Crow’s Nest: Looking for spring
By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager
You have to look long and hard for signs of spring this year. Nothing is green yet, none of the spring ephemeral wildflowers are blooming (other than skunk cabbage, but that’s been blooming—even under the snow—for a couple months now). Round-lobed hepatica, usually the first, was last seen only in bud. No bloodroot nor Dutchmen’s breeches yet. We’re a couple weeks late compared to some years.
But the fauna hasn’t fallen too far behind. Many migrating birds have arrived. We’ve already had a “big night” of amphibian migration, perhaps all that much larger because it was late, compressed into a shorter time period.
Spring peepers are calling from our wetlands. Usually our first observation of spring peepers is a week to ten days after they have been heard at Natural Lands Trust’s main office, Hildacy Preserve, in a slightly more southern location and closer to the urban heat island of Philadelphia. But this year we heard them here about the same time they started there.
Usually the wood frogs start calling a bit before the peepers, and this year they too started at the same time. You can’t hear them everywhere at Crow’s Nest, but if you follow the Creek Trail to the culvert, you can hear their squabbling calls in the wooded wetlands beyond.
Remember this is a complex dance, choreographed so that the plants and animals have the resources they need when they need them. When they don’t, populations ebb and flow based on this availability of their food and habitat.