Saturday, April 3, 2010

First Flowers & Their Friends

Would you believe we hit 80*F yesterday! In the Central Adirondacks! In Early April! Unheard of. Must be a new record.

The plants and insects are enjoying it, though. Mr. Mike reported coltsfoot in bloom at his barn, and he also saw "an orange butterfly with black spots." One of the punctuation butterflies? A Compton's tortoiseshell? I don't know.

Back at my house, though, I discovered the following signs of life:

Daphne, opening in profusion.

The giant pussy willow had three or four catkins "open"
(pollen now available), and they were drawing in the bees.

This was the giant among the hungry feeders. I think it is a type of mining bee, but I'm waiting for confirmation from BugGuide. Update: The experts say this is Adrena frigida, one of the mining bees. There are about 1200 of these solitary bees in North America. They burrow in the soil. I watched a nesting aggregation of these bees last spring, but never got any photos of them. Maybe this year.

This trio were all quite focused on the pollen and ignoring each other
as well as me. Update: the big one in the middle is another species of Adrena, but the Bugnet folks couldn't give me more than that. How different it looks from the fuzzy Adrena in the previous photo. The other two are the same species as the one in the next photo.

Here's one of the trio (and there were a lot of these - probably the dominant bee at this shrub). I think it is a species of sweat bee, but again, I'm waiting to hear from BugGuide. Update: and the experts say this is a male Nomada bella. Nomada are cleptoparasites of digger bees, specifically those in the families Andrenidae and Halictidae. Their larvae, which are laid in the bees' burrows, eat the pollen and nectar that have been put aside for the digger bees' offspring. Sometimes they kill the host larvae, too. As adults, Nomada look a lot like wasps.

The second species of the trio. I have no idea what kind it is...BugGuide is on standby. Update: Adrena sp., as noted two photos up.

Meanwhile, over at the black pussy willow, the only visitors to its catkins were flies. Hm...I wonder what that means?

Idefix was enjoying his time outside.
This is one of the few photographs I've taken of him
where he doesn't look pissed off at the world!

And there, in the "field" (the unmowed portion of my yard),
two crocuses (crocii?) had raised their cheery heads.

And then, to top it all off, last night, as Toby and I were walking the golf course, I heard them: the first frogs. First, it was a lone peeper, who, after two peeps clammed up. But then we came around a bend in the trail and in front of us a pocket wetland was full of woodfrog songs! As we approached, a chorus of coyotes started calling from the woods. Toby, of course, had to respond, which promptly made the woodfrogs close their mouths and submerge.

I perched on a rock and tried "quacking" to entice the frogs back, but after several minutes nothing happened. The rock was becoming uncomfortable, and Toby was eager to move on, so we left the frogs to themselves. Maybe I'll try again tonight.

And then, the cap it all off, we heard the first peents of the woodcocks, followed by their twittering flights.

Note: the spring peepers are about 20 days earlier than usual, and the wood frogs 10-20 days earlier.


  1. I wonder if that fly on the black pussywillow was thinking: Hey, is that a new girl in town? It does look a bit like a black hairy fly, doesn't it?

    Happy Easter!

  2. I don't think I've ever posted, but have been following your blog for awhile now. I wanted to thank you for all the great information we've gotten here. And the pictures are always gorgeous!

    Today when I was uncovering some of the flower beds, we found our first fat toad of the season.

  3. Jackie - that's as good a guess as any!

    Renee - welcome aboard! Often toads are the first amphibians I hear in the spring, but so far this year I haven't heard one. I have to keep telling myself it IS only the beginnng of April, even if it feels like June!

  4. Very nice shot of the pussy willow shrub (being back-lit) and the crocii -- at least that's what I always said; 'don't know if it's correct, but it's fun to say it.

  5. Those photos are very clear with fine details and a pleasure to look at. Good luck on the bee id. They are very hard to identify without having one in hand but you should be able to get it to genus. I'm guessing Andrena, Lasioglossum and Osmia. I will be interested to see what the bug guide people say.
    Good luck on finding those frogs and don't forget your camera.

  6. I LOVE pussy willows. Such beautiful photography, as usual. I really think you have a talent here.

  7. All I've go to say is those bug guys are good.

  8. These are lovely photos ellen! the little andrena frigida is very like the UK cineraria, very pretty. I would love you to have something.. somehow! email me val.littlewood(at) and I can let you know the options.
    I was so interested to read your piece on feather collecting, you might be interested in what David Attenborough had to say in the UK a few days ago.
    I am not sure where to be on it all. sometimes I think when it wasn't illegal to collect few flowers or shells that people were less greedy.. it seems to be human nature to want something you cant have.. a bit like chocolate and diets!

  9. Val - interesting article (Sir David's). Like so many similar issues, it is the abusive actions of a few that ruin experiences for everyone else. That said, I do feel that children can still learn about nature and classification "in the field" - they don't necessarily have to collect things and bring them home to learn. It just requires a little more time and patience, that's all.