Mother Nature is inviting you for a walk!
As I write this blog on 16 February, it is still officially winter, but by the time you read this, meteorological spring will have begun. Mother Nature is making it clear that her flowers and creatures are welcoming the new season — they are beginning to show off their springtime colors and behaviors. Hopefully, spring is in full swing as you read this, but we need to be aware that some wintry weather could still occur since the astronomical spring equinox only comes on 20 March.
So what signs of spring are we seeing? An increasing number of flowers have begun blooming, including winter jasmine, daffodils and crocuses.
In my yard, Lenten roses have shown their beauty along with some other spring flowers like sweet breath of spring. Elsewhere, I have seen purple henbit and blue Persian speedwell.
If you look up, you might see the elegant cedar waxwings in red cedar trees, gleaning the last juniper berries from their branches. More and more songbirds are starting their courting serenades. Some are getting their bright mating plumage, like the yellow-rumped warblers who will be leaving to go North before their nesting season begins.
You may see red-shouldered hawks perched on wires, towers and trees; they can be heard calling overhead as they perform courtship flights.
The barred owls at Mason Farm Biological Reserve (there are several pairs) are hunting at all hours of the day, preparing themselves for an intense parenting period when they will be hunting a lot to feed their young. Their hunting technique centers around sitting quietly on a branch and staring at the ground around them until they spot the movement of some prey. Then they pounce.
A recent walk at the Old Bynum Bridge really showed me that spring weather arrived. As I strolled along looking at the tree canopy, I glanced down and caught sight of a swiftly moving, lithe form in the river below. I rushed to look over the edge and was surprised and pleased to see a mink swimming upstream against the current.
At the other end of the bridge, I approached the traffic bollards placed to prevent vehicles from crossing. I thought, “If I should see the anoles sunning on the bollards, I would really know that spring has come” and when I glanced down as I passed them, sure enough – there were two anoles enjoying a sun bath!
You may still see a tiny ruby-crowned or a golden-crowned kinglet – soon, they will be migrating North to breed, too. (We’ll be compensated by the arrival of another small avian species, however — the ruby-throated hummingbird.)
If you take a walk along streams and wetlands, you may still be accompanied by the sounds of chorus frogs in addition to the birds’ songs. They’re voicing Mother Nature’s invitation to you to take a lovely, leisurely walk so that you can enjoy the beauty she has on display — do try to take time to visit one of our parks and nature reserves!
Maria de Bruyn is a nature photographer who enjoys observing all types of animals and plants and sharing her findings with others. She has donated her photos to non-profits such as the Friends of Sandy Creek Park, the Outdoor Explorer Book Club and New Hope Audubon Society and has had exhibitions of her work in various venues. She writes a blog (https://mybeautifulworldblog.com/), serves as a virtual “ranger” for Project Noah (http://www.projectnoah.org/organisms), and is a co-vice president of the Chapel Hill Bird Club (http://chbc.carolinanature.com/). You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org