaps heard one other. As I walked back to my bike, I heard my first black-throated green warbler of the spring. It seems late: I typically think of full-sized leaves on the sugar maples and full bloom on the geraniums as being the end of the good warbling, but there is variation from year to year. I’m hopeful there are still warblers around the corner.

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