A hillside of wild blooms to brighten a dull spring day

Bloodroot flowers, Sanguinaria canadensis, bloom in Taylor Creek Park this week. © BCP 2011

Don’t have much time today to write a long post, but I did want to get these pictures up. Thanks to Melanie, one of the Toronto Field Naturalists’ leaders, who showed me where these lovely blooms were in  bud in Taylor Creek Park, I was able to go back a few days after our initial visit to get some photos of them in bloom.

These are the native bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis. They belong to the poppy family, (the Papaveraceae, if you care to be botanical about it), and as such are close relatives to another one of our spring flowers, the yellow-blossomed celandine, Chelidonium majus. Members of this family have radially symmetrical flowers, mostly borne singly.

Bloodroot, the crimson red roots of which I showed in an earlier posting this spring, are fragile spring flowers that open in full sunlight and close at night. And the blooms don’t last long — why they’re called spring ephemerals — so if you want to see these tiny white beauties that remind me of the song Edelweiss, from The Sound of Music [small and white, clean and bright. . .] you have to hit the muddy trail soon. For in just a few days these blooms will have vanished and other spring beauties, like the trilliums and trout lilies, will take their place.

A closeup of one bloodroot flower, showing the pollen spilling onto its bright white petals. © BCP 2011

A woodpecker to identify

A female hairy woodpecker (I think) works on excavating a hole in the trunk of a dead tree last week at Taylor Creek Park. © BCP 2011

I thought we were supposed to have April showers (to bring the May flowers, of course.) So what’s with these April monsoons we’ve been having? It seems like every time I look out the window, it’s either teeming or pouring. And when it’s not doing that, it’s spitting. Or hailing. Or sleeting.

Needless to say, it has not been very propititious for photo expeditions. I did manage to get out Thursday afternoon for a wee bit, but haven’t even seen those images yet. So I’m posting a photo I took last week when I was out in Taylor Creek Park looking for spring wildflowers.

I think my feathered friend above is a female . . . um. . . hairy? woodpecker (Picoides villosus). As you can see from the photo, this bird was very busy concentrating on excavating a hole in this downed tree, and she allowed me to approach quite close. I think by her largish size and comparatively long beak (it’s longer than immediately evident in the photo) she must be a hairy woodpecker, not a downy.

I’d be most grateful if someone more knowledgeable than I let me know if I’m right. I’ve been known to be wrong on the downy/hairy issue before.

Thanking all my birder friends in advance.

© BCP 2011

A chipmunk comes out to investigate in Taylor Creek Park

An eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus, comes out to investigate what we’re up to in Taylor Creek Park last week. © BCP 2011

Out for a walk in Taylor Creek Park last week with Melanie, a leader with the Toronto Field Naturalists. She’s leading a walk in a few weeks on the subject of spring ephemerals, and needed to get a better idea of how the early bloomers were coming along.

Not surprisingly, she found that all our bright bloomers are a few weeks behind. That’s not to say there weren’t some lovely flowers out to see, though.

We searched her favourite spots and on some south-facing hillsides there were so many flowers we had to tippy-toe through the mud and duff and greenery to ensure we didn’t stomp on any precious blooms.

As we were picking our way carefully up one steep hill, I saw a flash of movement at the very top of the hill, quite some distance from where we were perched on a rather precarious angle. It was tiny and very, very fast. A chippy, probably?

Just in case the little guy decided to make an appearance, I grabbed my extra-long lens to be ready. Then, as quick as a wink, the little brown blur revealed himself to indeed be a chipmunk. And I got lucky. Instead of staying in the tangle of leaves, roots and fallen branches on the degraded hillside, the chipmunk jumped on to the top of the log at the crest of the hill, allowing me to get a clear shot of him.

Looks like this little eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus, was curious to see what these two strange, very large creatures were doing on his hill.

In my next entry I’ll post a picture of a woodpecker I saw in the park the same day. I could use some help with identification.

© BCP 2011

Look who’s back in the Beach — the kinglets!

A female golden-crowned kinglet, Regulus satrapa, pauses momentarily at Ashbridge’s Bay this week. © BCP 2011

Yup it’s true! The golden-crowned kinglets (Regulus satrapa), adorable little songbirds distantly related to Old World warblers, are back.

(Although if you want to be persnickety about it. . . they didn’t all leave in the late fall. A few hardy ones managed to stick around all winter.)

Now the trees at Ashbridge’s Bay are full of the kinglets’ high-pitched chatter, as they constantly call to each other as they feed. Hear them here at the Cornell lab’s website.

I think the bird I got a shot of, above, is a female, as the crown is quite yellow. The crown in the males is a vibrant orange.

Everybody loves the busy busy tiny kinglets, constantly in motion, flicking their tails, flying from branch to branch, tree to tree. In fact, these birds are so hyperactive that over the years I have found it nearly impossible to get a clear shot of one. Just when you think you have your specimen lined up in your sights, with a flick of its tail, it’s gone.

For some reason, this little guy slowed down just long enough for me to squeeze off a frame or two.

Bird photography — like all wildlife photography — it’s all about timing. And luck.

© BCP 2011

A king-size bed for a field mouse maybe?

The opened seed pod, overwintered, of a milkweed plant, Asclepias syriaca, in Sun Valley last week. © BCP 2011

Traipsing about in Sun Valley last week (Thursday, April 7, if memory serves, I came across an area of the field where there were countless  milkweed plants, all with their pods exploded open.

For some reason, I couldn’t think of them solely as the fruiting bodies of the milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. The hardened exterior shell of the pods made me think of Wynken, Blynken and Nod, who sailed off one night in a wooden shoe.

Then I thought about it some more, and decided that the pod, with its silky seeds attached, would make the most beautiful, comfortable bed in the world for a mouse. Or for a Lilliputian.

Just looking at the soft silky strands made me want to lie down and drift away.

© BCP 2011

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