Spring is getting into the swing of things. My eyes have been looking up for the past several weeks, trying to spot migrating birds in the trees and sky. But now, my head is pulled down by the promise of wildflowers and other terrestrial wonders.
Yesterday, I saw my first bloodroot of the year, though it’s been popping up for at least a week. The plant’s name comes from the red sap that will leak out of it when cut. It was growing in great numbers on sunny slopes near the river, poking petals wrapped in leaves up through last fall’s detritus.
I love how it seemed to opening its arms wide to embrace the sunshine.
Of course, the birds are still coming. While the plants are stationary and secretive, the birds are often just passing through, always on the move, and singing frequently enough they can be pretty easily found.
There are many yet to arrive, still waiting for green-up and all the insect life that comes with it. It can be tough to know where to look, choosing between the quiet beauty on the forest floor, and the birds flitting through the air.
This week, I saw my first brown thrasher of the year. With long tails, long beaks, beady yellow eyes, and a great name, I like these birds. It was only the second time I had seen one — in fact, last year I saw my first-ever in the exact same place as this week.
I also saw a bald eagle taking a rest in the middle of a cornfield. It seemed to rouse itself after a few minutes, and stood up, but I left before it took to the air.
Bald eagles will sometimes eat so much that they are too heavy and full to fly. I don’t know if that was what was going on here. But this bird could very well have had hungry chicks back at a nest, and was attempting to carry a great deal of food home. Although the birds have small stomachs, they have a large crop where they can store food weighing up to a third of their body weight.
In the past seven days, iNaturalist users have made 220 observations of 111 species of living things in the St. Croix River watershed.
It’s a great time of year to start using that tool to help identify, understand, and document what you see. It’s also useful for figuring out what to be looking for, and ideas about where.
You can explore observations in the St. Croix River watershed here. Zoom in, click around, play with the filters. It’s an amazing region with a rich diversity of life.
Here are some highlights: