I checked and double checked for the Barred owl in its famed conifer tree along the trail. The owl was not present but, shiny sap was flowing down the trunk of the tree. I stopped to get some close ups of the sap in the afternoon light and then moved on down the trail. As we rounded the bend, I noticed a tree with many small holes and decided to investigate. As I had my camera up and finger on the shutter button, the undeniable “who cooks for you” call made me jump. I waited for a response call and then headed back to the owl’s favorite conifers. This time, the owl had decided to perch in a different tree than normal. I think the owl was just as surprised as I was when we made eye contact like a deer in the headlights.
The best highlight of April 1st happened when Sandi and I were standing at the T intersection where the Big Oak Trail opens into the savanna at the Biocore Prairie. The sound of mobbing crows caught my attention and as I looked up, expecting to see a Red-tailed Hawk, an Osprey flew over us! I snapped a few shots as it passed and was surprised to find a watchful eye angled towards the camera when checking the pictures in the field. According to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, ospreys will spend an average of 12 mins hunting before successfully catching a fish. Live fish, both saltwater and fresh make up about 99 percent of an osprey’s diet.
The weather over the next week and a half presented several days with cool temperatures (40s and 50s) and overcast skies. After several more visits to the Preserve, I grew impatient while waiting for the bloodroot to fully open up and show off the white and yellow flowers. Finally, on April 11th, the bloodroot along the Big Oak Trail had opened up enough to get some great photos! Sandi and I spent about four hours at Lakeshore that day, walking from the Frautschi Point parking lot out to the tip of Picnic Point and back. Mallard ducks and Canada geese were blending into their nests at the landlocked wetland along the Picnic Point peninsula. There were many American coots, a pair of Pied-billed grebes, a pair of Wood ducks and a single loon out on the lake. It was very windy that day and while at the tip of the peninsula, I noticed a gull sitting on top of a light post. The gull tried several times to take flight and was swept back down by the wind. Eventually, the gull made it out to join others above the lake.
Spring ephemerals are plants that have a characteristically short life cycle. They appear after the snowmelt, during the warm weeks in April and May and disappear nearly as quickly. I first really took note of new colors during the “teen” week of April. Starting with the light purple buds of Virginia Bluebells, on April 16. Two days later, April 18th, the white flowers of Twinleaf were present alongside distinct, large leaves which are nearly divided in half. The upside down yellow flower of Uvularia grandiflora (Large-leaf Bellwort), caught my eye since I have never seen it before. The leaves of Trout lilies could be found in clusters throughout the Preserve but, I did not see the presence of any flowers on the Big Oak Trail during this week.
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Gisela Kutzbach and contributors