The flowers in the photo above are the staminate (“male”) flowers of tea-leaf willow (Salix planifolia) a shrub common to cold swamps from northern Minnesota to Michigan, high elevations in the Rocky Mountain states, and up into Canada and Alaska. Tea-leaf willow has been the first wildflower to bloom on my land for all the years I’ve been keeping records. Usually it blooms right around April 14th but this year the first flowers opened on the 5th a full ten days ahead of normal. I think warm weather had a lot to do with that. In fact, it has been so warm this week other tree and shrub species that normally bloom in May are blooming now including quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), tag alder (Alnus rugosa), and beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta). In a few days red maple (Acer rubrum), meadow willow (Salix petiolaris), and tamarack (Larix laricina) will be blooming, too.
Insects that migrate are returning. Today, I saw a green darner dragonfly (Anax junius), a dragonfly that migrates to Texas and Mexico each fall. Butterflies that hibernate are flying now. So far I have seen Compton’s tortise shell (Nymphalis vau–album), hop merchant (Polygonia comma), mustard white (Pieris napi, this species overwinters as a chrysalis), and a crescent species (Chlosyne sp.). Small gray moths, probably leafrollers (Tortricidae), are coming to the lights at night.
Its hard to believe that last year on this day we were in the middle of a snow storm.