Monday, March 29, 2010

Into Every Spring a Little Rain....

The Bernheim Naturalists in Training take a stroll on the last Sunday of each month. Yesterday, it was our turn to "lead" a bird walk, but the weather forecast was not encouraging. Guess we used up all the sunshine on Saturday. I've learned not to discount the birds at Bernheim just because of a little rain though, so off we went with one other person. My reading of the radar map made me optimistic, but I put a raincoat in the car anyway.

As we drove in, we spotted a Red Tailed Hawk in a tree. Stopping in middle of the road, we hopped out and grabbed binocs and camera from the trunk. Yep, it's a Red Tail, but the palest hawk I've ever seen! We watched it circle around, and its back was very light in color too. Maybe this is the Kentucky Pale Male.

For the most part, the woods still look like winter. No leaves or buds are on the trees, but if you look closely, you start to see small shoots working their way through the leaf litter.
Near the Education Building, we heard noise, and located a pair of Flickers staring each other down. They would stare and squawk, then chase each other around before round two began. At first we thought they were two males, but changed our minds when it started to look like courting behavior. Eventually another pair of Flickers joined in the fun. Magnolia trees are blooming on the hill, and we spotted what appears to be a Red Shouldered Hawk's nest in a hemlock tree. There was no bird, but we always hope!
Tree Swallows examined the nearby Martin houses, while Field Sparrows called from the Big Meadow. Then it started to mist, followed by light rain, and then a downpour. Thank goodness I had that plastic raincoat to keep my camera and binocs dry as we hiked back to the car.
Twenty minutes later we got out of the car and started down the Rock Run Loop -- the best trail for wildflowers at Bernheim. The trail runs along the steep sides of a creek, and each side has a different environment. The side that faces west gets more sun and the flowers are much more advanced. We saw lots of beautiful Blood Roots there, filled with rain water. Last year I didn't start looking at flowers until the Blood Root were finished, so I truly enjoyed these. Each bloom only lasts a day.
The fairies will be out tonight to swim in their new pool - a shelf fungus full of rain.
The side facing east is filled with Trout Lily leaves, but we found only one Yellow Trout Lily actually blooming. Come back after a few days of sun and you will be overwhelmed by them. The Lilys hang down in umbrella mode while it rains, but will raise up to face the sun.
I'd forgotten how small these wildflowers actually are. I always try to get close up photographs, and they look bigger than they actually are. Compare them to the brown oak or beech leaves on the ground.
Fuzzy green Common Mullein catches the raindrops and holds them like sparkling diamonds.
What is this black stuff? It looks like moss that has been invaded by a fungus or mold. It's soft, and doesn't rub off on your fingers, nor does it have an odor.
The Visitor's Center grassy roof hasn't started to green up yet, but it shouldn't be much longer. A pair of geese grazed in the yard. They have been known to nest on the roof, a great protection from predators, but the goslings have to get to the ground before they can actually fly.
The Visitor's Center staff does a great job of collecting and identifying the current blossoms. As I read the captions for the others, the sun broke through briefly, turning these daffodils into liquid sun.
Some Chipping Sparrows serenaded us as we returned to our car to come home. "Come back to see us again!" they called.

Oh, driving home on the Interstate, as we crossed the Salt River bridge, we saw a Bald Eagle heading downstream. Some good Beckham birders spotted a nest of Bald Eagles at the Falls of the Ohio, not far from the Osprey nest site. They even got pictures, and she is sitting on the nest, so this will be an exciting year at the Falls!

1 comment:

Mary Howell Cromer said...

First off, that black stuff is wild stuff, hope you find out what it was... The Red-tailed Hawk reminds me of the one that we have out my way. She was the palest, whitest chested with the deep cocoa striping I had ever seen. Your images are delightful! Are we not happy about spring!