Erythronium americanum is also called Adder’s Tongue or Dogtooth Violet, depending on who you’re talking to. It is in the lily family, not the violet family and it is one of my favorite spring flowers.
It is easy to overlook for it is small and quite subtle. It blooms in early spring through the leaves from last fall and for me, is like a little ray of sunshine on the tired, rusty colored ground.
It is one of those little plants that children find while playing in the woods and as adults we often have fond memories attached to them. For me, this was a plant my grandmother loved and that we had in the woods behind the house I grew up in here in Hyannis. I don’t know how many of these sweet plants actually survive in Hyannis these days but look in forgotten swampy type places to see if you can find any. Here’s a link with more information about the trout lily.
These are my Hyannis ospreys. I refer to them as mine because, well, they hang out at my beach. You know, the one I have walked on every day since I was a kid. Okay, so it really isn’t my beach in the true possessive sense but over the years I’ve gotten to know this beach pretty well…..and yes, I often think of it as mine, especially in the off season months when I often have it all to myself.
Over the years ospreys have been in the neighborhood but have never successfully nested here. In fact, there were several unfortunate nesting attempts that ended badly due to, shall we say, electrical complications….The power company has now added a safe platform for the birds and although they attempted nesting here last year it was not successful. This year, the pair has been actively adding to the nest and has been seen copulating so we are hoping there will be eggs soon.
The female has a bit of a brown necklace which you can see pretty well here. Often the male will be on a pole or even on the ground nearby keeping watch when he isn’t hunting or bringing his mate her breakfast or dinner. Both can sit on the eggs and both will feed the young but for the most part it is the female that will brood the eggs.
This nest is very exposed but I am hoping they will be able to withstand the winds and rains of the season and be able to raise their family. After all, they will soon be my babies as well and I will worry about them
To be honest, I am actually part of a group monitoring osprey nests this year so I will be keeping very close tabs on this nest for scientific reasons as well as foster parental ones.
Almost all of Cape Cod is subject to movement in one way or another but especially our outer edges. Between water, sand and wind our beaches and boundaries are far from static. Sand dunes are especially movable…
Some of them hang around long enough to have beach grass and even bushes grow on them but some sides of them are always open to the wind and are often scraped clean like the sides of bowls by the time spring rolls around….
This bench was anchored with cement posts and depending on the season it is either half buried or the posts are exposed as they are here….
Off to the side of the bench one can find the straying sand here, almost covering a stand of poverty grass…
Just for reference, this is what that poverty grass should look like. This patch was around the corner and had not been covered by blowing sand…..yet….
It is interesting living in a place where the ocean, wind and land are in constant flux….
Every morning brings new birds to our lovely peninsula and just keeping up is getting to be a challenge. Warblers are beginning to arrive but they don’t hit their peak for another week or so. It’s time to crack open those bird guides and catch up on your auditory skills! The migratory express is here!
Tree swallows are here….so are barn swallows, towhees and great crested flycatchers….
Eastern phoebes are setting up nesting already and can be heard calling in many neighborhoods…watch for their bobbing tail if you are unsure of which bird you are seeing…and if you hear their scratchy Fee-bee call you’ll know for sure.
Hummingbirds are here…can orioles be far behind?
What migratory birds are you still waiting for?
I love walking the beach early in the morning and I do it as often as possible…
On a day like today the light is soft….the air is soft….
A gull keeps watch from the jetty….
A piping plover shows off its breeding plumage….
Sanderlings poke about for their breakfast….
a sparrow sings good morning to the sun….
and for just a while, all seems right in the world….
Everyone seems to know that our common wild rabbits are also called cottontails. The most common cottontail in our area is known as the eastern cottontail. The original rabbits in our area were the now very rare New England cottontails which have suffered habitat loss and competition from the introduced eastern cottontail.
Rabbits are not rodents, contrary to popular belief, but belong to a group called lagomorphs. They have the unusual habit, necessary to their survival, of eating their food, partially digesting it, pooping it out and eating it again to fully digest it. This separates them from other mammals that seem similar. Seems a little strange to us but for the rabbits it is perfectly normal. They eat mostly grass and flowers so their scat is a little different and much less off putting than that of a carnivore or even an omnivore.
This little guy is showing his white tail, the reason it is called a cottontail. As you probably know, rabbits tend to be more or less silent unless mortally afraid. They warn of danger by stamping their big back feet and flashing that white tail as they run to avoid and escape their predators.
Wild rabbits don’t live very long, being a favored prey of many mammals and birds. This is probably one reason they are so famous for their reproductive abilities.
Mass Audubon has done a great job of putting together more information about the eastern cottontail rabbit and you can read it by clicking on the link.
We tend to think of areas next to the sea and full of sand dunes as being salt water environments, right? Some of these areas, most on the Cape in fact, are actually very diverse areas and have freshwater areas as well. Many of these freshwater areas are ephemeral, meaning they come and go according the seasons and in many cases they qualify as vernal pools. This spring has brought us a lot of rain and the water table is quite high, making these pools a bit larger than usual. It is hard to imagine many will dry up by mid July…
One of the obligate species, meaning one of the animals that must be present, of Massachusetts vernal pools is the yellow spotted salamander. This one is being held in a container by Ian Ives of Mass Audubon’s Long Pasture Sanctuary during a recent program he gave on Sandy Neck.
This jelly like mass in his hand is actually a mass of spotted salamander eggs. Like most amphibians the salamanders lay their eggs in water. When the young hatch they will look more like fish than tadpoles and will even have gills that look like tiny feathers on their necks.
In the forefront of this photo you can see the silvery water of this shallow vernal pool. On wet spring nights spadefoot toads crawl out of their sandy holes to mate and lay their eggs in places like this.
Their eggs look more like little dots than little worms like the salamander eggs do…
It’s a busy world out there on wet foggy nights in spring….
You can read the full article on our walk on Sandy Neck that I wrote for the Barnstable Patriot here.
looks like this on many days….
sort of gray and foggy. There’s barely a line between sand and sea but those of us used to this horizon know it’s there…
Cedar waxwings gather in a tree….looking sort of gray too. You’d never know these birds are beautifully and delicately marked looking at this picture….
The dunes are full of pitch pines, earth stars and reindeer lichen…
On a day like this they can look bleak and lifeless….
but in their midst are wild cranberry bogs ringed by high bush blueberries getting ready to bloom…palm warblers ply the branches, their bright yellow bellies and rusty caps shine against the dull silver color of the water beneath them. Watch for their bouncing tails and listen for their distinctive trilling songs…
Step carefully so you don’t step on the tiny lichens known as British soldiers…
and watch for signs of trotting coyotes in the sand….
Enjoy the last of the pussy willows by vernal pools….
Soon summer will be here and all this lovely subtlety will be but a memory….
Sandy Neck is one of my favorite Cape Cod treasures….
It will soon be time for the annual Massachusetts Audubon Bird-a-thon and this year I am a member of the Long Pasture Sanctuary’s Catbird Team. I’m pretty psyched! I’m also committed to raising $500 to support Mass Audubon programs and research and hope you will help me reach my goal.
What is a bird-a-thon? It is a fun day, 24 hours straight of non-stop birding by teams to see who can find the most species of birds in that time. It brings out the experts and the amateurs and over the years different teams have created different strategies to stake out where the best birds are in their territory. It’s competitive and fun but it also is a way of learning what birds are out there and how many as lists of numbers are kept as well. It is a one day snapshot of birds throughout Massachusetts.
I hope you will consider helping me raise some money and that you will share this information as well! I have put a link in the sidebar or you can click to my First Giving bird-a-thon fundraising page here.
One of my very favorite signs of spring is finding the first blooms of our state flower, the mayflower, also known as trailing arbutus….
The bristly tough leaves can be found along the sides of many trails on the Cape but I especially find them in Barnstable. They like the early spring sun, do well with acidic soil and hug the ground so often go unnoticed except by those who look for them.
Often you have to look under the leaves to see the buds and I knew that this patch of plants had buds last week so was hoping to see blossoms on our morning walk.
Some blossoms look white while others have a pinkish cast. They all smell delicious. They are not in full bloom everywhere yet but if you are out and about this week, take a look for them. They are well worth the effort.