Friday, April 13, 2012

Special this week - spring plants AND reptiles

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) flying "fairly close" overhead. Since the bird-life of West Campus is usually too distant or too active for my little camera, I tend to focus primarily on the nature at my feet.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) growing in the gravelly river bed at West Campus. Along with the Trout Lily (photo in previous blog post) this yellow-flowering plant is one of the earliest spots of color in the still-brown New England woodlands in April. The sap can be an irritant to sensitive skin.

As I photographed plants along the river's edge, I disturbed a basking Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). One of the most commonly encountered snakes in New England, this individual shows the typical coloration of buffy-yellow stripes against brown. This is a snake with wide regional color variations, with some subspecies exhibiting bright yellow or even orange stripes against a dark green or black body.

The warming days prompt snakes and turtles to emerge from winter hibernation. If you take time to sit quietly near a wetland or stream, pay attention to every rustle in the leaf litter. Wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta), water snakes (Nerodia sipedon) and many other reptiles are on the move.

Wild salad - Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) in front of Wild Onion (Allium sp.)
Allium is the genus of hundreds of species of garlics and onions. Alliaria means "like garlic", referring to the scent of garlic that emanates from the broad-leaved plant when crushed.

Straight from Wikipedia:
Garlic mustard was introduced in North America as a culinary herb in the 1860s and is an invasive species in much of North America. As of 2006, it is listed as a noxious or restricted plant in the US states of Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, West Virginia and Washington. Like most invasive plants, once it has an introduction into a new location, it persists and spreads into undisturbed plant communities. In many areas of its introduction in Eastern North America, it has become the dominant under-story species in woodland and flood plain environments, where eradication is difficult.

At West Campus, this plant is particularly vigorous down in the woods along the Oyster River. Each year, Tom Parlapiano gathers volunteers to wage an eradication campaign.

Bird list for the week of April 9-13, 2012 - new migrants in boldface:

Wild Turkey
Turkey Vulture
4. Red-tailed Hawk
Herring Gull
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
8. Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Blue Jay
American Crow
12. European Starling
American Robin
Hermit Thrush
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
16. Tree Swallow
Northern Cardinal
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
20. Chipping Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Brown-headed Cowbird
24. Common Grackle

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