Deborah and I were out hiking again his weekend. We lined up a list of observations dominated by the letter “T.” We sat trillium, tadpoles, trout lilies, ticks, and titmice.
The trillium is, possibly, the most spectacular spring flower in our area! There are read and white varieties (and even blending shades of pink), and there are small versions and large versions. But for any and all of them, the three deep green leaves that frame the three slender flower petals make them a joy to see. But, when an entire hillside is covered with them (as is the case now in parts of the Roaring Run Trail) the impact of their collective beauty is overwhelming!
Re-checking some of the smaller vernal pools (which I mentioned last week) we found some newly hatched frog tadpoles wiggling about the sunken leaves and woody debris. They have a lot of growing to do, but some of them (less than 1 or 2%, probably) will emerge in a few weeks as froglets to face the problems of terrestrial existence.
The green stalks are up along the creeks that feed into Roaring Run. The flowers are maybe a month away.
For most sane people, ticks are part of the downside of nature. We found a small, very lethargic tick on one of our shirts after returning home from our hike. Now we were cutting through a lot of brushy vegetation (taking pictures of the trillium, identifying the trout lilies etc), so we probably picked it up from the brush. When you are hiking, stay on the trail, spray insect repellant on your shoes and socks, and check your hairline and clothing after returning home. Unless, of course, you really like ticks!
The tufted titmouse is a small, insect and seed eating bird that is very common at winter bird feeders. Out in nature, these birds form large,multi-species, foraging flocks in the winter to make their search for food sources more efficient. Other species in the flocks include downy and hairy woodpeckers, and chickadees. The male titmice (or “titmouses” according to some authorities) sing to mark their territorial boundaries for their mating areas. Around my house, the titmice have been singing for a couple of weeks. Their song is a very clear “dee-dee” bimodal tune (for those of you who are musical, the notes are B down to G, two octaves above middle C). Anyway, the male titmice that I heard on today’s walk were singing territory with a “dee-dee” song but the notes were “B” and “B.” A different song! Some neat questions arise from this: have these titmice learned a different song from their parents and other surrounding birds Will this different song mean that the “B–B” titmice and the “B—G” titmice will not mate with each other? Is this a first step in the very long sequence of speciation? Some ornithologists specifically study this type of dialect development within bird species and feel that this type of reproductive isolation is very important in the avian engine of diversity…I’ll keep you posted.