Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring into Action

Spring teased us with a sneak preview this past weekend, before snow slapped us back to the realities of April.  But even a couple inches of snow and near freezing temps can't diminishing my joy.

A Red Admiral butterfly basks in the sun.
 For I have looked into the eyes of spring, as it came in the form of a butterfly.  
This Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterfly is collecting sun rays in order to start the day.  Butterflies, like many insects and reptiles, are exothermic. Most butterflies will not start flying until it is near 50 degrees outside. Frequently, you can find them warming their wings in this fashion on cooler mornings.  They gather heat from the sun.

Trout Lily  in full bloom
The Trout-lilies (Erythronium americanum) were in full bloom at the Highlands of Ohio Sanctuary near Bainbridge, Ohio.  Our spring display of ephemeral flora is generally short lived, and this year will probably be shorter than ever, due a long lasting winter.

Look closely!  Not all pollinators are bees.
"Now" is your opportunity to study the pollinators of these short-lived spring flowers.  It is fascinating to note that most are pollinated by creatures we do not see the rest of the year! Much of our local flora is pollinated by tiny fly-like bees.  Some are pollinated by beetles! If you look closer you will see two beetles* working around the pollen laden stamens of this miniature lily.

* It turns out these beetles are Red-necked False Blister Beetles, Asclera fuficollis. It is more likely they are feeding upon the pollen.  Maybe they do some "collateral pollination" in the process!

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers like insects too.
 We were not the only ones looking for insects.  This yellow-bellied Sapsucker was tending some sap "wells" he had drilled on a Sugar Maple tree.  Insects are also attracted to the sap, where they often become a little "protein side dish" for Mr. Sapsucker.

Dolomite outcroppings festooned with flora.

If you are into outrageous displays of spring ephemerals and rock-covered flowers are your thing, you simply must go here:   All spring-starved eyes will be sated in the preserves set aside by the Arc of Appalachia.  If you are not already otherwise engaged this Easter weekend, you may still be able to register for their Wildflower Pilgrimage by calling ahead.  Don't miss the trip to Barret's Rim!

Look deep into the "eye" of this trillium.
This weekend will be prime for Ohio's state wildflower the Large White Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum. The weather should be lovely and the pollinators will be in full force.  How many "new" pollinators can you find?

Please notice there is much more in our forests than "trees."  A healthy forest ecosystem is filled with biodiversity. Forests include everything from salamanders to butterflies, and all the creepy-crawly, buzzing, bumbling pollinators that service our flowers, shrubs and trees.  Where would we be without them? 

Too often our state and national forests are "managed" for the benefit of one species or another; the losers are often the innocent and very essential forces that make life in the forests bloom.  Birds and small mammals feed on caterpillars and countless moths, gnats and beetles round out the Masterpiece Theatre of everyday life and death struggles in the forest.  Generally they don't need us to intercede in their ecosystems. They have been at this a long, long time.

If you have not done so ready, please read my last blog post and consider signing the Sierra Club's form encouraging the state to stop spraying in our forest.  Our much needed pollinators are trying to make a living out there!

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