Sightings

hepatica

It was hot today; I came close to cutting my hair. I saw four garter snakes — which usually can be found sunning themselves on warm rocks this time of year — down in or right above the water in the old stone well. It was too bad my three-year-old niece Elanor couldn’t have been here today; she’s developed quite an interest in these snakes, and even held one for the first time last week with her father’s encouragement.

Around 10:30, I wandered down to the pussy willow next to the stream to admire the way it shone and buzzed: bees, wasps, and flies of all descriptions swarmed its furry blossoms. Further down the hollow, the round-lobed hepatica was in full bloom on the bank above the road, and for the third spring in a row since I got the camera I have now, I knelt or lay on the leaves taking dozens of photos while the green-bottle flies climbed all over my arms and face. Every hepatica blossom is a slightly different color, ranging from almost white to lavender.

Later on in the afternoon, I saw the first cabbage white butterfly of the year. I kept thinking though that I ought to see a bear, since I had posted one here in the header of the blog yesterday, and as luck would have it, at around 4:45, I got my wish. I was getting a drink of water at the sink when I looked out the window and saw a bear doing the same thing in the stream right behind the pussy willow tree. And she wasn’t alone.

black bears

There were four cubs in all, one of them a relatively uncommon cinnamon bear. This is almost certainly the same family I first saw last summer, when the cubs were barely bigger than basketballs. I was happy to see that they’d all made it through the winter. I went out on the front porch and stood watching as they climbed the road bank and rambled off through the laurel. They disappeared surprisingly quickly in the sun-drenched woods.

UPDATE: Here’s a short video I managed to get from my porch.

17 Comments


  1. Bears, wow. Must be nice to stand at the sink and have such views.

    I wonder, can you share the secret for finding hepatica? I’m not sure if I’m looking too late or too early (bloodroot is just blooming here now) or if I’m looking in the wrong type of places. Such a beautiful flower… would love to meet it someday.

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  2. Clearly the bears heard about your new blog mascot and wanted to express their approval. Very cool. It’s warm here, too. I expect there will be lots of buds blossoming this weekend.

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  3. Thanks for the comments.

    Laura – It blooms the same time as bloodroot, and holds on for a bit longer, I’d say. But whereas bloodroot seems to prefer a limestone or shale substrate, hepatica is fine on our acidic mountaintop, though it doesn’t grow in the most acidic areas with heath cover. It seems to prefer SE-facing slopes (though that’s probably true of a lot of early ephemerals).

    Leslee – Yeah. I neglected to mention that the shadbush was out yesterday as well. And last night I hear a whip-poor-will, about two weeks early.

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  4. Ahhh. I liked the bears (a lot – the video was terrific) but the hepatica goes straight to my heart! Beautiful photo, Dave. I was thinking about them as we drove south today, and I saw the first leaves of wildflowers on the forest floors as we drove along.

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  5. Thanks, Beth. I remembered from past years your special fondness for hepaticas. I hope you have the time to go looking for them this year.

    Incidentally, I notice that a lot of commenters aren’t linking to their blogs. Is there a problem with the comment form not remembering your data, or something? If so, it may be an issue with a plugin I’ve installed, one that’s supposed to remove the default “no follow” tags and give commenters search-engine credit for the links they leave.

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  6. Fun to see a cinnamon bear. They look like they got startled by something, the way they all left so quickly together — or else Mom said, “C’mon, time to go!”

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  7. Yeah. But I don’t think it’s wariness toward humans. The bear family made an appearance in the corner of the field just now while my brother’s family was here and let us all watch as they hung out and grubbed for fifteen minutes or more. They seem about as wary as the local deer — which is to say, not much.

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  8. Yeah, your comment form remembers name and email, but not website. So you have to copy and paste in your blog name (or type it in, which I can never remember).

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  9. O.K., I think I found the problem: this theme wasn’t coded to insert cookies for URLs, for some reason. Whether I’ve now succeeded in fixing that remains to be seen…

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  10. O.K., yes, that seems to have worked! (I’m commenting here via another browser that doesn’t know I’m the site admin.)

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  11. AAaaaaw. Such furry cuteness. I just want to give them all a big husy wugsy. (Ok, I was joking.) But, seriously, “cinnamon” bear? that apellation just adds spice to the sweetness :-)

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  12. That’s what they call ’em. It’s a color morph more common among the western population of black bears than here in the east. According to the Defenders of Wildlife black bear fact sheet,

    Black bear fur is usually a uniform color except for a brown muzzle and light markings that sometimes appear on their chests. Eastern populations are usually black in color while western populations often show brown, cinnamon, and blond coloration in addition to black. Black bears with white-bluish fur are known as Kermode (glacier) bears and these unique color phases are only found in coastal British Columbia, Canada.

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  13. We’re getting nice flowers down in VA too, though lately they’re dodging raindrops — several sorts of bluets and blue flower-spikes are being supplemented with yellows in the lawns and meadows, while blue is joining the pink and white in the trees.

    Someone on another forum commented that raccoons are basically miniature bears (ignoring actual lineage, they were talking about attitude and habits). What do you think?

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  14. Inasmuch as they’re omnivores and habitat generalists, yes. And they have somewhat similar social structures, too. Both of which tend to imply a simialr sort of intellgence, which I think observations may bear out.

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