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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Signs of Spring

Last month the USDA released the first major update to their "Plant Hardiness Zone Map" for the United States since 1990. Used as a plantings tool primarily by horticulturalists and gardeners, the revised map has moved New York into a warmer zone. Apparently, milder temperatures has changed the options for plant selection in our state. Does this also mean that we will be seeing earlier blooming of Spring plants? We already know that migratory birds have changed their schedule. Anyway, here are a few signs of Spring that I've noticed over the past week.

Songbirds have begun their Spring courtships and many males can now be heard singing. Cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, overwintering Fox Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows, as well as, our resident House Finches, are some of the early amorous avian species practicing their sweet-sounding repertoires. Male Mourning Doves can be heard summonsing females to a nest site with their haunting "coo-OO-oo" call. Some are already sitting on eggs.

I've already posted about Flowering Quince, snowdrops, Winter Aconite and hellebore, now there are even more blooms brightening the landscape. Spring crocuses, the flower most people associate with the start of the vernal equinox, are emerging all over our city parks and gardens. Daffodils are also beginning to emerge, although I haven't seen any flowers as of yet. Notice the full pollen baskets on this busy Honey Bee.

Witch hazel is another one of my favorite early flowering shrubs. I love the look of this plant's long, spindly, bright-yellow petals against the Winter's deep azure sky. After reading about the various species of hammamelis plants, I came away a bit confused. I've always assumed that the local species was "virginiana", however most reference material describe it as blooming in late-Fall. Another species, Hamamelis vernalis, is said to bloom from December to March. Unfortunately, Hamamelis vernalis or Ozark Witchhazel, is supposedly only found in the Ozark Plateau of Central North America. Maybe a reader with more knowledge of botanicals can post a comment here and help clear up this mystery.

While walking down the shore at Dead Horse Bay on Sunday I came across this "Mermaid's Necklace". This egg case of the Knobbed or Channeled Whelk holds several thousand tiny bivalves waiting to hatch. I usually find them empty and dried out, having washed up on the shore after the juvenile whelks disperse. I never gave much thought to the timing, until now. According to the Smithsonian Marine Station website, whelks migrate from deep to shallow water in the Spring. Their reproduction cycle runs from March to September. So I guess that the "Mermaid's Necklace" at Dead Horse Bay was a sign that the whelk's Spring has commenced.


Dani said...

Look at all that broken glass.. :-(

Rob Jett said...

Yeah, welcome to Dead Horse Bay! Eventually it will all be sand again.

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