Desperate for Spring

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

With the warm temperatures this week, I am being lulled into believing that spring is closer than it really is.  This morning on a pre-dawn dog walk, I thought I heard distant Spring Peepers, a small frog that emerges to breed in early spring.  It turned out to be a mechanical humming from a neighbor’s garage few doors down.  Despite my imagination, there are some real signs of spring here and there.  For instance, the sap is flowing from the maple trees at Ashland Nature Center.  We have five trees tapped and children and families have been enjoying maple-sugaring programs here for about a week now. 

On the Monday bird walk at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve, we found one of the first signs of spring, blooming skunk cabbage. 

Skunk cabbage is beginning to bloom in our area.  This is one of the first signs of spring.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani
Skunk cabbage is beginning to bloom in our area. This is one of the first signs of spring. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

As the skunk cabbage flower opens and the air temperature goes above freezing, the flower generates its own heat through respiration.  The spadix, or hood around the flower is very spongy and is thought to insulate the flower and keep some of the heat inside.  The heat does several things for the flower, including melting the snow around it, speeds up the development of the plant, and releases volatile chemicals that may attract pollinators.

Desperate for spring, a member of our birding group leans over to smell the fine stench of a blooming skunk cabbage.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani
Desperate for spring, a member of our birding group leans over to smell a blooming skunk cabbage. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

I have noticed other signs of spring as well.  On Monday, as I led the bird walk at Bucktoe, we heard drumming woodpeckers and singing Carolina Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Song Sparrows, and Tufted Titmice.  At the Delaware Nature Society’s Burrows Run Preserve, a Great Horned Owl is incubating eggs on a nest high in a tree.

Have you seen any signs of spring yet?   

Join us on Friday, February 13th at Ashland Nature Center for a Breakfast and Birding event starting at 8am.  This is our kickoff for the nation-wide Great Backyard Bird Count.  Email me at joe@delawarenaturesociety.org if you would like to attend.

2 thoughts on “Desperate for Spring”

  1. This past Sunday at Bombay Hook NWR, I was checking out the frozen Finis Pond when I spotted some movement. There was a small water frog (maybe a Leopard Frog) hopping out onto the ice from the shore. I guess he was awakened by the 60F temps and thought it was time to take a swim. He was still sitting perfectly still on the ice when I left. Hopefully the sun was warming him faster than the ice was stealing his heat.

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