It has been an unusual experience of an extremely dry spell this spring, following the wettest year on record (which also had a dry spell in late spring/early summer). We also had last autumn the worst storm damage in 50 years (my guess) in the October snowstorm, and wildfires this spring of a nature not experienced in a 100 years around here.
On the plus side, the dry spring preserved the flowers that were already open so it has been very pretty. Pollen, especially from oaks, has been worse in other years but is close to peak right now. If you’re not allergic you don’t notice it until it blankets in chartreuse a smooth surface like a car. If you use a headlamp, like we do when walking the dog at night, you can also see pollen blowing like a blizzard in front of your face.
Visitors have reported seeing a beaver on French Creek and our WebWalkers (who are studying tracks and scat this spring) have seen a beaver print.
I heard my first gray treefrog of the year the other day. The American toads and spring peepers resumed calling this week after going quiet during the dry spell. They actually started again Saturday night, before the light rain we received Sunday morning. The rain hasn’t added up to much accumulation but it is still welcome. Many vernal pools and wet sloughs have dried up this spring, stranding frog eggs and tadpoles.
I also awoke the other morning to the “Who cooks for you?” call of a barred owl.
Yesterday while looking at tracks along French Creek behind the visitor center, the kids saw that the creek was really muddy, as if we had gotten a lot of rain and soil was eroding. But when we walked upstream along French Creek above the point where Pine Creek flows into French Creek, the water was clear—a mystery at first. I assume the sediment is from the bridge reconstruction over Pine Creek on Harmonyville Road; they are probably digging and forming the bridge’s footers and pumping the creek around an area of coffer dams. This is the third highway bridge replaced in this immediate watershed in the last decade so we know what to expect.
At another property I manage for Natural Lands Trust in the headwaters of Pine Creek I came across this gooseberry shrub in flower—I’ve never seen them around here before. It’s a member of the genus of currants: Ribes, probably species hirtellum, Northern wild gooseberry.
Other things blooming at the preserve include Jack-in-the-pulpit, rue-anemone, trout-lily, nannyberry viburnum, pussytoes, American dogwood (bracts), blueberries and pinxterbloom azalea. I missed marsh marigold this spring and the few trailing arbutus flowers I have seen so far were shriveled.
Bellwort is just about to bloom, so I guess we’re just a little behind Mariton in blooming times.
Mayapple is blooming now too, though I think I appreciate it more for the foliage:
It is definitely garlic-mustard (Alliaria petiolata) pulling season, with several locations on the preserve where isolated populations make control a possibility. Other places it is so widespread it would be futile to try. Mile-a-minute weed (Persicaria perfoliata) is already up, and beyond the cotyledon stage. I found one in my yard (the nerve!) that already had six mature leaves.
The trails at French Creek State Park where the forest fire burned appear not to be posted closed now. There are still signs cautioning hikers there to be aware of the risk of damaged trees falling or dropping branches.
Posted by Daniel Barringer on April 19, 2012.