Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nodding Trilliums Blooming At Springbrook

 The Nodding Trilliums are blooming at Springbrook now.  They are not very showy from the top because the flower slips down between two of the leaves and blooms under their cover.  So, to see the flower, I have to get my face almost down to the ground and look up under the leaves.
Not many pollinators out in this cloudy, rainy weather we are having, but enough for these pretty spring flowers.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Poison Ivy Likes the Rain

 It seems like we went straight from winter to constant rain, but the plants are liking the moisture. 

This Poison Ivy leaf has just filled out and by the way the raindrops are rolling off its surface, it also has the oil present that causes us humans problems.

An oil on the surface of all parts of this plant is what many people are allergic to, and contact with the oil causes the familiar skin irritation.  It also causes these water drops to just roll off the leaf.

Poison Ivy's irritant is also anaphylactic to us humans, which means you can touch it every day for 20 years and have no reaction and then touch it another day and have a severe reaction.
The best way to not find out if you react to Poison Ivy is to not come in contact with it.  That means you need to be able to identify it.

So here it is.  Each leaf stem has three
leaf-lets.  Which is where the rhyme comes from..."leaves of three...leave it be."

Poison Ivy is technically a shrub, and in more southern areas it grows taller and also grows as a large hairy vine covering the trunks of tall trees.

As a boy I learned to avoid climbing those trees, unless there was something very interesting in the top of the tree.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spring Birds At Springbrook-Pileated to Indigo Bunting

At Springbrook's birdbanding yesterday we did not only catch warblers, as exciting as they are.  We also caught other fascinating birds and I was able to photograph some, like this female Pileated Woodpecker.  In males, the red on the head goes all the way to the beak, along with other differences.

She had a large scaley broodpatch, so she has a nest somewhere in Springbrook.
 This Red Eyed Vireo is certainly demonstrating its red eye in this photo, along with the hooked beak of all vireos.  Glad they don't bite like chickadees.

These vireos will be nesting at Springbrook very soon.
 We rarely capture Savannah Sparrows at Springbrook so this one was a treat to hold and see up close.

The yellow around and above the eye is very distinctive and identifies this sparrow.
 Crested Flycatchers like this one have just arrived from their wintering grounds in the south and will be nesting soon at Springbrook.

The crest seems to be raised and lowered constantly depending on the bird's mood at the moment.

Here it is raised and down below it is lowered.  
 All flycatchers have a hooked beak, to better grasp their flying insect prey that they catch in mid-air.
 Indigo Buntings have the most blue of all the birds I have ever seen.  They seem to define "blue" with different shades and degrees of intensity, but they are beautiful birds.

This is a male, and the females are very brown and camouflaged.  They will be setting up nest sites in Springbrook in the next few weeks.
Buntings are seed eaters, and have large, strong beaks that can bite hard, as many banders can verify.

The band can be seen on the right leg of this Indigo Bunting, as it is about to be released.

Warblers Everywhere at Springbrook

 The warblers were in full migration at Springbrook Nature Center yesterday during our bird banding event.  We caught 95 birds and 26 different species.

This was a rare chance to see these little warblers up close as well as high up in the trees.

This Magnolia Warbler was one of several we caught, banded, and released.
 This is the only Yellow Warbler we caught in the mist nets, but there were many singing and flying in the nature center. 

It has only taken nature about a week to catch up now that the long winter has finally let go.  There seemed to be lots of insects in the trees where these warblers were feeding
 This Mourning Warbler was a second year male, which can be told by the small and not completely black "bib" under the gray throat.  But still a very pretty bird that only passes through this area during spring and fall migration.
 This Chestnut Sided Warbler was one of several we caught in the nets.  This one is probably a female, as the "chestnut" on the sides does not extend down the side beyond the legs, and the crown patch is mottled greenish yellow, instead of solid bright yellow.

Banding these transient visitors is time consuming since each bird needs data recorded and complicated identification keys are needed to assure accuracy of ID, age and sex.
 This very handsome male Wilson's Warbler is an easy one to identify because of the very black crown on its head, offset with the bright yellow surrounding it.
Male Red Starts are easy to see flitting in the trees with their black bodies offset with the red patches on their wings, tails, and sides.

It is always a great pleasure to see the warblers return in the spring from their winters in Central and South America.

They will only be here for a few days so I plan on seeing as many as possible before they have continued their migration north.

For a few, like this Red Start, their journey may be finished, since some will nest right here in Springbrook.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bloodroot, Hepatica, and Prairie Smoke Blooming

 Last week the Bloodroot was in self protect mode as late snow threatened it.  But today its protective leaf has opened up and the flower stretched out toward the sun.

Compare this picture with the previous post where the leaf is wrapped tightly around the unopened flower.

In the picture below some of the leaves still look a bit tentative, but not the flowers.  They know bright warm sun when they see it and feel it.  The third picture shows them pointed right at the sun, soaking up all the warmth.

 The Hepatica has just opened this morning with tiny little flowers.  It is still a little early for it, and maybe in a few days the flowers will be more normal size.
 The Prairie Smoke also started blooming today.  The flowers have just opened up, although, as can be seen, they never really do "open" up.

Prairie Smoke flowers have only a small opening for pollinators, forcing them to crawl inside for the nector waiting as in the picture below. 

The flower will eventually open up as the seeds extend out in a few weeks giving it the "smoky" look that it's name comes from.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Solitary Sandpiper at Springbrook--Barred Owl Eats Sparrow

 At yesterday's birdbanding at Springbrook Nature Center a Solitary Sandpiper flew into one of the mist nets.  The first one of these we have captured in over 25 years.  It was banded and released quickly but not before we had a good chance to see it up close. 
A beak longer than its head is an identifyer for this bird, as well as the very white eye ring.
The white eye ring is very obvious here.

We caught about 95 birds yesterday, many were migrating warblers and other migrants, including the sandpiper.

We caught several migrating White Throated Sparrows, but one we didn't catch was caught by the Barred Owl, who made a quick breakfast of it, swallowing it whole as can be seen below.  Yum!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bloodroot in May Snowstorm

 This morning in the blowing snow the large enveloping leaf of the bloodroot looked exactly like the protective cover that it is for the single flower of each plant. 

This unusual May snowstorm is the reason this early spring wildflower is protected in this way.

The more adventurous flower below was ready to open but stayed closed as the snow flakes built up on its petals.

I think the Bloodroot and the rest of us are all ready for more normal spring weather!