I mentioned in an earlier post, New Beginnings, that the practice of looking for signs of seasonal change in nature is called phenology. The lightening of days, less bite to the breeze, shy heads of crocus peeking through last year’s leaves. With that first robin’s song or even a softer, gentler rain, suddenly our hearts are lifted and there is, yes, a spring in our step!
Today marks the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. Here’s a look at just a few of our earliest-emerging species, typically seen in eastern Canada mid to late March, early April and May. To me, they are the surest signs that Monsieur l’Hiver has left us for another nine months or so, and that sweet Mademoiselle Printemps is here to stay!
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Spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica). One of this delicate flower’s folk names is Fairy Spud. The Iroquois and Algonquin peoples used this plant for food, cooking the roots like potatoes, and as an anti-convulsive medicine.
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
American Toad (Bufo americanus). Toads overwinter by burying themselves up to a metre deep in mud.
The Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) is our longest-living butterfly, often reaching 10 to 11 months. Although some adults do migrate south, most overwinter and are often the first butterfly to appear in Spring.
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris) is also known as Cowslip or Kingcup. The golden flowers glow from shallow streams and wet woodlands. This plant contains toxins, and contact with the skin can cause blistering and irritation.