Thursday, April 19, 2012

Warbler Days

My backyard house wrens are back! They arrived from their wintering grounds to build a nest in their rustic, stable, handmade-in-Oregon wren box yesterday, the same wren box I clean out every January as I think fondly of the two broods the box allows the wrens to produce every year. There's invariably a fight every year between the house wrens and chickadees (who stick around all year) over the box. In haste, we made a second wren box for the chickadees last year, but the chickadees and house wrens seem to like the fancy Oregon wren box rather than the locally made box (because it's not made of Doug fir? Because it's not painted green with a verdigris copper lid?). Nevertheless, I heard that mellifluous, unmistakeable call of my backyard house wrens this afternoon and watched as one traveled in and out of the box with a beak full of grasses and twigs. Oh, happy spring!

I was only away from the woods for four days when the flush came in. Last week I was surrounded by the motley crew of red headed woodpeckers, titmice, a single Northern parula. This week, setting out to a prairie fen and recently burned sandstone woodlands rich with great woodland flora, I was surrounded by the intricate song of white-eyed vireos, Northern parulas in the woodland edge, in the prairie fen (what with the topkilled sumac and cedar slash) tons of blue-winged warblers, a common yellowthroat, several black and white warblers, a swamp sparrow, all my FOY, the first of the year sightings and calls. While this spring has tracked several weeks early, I'll think of the long, cool days and the explosive bloom cycles of all the spring wildflowers. When the desiccating heat of August sets in, those days of chiggers on the prairie and seed ticks in the grassy Ozark woods, I'll think back to the spring when we could sit outside comfortably to listen to the house wrens without being menaced by the incredible population of my neighborhood's mosquitoes.

Photos! I won't bother naming all of them since most of you know most of them. But, check out the Veronica comosa (tall plant that looks like a Polygonum in structure), which you're probably accustomed to seeing underwater in springs and spring branches. It was blooming all up and down a roadside with a spring coming out of the bedrock. Robust! And beautiful. By the way, visit a burned prairie fen for a veritable explosion of wild strawberries and Silphium terebinthinaceum. And hit the sandstone roadsides for that restricted Silene. I would love to hear of a site where this plant grows in an intact native landscape and not just on a roadside.


Justin R. Thomas said...

Nice post, Allison. I know of a handful of sites where the Silene wherreyi grows far from roads. They are all on steep cherty slopes in burned, mature pine woodlands. It is a favorite of mine.

Allison Vaughn said...

Ah, yes, our mutual source tells me I can find this plant in a native ecosystem and not just on roadsides where it finds enough light to thrive. Few sites, pine dominated, Central Plateau country, frequently burned. Looking forward to finding those huge capsules, since I won't be that way until after it's past blooming!