Signs of Spring Update: Spring Beauty!

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

The first Spring Beauty bloom of the year at Ashland, on Sunday, April 3. Image by Derek Stoner.

We are just past the half-way point of the Signs of Spring Contest, and already 14 of the 20 “Official Signs” are accounted for and recorded.  Sneaking in at the very end of Week 6 (March 28 – April 3), a Spring Beauty was spotted by Amy White on Sunday, April 3.  The location of this bloom was just downstream of the Ashland Covered Bridge, on the banks of the Red Clay Creek.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) is a beautiful wildflower that blooms in early spring, and sports a fancy pink and white-striped pattern on the petals. Around Ashland, we see it growing primarily on the floodplain in the rich, loamy soil characteristic of riparian habitats. But, this wildflower is also known for “naturalizing” well in lawns and backyard landscapes. So look around your yard at this time of year– maybe you will discover a Spring Beauty!

A pair of American Toads mating in the Ashland Marsh, circa 2004. Visit Ashland this week to see the toad show! Image by Derek Stoner.

Now for the “Signs of Spring” forecast: with temperatures expected to be well into the 60’s (and even 70’s) this week, and rain likely to fall multiple times, this week should be called “Toad Time.”   Dozens of American Toads will make their way to the marsh, particularly on rainy nights.   The trilling calls of males will lure the females to the pools and puddles where they mate, with the female then laying long strings of hundreds of tiny black eggs.  It’s quite a show, and a true rite of Spring at Ashland.

As for what’s remaining on the Signs of Spring list, we are still waiting for that first Water Snake sighting, the first Barn Swallows to arrive at the lodge, the first House Wren to sing its bubbly song, the first American Robin building a nest, and the first blooms of Trout Lily and Violet.  Stay tuned for the Final Four weeks of the Signs of Spring!

Contest Update:  Two participants are sharing the lead, with a total of 5 out of 14 correct weeks so far.  So, the challenge of guessing the right week is tough, but that’s what makes this a contest!  The best guesser may win!

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