Yesterday, April 27, the skies were blue and sunny with a few wispy clouds. A warm breeze spread out over us from the south and the temperature reached 71 degrees! But with almost a foot of snow left on the ground (it has been melting incrementally) it still looked a lot like winter.
Even so, it was so warm that I was able to dress as though I were spending a July day by Lake Superior (sweater, lined pants, wool socks). I put on my hip boots and walked out to the marsh to see what might be going on. The river was up over its banks and the water was spreading out across the marsh and shrub carr. On the melting snow were springtails, many small spiders of several different species and a small soft-bodied black beetle.
The ice has broken up in the backwaters and sloughs releasing turions (compact buds that overwinter) of common bladderwort (Utricularia macrorhiza) and green thalli of duckweed (Lemna minor). Small brook stickleback fish were darting among the waterlogged sedges and grasses.
In the shrub carr the willows appear dormant but a closer look shows that they are emerging from dormancy. The ground is still under snow and frozen. This does not keep them from coming back to life though. Their dark colored bark absorbs heat and transfers it throughout the stem and to the roots creating a small zone of warmth. The first catkins of tea-leaf willow (Salix planifolia) have already swollen and in a few days will be in full bloom. Nearby the first signs of developing catkins (or aments) and leaves of meadow willow (S. petiolaris) are evident. Willow plants are either pistillate or staminate. The flowers have sweetly scented nectar glands (tea-leaf willow is especially fragrant) and pollination is accomplished by small solitary bees and bumblebees but some small wasps and beetles also visit the flowers.
The rapidly melting snow is flooding part of my pasture. Water cannot seep into the ground which is still frozen so it settles into low spots. This is making life difficult for the sheep who are confined to a small space. I have piled up old hay to make a causeway that leads to a drier but still snowy part of the pasture. I am looking forward to building a new shed on higher ground, using the old one occasionally during the summer and winter.
Several birds have newly arrived this week and some have come back after leaving when the snowstorms buried us. Some are checking out the nest boxes already.
April 21: Juncos and blue jays (all week)
April 22: Grackles, turkey vulture, red-tail hawk
April 23: Flicker, mallard ducks come back after the snow (first here on April 15)
April 24: Red-wing blackbirds, turkeys
April 25: Grackles again
April 26: Fox sparrows
April 27: Belted kingfisher, barn swallows, eastern fly-catcher, robins come back for the second time (first arrived on April 15)
April 28: Red-wing blackbirds (big flock), bluebird, white-throated sparrow, song sparrow, more fox sparrows, more robins, woodcock (returned after snowstorms), many mallard ducks today.
Today it has been very warm again. The higher part of the sheep pasture is now completely clear of snow and the sheep are looking at it. They will need to be bribed with grain to get them out there I suppose as they cam be very strange about changing their habits. The chicken pasture is about 90% snow free. No bribes were needed to get them out there today. Most the snow in the vegetable gardens is gone now. The ground is still frozen so the first shoots of chives, garlic, and rhubarb are few days off.
In the wildflower garden trout lily, trillium, and wood poppy leaves are showing as the snow melts from around them. And I saw the first mosquitoes back there, too.
No frog calls yet from the vernal ponds but if temperatures remain moderate then in a day or two wood frogs should begin their mating calls in the barely melted ice.