Thursday, March 8, 2012

Early Spring Walk

I think the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia is now in what we call “Early Spring”. Yesterday when I took my walk to Shannodale Springs WMA there were signs all around. As soon as I got out of my car and was loading up with my camera and binoculars I heard Spring Peepers and a few Wood frogs quacking to add variety to the steady beat of the peepers. When I reached the main watering hole I tried to get a photo but of course they all became quite and ducked into the water the moment I approached. Below is a photo and I think I see one resting its nose on a cattail stem just above the water. See where the arrow is pointing, click on the photo to make it larger. 

The next fun sound I heard was a barred owl getting an early start on the evening. I try to mimic their call and strike up a conversation but I think I have a strange accent and they are not fooled, not one bit.

Nymphalis antiopa (Morning Cloak)

Wandering around between the damn to the wetland and the creek I noticed a Nymphalis antiopa (Morning Cloak). This was the first one I have seen this year. They have only one brood a year and overwinter as adults. I keep thinking I will see one tucked under the loose bark while I am looking at lichen but so far no such luck so I was grateful to see this one warming in the early evening sun.

Tussilago farfara (Coltsfoot)

The third sign of early spring was the emergence of Tussilago farfara (Coltsfoot). Once I saw one then there were many all about. Strange how that is. I just read that their leaves do not appear until after the seeds are set. I suppose that is a strategy to maximize the energy they have and attract early pollinators and reduce competition with other flowers like a dandelion for instance.

Speaking of strategy I found this bird nest using a bit of plastic. I guess that is the equivalent of vinyl siding on homes.

I found five different lichens. First is the Cladina stellaris (Star tipped lichen) which likes to clump together or nearby others of its kind. Beside the clumping habit another characteristic is intricate branches, having wide open axils. I’ve drawn a couple arrows pointing to those openings.

Cladina stellaris (Star tipped lichen)

The next one is Cladonia chlorophaea (Mealy pixie-cup). These are mealy or grainy looking as opposed to the Trumpet lichen which are smoother. I have lately been reading that these are cross over with other similar species so it is really just a part of the C. chlorophaea group and difficult to really narrow down.

 Cladonia chlorophaea (Mealy pixie-cup)

Cladonia peziziformis were in the same area. They look a little like British soliders but they have brown caps instead.

Cladonia peziziformis

Down the trail a bit I found Dibaeis baeomyces (Pink earth lichen) up one of the banks beside the fire road. When I first discovered these last month I thought they were slime molds and was delighted to learn they were lichens. At first sight the area just looks like a mound of gray-green clay but closer inspection revealed these tiny little pink things.

Dibaeis baeomyces (Pink earth lichen)

The last lichen I found was one I just learn last week. It is a Punctelia caseana (subrudecta) (Powdered speckled shield lichen). We have lots of the common green shield lichen in these woods but this one has a large grainy bump in the middle, at least that is what it looks like to me. There is probably a scientific name for that mass but large bump works for me, at least for now.

Punctelia caseana (subrudecta) (Powdered speckled shield lichen)

While looking at trees very closely for lichens I spotted a Pimpla pedalis (male Ichneumon wasp). They like to lay their eggs in Tent and Gypsy Moth caterpillars. One source I read said that they think they overwinter as immature larva so I suspect that this one just emerged and is already on the prowl for a female.
Pimpla pedalis (male Ichneumon wasp)

While I was up toward the meadow I thought I would check on the egg cases and Gymnosporangium juniper-virginianae (Cedar-apple Rust) that I found last month. The egg cases were just as I had left them but the Cedar-apple rust had progressed a little in its development. It is really getting creepy now. Compare it to the view last month; I somehow managed to take the photo from the same angle.
Gymnosporangium juniper-virginianae (Cedar-apple Rust)

All in all it was a good early spring walk. I’m looking forward to more.


Woodswalker said...

Oh the sweet sounds and sights of early spring! We're many weeks behind you up here in northern NY, but it's fun to look forward to what you show us. Lovely!

Ellen Rathbone said...

Wow - that cedar apple rust is great! The stuff of nightmares, maybe?

Loved the peepers and wood frogs. Two people have reported chorus frogs from earlier in the week here, when it was in the 60s. Now we have snow, so any self-respecting frog is back in hiding. Still, the redwings continue to call, so that's a good spring sound, even if it isn't peepers.