Sunday, April 10, 2011
Springtime Leaps Forward
Nature has gone into high gear now as springtime advances by quantum jumps. It seems that each day brings a new “first of the season” sighting of some plant or animal. And today was, for me, a biggie.
The first thing I saw this morning upon looking out my front door was a mourning cloak butterfly. After hop merchants, these are the earliest butterflies to emerge. Like hop merchants, mourning cloaks (so called because their black wings, trimmed with pale crème, resemble the cloaks worn by mourners of a past era) hibernate in the forest litter, thus are able to resume their adult life in early spring.
Mourning cloak butterflies don’t fly very well and are, in my opinion, somewhat clumsy. It would seem that such a trait would make them easy prey for birds and other predators. But mourning cloaks have a defense, of sorts, that being the element of surprise. When alarmed, a mourning cloak emits a snapping sound, loud enough to startle a would-be predator. Interesting insects, these.
Later on this afternoon, again at my front door, an energetic little, gray bird lit on a tree branch. It immediately began pumping its tail up and down. Without thinking, I immediately said, “phoebe.”
Phoebes are insect eaters, taking their prey on the fly. This tells me that the extreme cold has ended, since flying insects must have fairly mild temperatures. As my friend Ken Allen would say, “Mrs. Phoebe didn’t raise no fool,” meaning that phoebes seldom make life-threatening decisions regarding when to head back north.
Finally, the new shoots of common daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, are big enough to harvest. I couldn’t find much else to mix with them for a wild salad, so I just ate a few as is, in order to get a taste of the new season.
So stay tuned to this blog, because as the season progresses, I will tell, and show you which edible wild plants are in season. We can share in the bounty, as it were. And isn’t that a good thing?