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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

An early spring?

I walked across the park today on my way to the Botanic Gardens. Big Mama and Split-tail were circling high above the woods at the northwest edge of the park. Crossing the Long Meadow I scanned the sky and noticed that as the hawks circled they were gradually drifting over Payne Hill and to the east, towards the Botanic Gardens. I mumbled to nobody in particular, "I'll meet you there".


(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on Snowdrops-

The temperature was in the mid fifties and, with the lengthening days, it felt more like spring than mid-February. In the Midwood all the snow has melted and Snowdrops are emerging in patches throughout the forest floor. As I passed the back of the zoo I spotted two male House Sparrows involved in a bill-to-bill jousting match. Perhaps they are feeling the pull of the vernal equinox and were trying to claim their territory or harem.

I entered the Botanic Gardens at Empire Boulevard and was greeted by a small flock of nagging Blue Jays. Big Mama and Split-tail had beat me to the gardens. The jays were making a vain attempt to chase them from their perch in a large oak tree. The Red-tailed Hawks ignored them and the four jays gave up without a fight.

Witch-hazel (Hamamelis vernalis)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The flowers on the early blooming Witch-hazels looked like tiny, exploding fireworks among all the other brown, dormant shrubs. Crocuses impatiently pushed aside the leaf litter, and bathed in the unexpected warmth.


(Photo credit - Rob J)

As I strolled through the gardens I searched the base of all the conifers for signs of owls. I was about to give up when I noticed something interesting. Since my surgery I've been extremely careful when walking on uneven ground (don't want to trip and fall on my arm). I was watching my feet while walking down a muddy incline when I noticed something that looked like an owl pellet. Then I realized that at the base of a cedar (that I hadn't even looked at) there were eighteen to twenty oblong pellets. The tree's branches are nearly impenetrable making it very difficult to find a perched bird. I saw spots of white wash splashed on some of the densely packed sprays but couldn't see any owls in this perfect hiding place. Maybe I'll go back one day as the sun is setting.

Owl pellets

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on owl pellets-


Rurality said...

Love the snowdrops! And you'll have me looking for owl pellets everywhere now.

On the witch-hazel... why is it blooming now? I thought that was a fall bloomer. Or is it possible that it could be Hamamelis vernalis instead? Or do I just not know what I'm talking about? (Very likely!)

I just recently found your blog and I'm enjoying it very much.

Rob J. said...

I stand corrected, it is more likely H. vernalis. I had assumed that it was the native species. You motivated me to learn more about witch-hazel and found that there are dozens of hybrids. It seems like most of the winter bloomers could be from asia.

I'm glad that you are enjoying the blog. Thanks for your comments.


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