Spring and all

tree in one of the last snowdrifts

Were it not for the high winds in February, the snow would be gone now. Instead, foot-deep drifts still rot in the sun.

first coltsfoot

Otherwise, it’s turning out to be an early spring. Thirty feet from the nearest snowdrift, the first wildflower — a coltsfoot — was out this afternoon, its rays seemingly taking their cues from the sun’s glittering reflection in the adjacent ditch.

eastern comma butterfly

Up on the ridgetop, the first butterflies had emerged from wherever they spent the winter — presumably under loose flaps of bark, or in hollow logs — and were sunbathing in the middle of the old woods road. I had the rare pleasure of witnessing a fight between a Compton’s tortoiseshell an eastern comma and a mourning cloak, though I wasn’t quick enough to capture it on film. I’m not sure what they were fighting about. There seemed to be plenty of dead leaves and bare twigs to go around.

Mourning cloak

I thought of the other insect life that must be stirring all around us, the buds swelling, the seeds beginning to sprout. Tomorrow will bring more arrivals and emergences, I’m sure, and by the end of the week — if the weather predictions are correct — the first spring orgies should be breaking out among the local garter snakes and wood frogs. It all happens so fast. Part of me is still wishing I’d gotten one more sled run in.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

21 Comments


  1. Yes, I remember the dramatic springs of my youth on the prairies – sometimes they seemed to last about a week and then it was summer. I love the long springs out here in the Pacific Northwest. Great shots, Dave.

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    1. Yeah, more northerly springs can be rather dissatisfying that way. But actually in recent years we’ve had a few that were pretty rushed, too, because the cold weather lasted so long into April. (And this spring could still turn cold again.)

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  2. Another clutch of evocative photographs Dave. I expect the itch for another sled run will be forgotten as new life unfurls in every direction you look. I love that last photograph in particular, the edges of the butterfly’s wing and the twig on which it perches, both as though dipped in ash.

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    1. “Dipped in ash” — great image, thanks. I’ll admit I supressed some touches of green (evergreen laurel leaves) in the photo so as not to distract from that.

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  3. I especially love the photo of the butterfly with shadow. The colour and lift of its wings lifted my heart. Fabulous!

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    1. Thanks. Yeah, the Compton’s tortoiseshell eastern comma is a very handsome critter. It’s actually fairly closely related to the other; they’re both in the brushfoot family.

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  4. Nice photos! You have butterflies already! No insects here, yet, and we’re just happy to see sunshine and get outside without getting soaked. I’m hoping to get out more to watch the spring “emergences” – perfect word for it.

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    1. I’ll bet you do have insects out now — probably even mourning cloaks, if you can find the right woods. Hope you get a chance to go exploring before the week’s out.

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  5. Coltsfoot. I noticed dozens yesterday on a road cut at what must be the world’s longest strip mall, here in Clarksburg. It is an otherwise ugly area, totally unlandscaped and uncared for, and I remember wondering last year what those delightful gold flowers were; but was too lazy to stop, look, and look up.

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    1. Yes, coltsfeet are great colonizers. Here on the mountain, though, in 40 years they’ve never moved beyond the one roadside area in which we’ve always found them. So I am tempted to call them a non-invasive species — they seem only to grow in disturbed areas, and only certain ones at that.

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  6. Butterflies! And snakes too, I hear. Life is stirring down there more than in our still-frozen north, but it won’t be long. Great photos, Dave, and they’ve done me good today!

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    1. Glad you liked them, Beth. Yep, the first snake was out today, but no phoebes yet. Mom thinks they must’ve been forced further south than usual this winter by all the cold, given their dependence on flying insects.

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  7. Wonderful photos, Dave. No wildflowers or butterflies here, yet, but I did see a UFB (unidentified flying bug) and, even better, my first beaver sighting of the year. Just the top of its head with that lovely “v” trailing behind, but that’s really all I needed to see.

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    1. Oh wow. I’ve only seen that a few times in my life. Lucky you!

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  8. I saw three red-tailed hawks yesterday all flying fairly low over the street in front of my office. Two landed in one tree – with one of them screaming periodically – and the third in another small tree in the median strip. Odd to see so many in one place around here. Any idea what was going on? I can’t tell male from female, but I understand a pair usually mates for life.

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    1. Yeah, I don’t know. Sounds like a dispute over territory or something. Neat sighting, though.

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  9. The sun is shining and birds are heralding spring but I’ve yet to see a hummingbird or a butterfly. I love the butterfly photo with the shadow. It’s gorgeous and I’m so jealous … ;)

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    1. Glad you like that photo! This week of warm weather has really been unexpected, especially considering what a long winter we’ve had here. It’s the earliest spring we’ve had since 2000; the general trend has been for later springs, which are no fun because everything happens at once.

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