Happy National Take a Walk Day! Why not celebrate it by coming out and enjoying the trails? It is also spring and a variety of wildlife is starting to emerge. Spring is a time where plants and animals are growing and bursting with life! Flowers are blooming, insects are buzzing about, birds are singing, and mammals are waking up from their winter sleep. All kinds of wildflowers are beginning to bloom and many animals can be found out and about. Here is a “Spring Snapshot” of Douglas-Hart Nature Center.
Animals are starting to become active again, such as mammals, birds, and insects. A common mammal to see are squirrels. Squirrels can be found year round, but are most active in spring and fall. Eastern Fox Squirrels (Sciurus niger) can be seen running up trees, eating nuts, berries and seeds, and playing around. They can be commonly found in the Bird Garden eating the bird seed.
Not only are mammals being more active, but some of our insect friends have been making appearances. A couple that were spotted include a House Cricket (Acheta domesticus) and two Black Scavenger Flies (Parapalaeosepsis plebeia). In the spring, crickets will again become active in large numbers when the eggs begin hatching and they move out in search of food. Black Scavenger Flies aren’t normally found on blooming flowers, but rather on decaying plant and animal matter. It was neat to see both of these insects on a vibrant Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus). Daffodils are a fall-planted bulb and are one of the first blooms in the spring.
Another insect that was seen out and about was a Shore Fly (Hydrellia sp.). Shore flies are tiny flies that can be found near seashores or at smaller inland waters, such as ponds. This one was found close to the pond along the east edge on a Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Bloodroot is a perennial that when cut, the root and budding root stalk (called the rhizome) secrete a red fluid that gives the plant its name.
There was another wildflower that was starting to bloom also. This would be Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica). These bloom early in the spring and are an ephemeral plant that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Along with the wildflowers, there is also a shrub that is bursting with color right now. This shrub is Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). It is a 6-12 ft. tall shrub that provides food and cover for an abundance of wildlife and is the host plant of the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio troilus).
Lastly, there is a tree that is beginning to bloom. This tree is Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra). This is an understory tree that has showy yellow-green flowers in early spring, emerging just before or with the leaves.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out and walk the trails on this beautiful day, and see what you can find!