Category Archives: 2024

Journal for April 30, 2024

Rain and warmer weather are slowly turning the landscape from brown to green.

April began with snow

 

and frosted branches in the early mornings.

 

Once the snow turned to rain the trees put out flowers and new leaves.

 

We saw a few more Pasqueflowers.  Several came out in the early warm spell we had in March,  but it was so dry that they shriveled up before they could open.  This one bloomed after the rains came and looks much happier.

 

Red Admiral butterflies don’t overwinter here, they fly up from the south once the weather warms.  Some years we see only a few, but this year we’re seeing them everywhere.  The males stake out and defend spots along paths and on top of hills where they watch for females.  They chase anything that comes by – including people.

 

Small White Violet – one of the smallest and earliest violets to bloom

 

Dutchman’s Breeches is an early spring flower that I’ve never found growing here.   It grows in shady woodlands, coming up and blooming before there are leaves on the trees to take advantage of the sunlight.  It does grow nearby, so I’ve been planting some on one of our cool shady hillsides.  This year I found just one stalk of blossoms.

 

But there are quite a few leaves, and it looks like the plants are spreading.

 

Pussytoes – one of the early prairie flowers

 

American Lady butterflies are closely related to Red Admirals.  They spend the winter as adults farther south, and then fly north in the spring to lay their eggs on Pussytoes and a few related plant species.

 

This is the first queen bumblebee we found this spring – a Tricolored Bumblebee.  It was a cloudy, cool day, so she was very cooperative – sitting quietly on a willow flower.  Later that day we saw another Tricolored queen searching for a nest site on the hill behind our house.

 

Spring prairie flowers are blooming…..

Bird’s-foot Violets

 

Hoary Puccoon

 

Prairie Smoke

 

We have two species of Serviceberry – very early blooming shrubs.  This is Smooth Serviceberry.

 

It’s growing in a tangled corner of Twisted Oak Savanna.

 

Another Serviceberry – I’m not sure of the species – on Hidden Oaks Point.

 

Several big branches broke off this old Bur Oak last winter.   We didn’t want to cut it down, but we wanted to move the broken branches so plants could grow underneath.  This is how it looks now – we removed all the branches that were on the ground, but left the ones that are still attached to the tree.  It’s fitting that it’s growing in Twisted Oak Savanna.

 

Wild Plum

 

As I walk in the woods this time of year, I sometimes disturb Woodcocks sitting on their nests.  This one didn’t fly until I nearly stepped on her.  I quickly took a photo of the eggs and then tiptoed away.

 

I heard and saw a new bird for the farm this week – an Eastern Meadowlark.  It called from a tree on the edge of Western Prairie, but then flew off across the valley and we haven’t see it again.

 

Most nights have been cold or windy or rainy, but there were a few good moth nights.

This is a new species for me – Lintner’s Gluphisia.  (I’m still counting the moth species I’ve seen here – I’m now up to 1033.)

 

And here are two favorites…

Bold-based Zale – a colorful species I don’t see often

 

Sigmoid Prominent

 

The landscape looks a little greener every day.

Center Valley

 

Hidden Oaks Point

 

Rainy morning

 

Sheep Hill Bluff Savanna – more open than it used to be, but not yet restored

 

This last photo is a link to a Turkey video from one of our trail cameras in late March.  At that time we were still seeing big flocks of Wild Turkeys – by now I think most of them have nests and eggs.   Be sure to turn on the sound – but not too loud.

Journal for March 31, 2024

Most of March has been warm, sunny and very dry.   Finally, in the last week, we got a little winter – cold temperatures, and several snowstorms with a little rain mixed in.  Now spring is slowly coming back.

During the spring weather we saw moths and butterflies and a few flowers.

The first Mourning Cloak of the year – March 13

 

Eastern Comma – March 12

 

The Infant – a small day-flying moth that emerges very early in the spring – March 11.

 

Crocuses blooming around the old farmhouse

 

Old fashioned garden flowers – Crocuses, Iris, Peonies and Garden Phlox – still bloom in the old yard.

 

I’ve only found one Pasqueflower so far.  It’s easy to see why folks around here call them ‘crocuses’ even though the plants aren’t related.  (Crocuses are in the Iridaceae – the Iris family; Pasqueflowers are in the Ranunculaceae – the Buttercup family.)

 

Scarlet Cup fungus –  their bright cups come out in woods in the spring.

 

The spring weather has meant that I’ve been able to work a bit on a project I’ve been thinking about for a while – a southwest facing hillside along the knife edge point.  All of that side of the point faces west, but one part of the hill bumps out to face southwest.  It has prairie vegetation, but has become overgrown with brushy invaders.  It looked like a good place to liberate some prairie.  The problem: it’s very steep.

Here’s a comparison of the way it looked in the summer of 2005 – long before we’d done any work here – and a few days ago.  In 2005 there were prairie plants growing on the slope, but they were being shaded by the birch trees.  Since then I’ve killed the birches and most of them have fallen,  and in the last few weeks I’ve cut most of the bushes (buckthorn, honeysuckle, and prickly ash)  that had invaded after the birches died.

March 2024
March 2024
March 2024
August 2005
August 2005

 

This shows the steep slope of the hillside a few weeks ago,  just before I started work.

 

And this is that same slope, after cutting and treating the brush.

 

This is looking straight down at the part I cleared.

It’s a very long hill with lots of prairie slopes, so there’s plenty more to do.

 

More spring arrivals…

Chipmunks have reappeared

 

Bluebirds are back.  I replaced this nest box with a new one this week – the roof finally gave out although the bluebirds didn’t seem to mind.

 

A woodchuck on the cliff behind our house

 

We’ve seen a few huge flocks of Wild Turkeys.  This was a small part of a much larger flock.

 

The county did a big project cutting back the trees and brush along the road that goes through our land.  The folks who did the project were great – they worked with us to protect especially sensitive areas, and were careful not to disturb the ground any more than necessary.  Hopefully the native plants will recover, and the frogs and Western Red Damselflies that live in the ditch will survive.

 

Spring clouds over Armund’s Gap

 

The frosty looking trees are blooming aspens.

 

Then real frost arrived…

 

And snow

 

Pine Point and the wetland

 

Cloudy sunrise over the wetland

 

Yesterday I found one more Pasqueflower.  It think the early warmth and the extremely dry weather were difficult for some of the early flowers.  This one looks like it tried to bloom but shriveled up before it opened.

 

Sand Cress – an early flower that did manage to bloom