Buds are beginning to break, and I’m hungry for the return of lush foliage- if only to enjoy it momentarily as I scuttle from building to building in the cold. But on days like today, when it’s warm enough for me anxiously go and check on the progress of budding branches, I realize that many things I can observe amongst the trees right now may soon be hidden from view or vanish altogether once the leaves grow. Here are seven things that will only be in plain sight while the branches are still bare:
|Red-tailed hawks are beginning to pair up.|
|The tapping of woodpeckers is harder to hear and to see when leaves are out.|
Other wildlife and garden visitors. These same large old trees with some hollow trunks are home to screech owls, which have been known to occasionally come out during the day and sun themselves through the bare branches as the weather gets warmer. I can still see large leaf middens hanging from treetop branches. Squirrels built these middens last fall to store extras from the year’s massive acorn collection and to keep warm. Raccoons, snakes, and other animals that have also relied on dens throughout the winter are now emerging and searching for food. Perhaps the most reassuring thing of all to see moving about among the bare branches is the mourning cloak butterfly, newly emerged from hibernation.
|It's easier now to track squirrels as they nibble on favorite shoots and check on their middens..|
|Witch Hazel is the earliest bare-branch bloom.|
|Redbud trees sport pink blossoms on bare trunks.|
More flowers that bloom on bare branches. Many other shrubs and trees bear blossoms before leafing out, and these are a beautiful sight. Witch hazel, forsythia, flowering quince, apricot trees, and star magnolia are a few of the earliest bloomers.
The bare branches themselves. Although they’ve been there, brown, overhead and in the periphery all winter, the bare branches are changing ever so slightly. Buds are becoming longer, more prominent and easier to differentiate from species to species now. This gives the branches unique form from one another, even at long distance against the sky. Closer up, the pattern of the buds makes it clear which direction branches grow from year to year.
|One of my favorite sheltered spots to let the sun shine in!|
Sunlight. As much as I long to be outside during the winter months, New England weather has a way of ensuring everyone stays tucked inside at home sometimes. Even on the clear days when it’s not snowing and the sun is shining, there is still ice, wind, and cold temperatures to contend with. When it’s just warm enough to shed a layer or two and sit sheltered by trees as the sunlight comes through, I begin to welcome back all the splendors of spring, one by one.