As spring races on, fueled by amazingly warm temperatures, one species after another awakens and joins the party in our tiny forest fragment.
Box turtle #183 has the distinction of first turtle observed above ground this year, on 4/9. It’s likely I would have found an earlier one, but we’ve been out of town for three days. (#182 was dug up accidentally, as you may recall). The date of her emergence is pretty much in line with my box turtle first spring sightings at BCSNP from the last three years: 4/8/14, 4/12/15, 4/20/16.
Early turt #183 is an older female with a high-domed carapace and heavy wear on her scutes. Still caked with mud, she must have emerged recently.
Her plastron (underside) has an attractive bold pattern, that will make an easy ID if I see her again.
She has survived an injury to her carapace, and it appears that some of the underlying bone is protruding. A partially healed mower cut?
Looking through my Box turtle images, I see no record of her, and she has not been marked by my dot of nail polish. Is it possible, in an area I visit and work in all the time, she has completely escaped notice for years?
To inject a little flora into this mostly fauna post – a Trout lily nestled alongside shiny, reddish little poison ivy leaves. Just below the Trout lily are the first tiny leaves of Spotted jewelweed. There appear to be some pollinators inside the lily flower, behind the anthers with fresh orange pollen.
From the same ephemeral patch, the golden green of young Solomon’s seal leaves (in our forest this plant is usually bitten off by deer when it grows tall flowering stems – hence my nickname “deer asparagus”). Although this plant is experiencing a revival in our forest, it’s rare to find an intact flowering stalk.
This doe is standing in the spring ephemeral patch, munching on something…
…along with several members of her family. Trampling alone causes soil erosion and damage to wildflowers with this many deer in the forest.
The lovely brown Springtime darner dragonfly, Basiaeschnea janata, blending well with some dried leaves (thanks to Dr. Victoria Prescott for the ID). One of the earliest emerging dragonflies, it favors slow wooded streams. This one must have recently emerged, since it clung to the leaf for some time.
Would you know what this was if you saw it hanging from a branch? Considering how well this giant silkmoth cocoon is camouflaged, we’re not likely to see it at all. This one was spun by the Cecropia silkmoth, Hyalophora cecropia. The caterpillar feeds on Apple, Birch and Maple – and perhaps Mulberry, the tree species this cocoon is attached to.
Time to get out and make your own discoveries – spring is flying by.