Thursday, May 30, 2013

Trouble returns

Look who’s back! Or perhaps it’s a different raccoon than the last of the trio of terrorists that killed two of my chickens at winter’s end. After months of not feeding birds as a result of the robbers, I wanted to get rid of the last of some shelled peanuts. Blue jays love shelled peanuts, and with a brood of jays in an oak tree at the edge of my deck, I thought I’d be nice and provide some food for the parents to ease their burden of caring for the nestlings. You can see how well that idea worked.

The peanuts were out just 24 hours before being found by a raccoon. With Baby Dog howling in rage in the background, I went to the door, waving my hands to shoo the raccoon. She did decamp, peanut in mouth, only to return moments later. This raccoon is a nursing female, no doubt thrilled to find such an easy meal.

In the meantime, my chickens are on lockdown again, and those girls are not in the least bit happy about that. It’s always something.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Birds amid the battle, the railroad cut

When people visit Gettysburg, especially if the trip is likely to be a one-time or rare event for them, they concentrate on just a few sites of the more famous spots around the town and the battlefield. Everyone wants to see Devil’s Den, the High Water Mark, where Pickett’s Charge began or the spot where Lincoln gave his address. And those are the most historically important sites. For me, who is fortunate enough to be able to visit Gettysburg often, the lesser-known sites are every bit as interesting.

On this trip I visited the alms house area, where fighting took place on the first day of the battle. The old alms house itself, a place for the “feeble-minded and insane,” was a terrible place for those kept there but was also the site of a battlefield hospital after the fighting more to the south of town. Many monuments dot the side of the road that winds through this area, and one of the battlefields more unusual monuments commemorates the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry.

The monument depicts an oak tree shattered by artillery fire. The story goes that artillery fire struck and brought down branches of the tree and with it a robin’s nest. Inside the nest were several babies, shaken by their fall but unharmed. One of the soldiers, under heavy fire and at no little risk to himself, picked up the nest, climbed the stump and replaced the nest.

When the monument to the 90th Pennsylvania was designed, the idea was to celebrate a new life amid the battle and to hope that the end of the Civil War would bring a new era of peace and goodwill.

Further on, I visited the old railroad cut, the site of more heavy fighting on the first day of the battle. At the time of the battle, the cut was excavated but railroad tracks not yet laid. Several hundred died here in heavy fighting. Most were Union troops, many from the 147th New York who did not receive the first order to retreat from the cut. After the Confederate troops took control of the cut and the surrounding high ground, Union troops regrouped and attacked again, this time, retaking the area and forcing the surrender of about 300 Confederate troops.

I had never before walked the railroad cut, though that has always been something I wanted to do. The last time I visited, I was deterred by rain. This time, the rain had just ended, though the sky remained overcast. Along the way I found several small, much weathered red, white and blue ribbons, made into bows and placed on rocks in the cut. Not many people get out of their vehicles and walk the railroad tracks, though obviously, someone had.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorials and Monuments

Soldiers National Monument - view of a soldier and the figure "History."  Two other figures, "Peace" and "Plenty" adorn the opposite side of the monument and Liberty is atop the obelisk.
I live near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and have visited the battlefield there hundreds of time in my life. First, I went with my parents. Visiting Gettysburg was our family’s preferred way of spending a Sunday afternoon. I played in Devil's Den from the time I was allowed to run around on my own, and we usually picnicked somewhere on the battlefield.  Now, I visit on my own. Gettysburg is crowded in any season of the year but never more so than in the summer. This year the town and battlefield will likely be even more crowded than usual, as 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the battle.
As a local resident, I learned long ago that I preferred to visit at the least busy times. Winter is an especially beautiful time to visit. This year, with summer and the 150th anniversary fast approaching and the Memorial Day weekend a kind of unofficial start to the summer season, I figured I’d better get there before the rush or I’d have to wait until after Labor Day to avoid the crowds. I wasn't particularly successful in avoiding the crowds this time.

There’s a lot to see in Gettysburg and though I’ve been there so often, I still don’t think I’ve seen everything, and some things I haven’t seen in quite a while. Every time I make a trip here, I try to visit a spot that I haven’t visited in a while or some place where I haven’t spent as much time as I’d like. This time, befitting Memorial Day, one of my primary stops was the national cemetery, where President Lincoln gave his famous address.
It’s been quite a while since I walked in the cemetery, and I’d forgotten some important things about it. Perhaps the first thing I noticed was that soldiers from other wars are buried here too. I saw graves from both WWI and WWWII, and if soldiers from more recent wars are buried here, I didn’t see them. Two graves from WWII, side by side, were noteworthy. The death date for the grave on the right is December 7, 1941 and the grave on the left is June 30, 1945. Those two deaths mark the start and nearly the end of that conflict.
The other thing I’d forgotten was just how many graves of the unknown there are here. Nearly half of the Civil War soldiers buried here are unnamed. Sometimes the graves are marked Union or Confederate unknown, sometimes the name of the unit is printed on the gravestone, sometimes the state where the soldiers came from is marked but mostly the graves are simply Unknown. Hundreds of graves, perhaps even more, are marked this way.
On a stone from Maine, marking 104 bodies, was a small homemade wreath made of dried pine needles and a note, which reads, “To the brave sons of the Pine Tree State who gallantly fought and died here so long ago. You are not forgotten by the students of Riley School, Rockport, Maine.”
Tomorrow: I'll share photos from another part of my afternoon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Both vultures practice vulturing

Black vulture (bottom) and turkey vulture (top)
 The air was so thick and heavy yesterday that even the vultures were brought to ground. Instead, both black and turkey vultures hung out around Roundtop’s dumpsters. Perhaps they figured that since they were grounded, they might as well hang out where they could still find some pickings. Or hoped to.

The black vultures seem less shy and slower to leave a food source than are the turkey vultures. The turkey vultures hopped over to the roof of the nearby maintenance building as soon as I pulled up to their dumpsters. The black vultures didn’t budge when I got out of the car and closed the door and only deigned to move when I got within several feet of them.

Black vulture

Black vultures are supposed to be a bit smaller than turkey vultures, but I can’t say that I notice that. They are much the same size as far as I can see. Lots of vultures ply the air around Roundtop, both kinds. They roost on or near the mountain on most nights. Once 20 of them roosted atop my cabin roof and the old TV antenna. I live only about 20 miles from Gettysburg, site of the famous battle, of course. There, witnesses told of masses of vultures for months after the battle, and to this day the battlefield boasts many, many vultures. Once the big birds found that spot, they didn’t want to leave, apparently. At this point, 150 years after the battle, I do have to wonder what keeps so many of them there. Perhaps that congregation of them contributes to the large numbers I have at Roundtop.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More newbies

New babies are sprouting up all over the place. Last evening I passed a herd of Thoroughbred mares with their new foals enjoying a warm evening in tall grass. The local Canada goslings that ply the ponds around Roundtop are already getting large. The first brood is already the size of my smaller chickens, albeit chickens without feathers.

I haven’t yet seen any new fawns, though I am still regularly seeing deer. Often, my sightings aren’t much more than eyes shining by the light of my headlamp. Last night Baby Dog and I heard and saw four deer, none of them small enough to be fawns. We walked out my driveway to reach a patch of open sky, so I could take a last look at the sky before heading back to the cabin. As I stood there I heard the rustle of motion in the forest on the other side of the lane. At first I only caught momentary glimpses as the deer moved down the hill towards me. I watched the glint of their eyes as they passed in front me and kept moving further down the mountain and through the forest. Sometimes the underbrush hid the eyeshine entirely, sometimes I could see them looking at me as they walked.

They thought they were invisible, of course, and except for the eyeshine, they were. Baby Dog listened intently, though I’m not sure she saw them any better than I did. The deer kept moving though at an unhurried pace. I suspect they were heading down to the pond for a drink. They usually wait until dark to come out of hiding and search for water. They are sneaky about it. I have rarely seen a deer at the pond. I think they aren’t there very long. They come down, slake their thirst and then immediately return to the safety and cover of the forest. Invisible again.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Weekend warblers (and a calf)

Calf investigating a tractor
 A few warblers finally showed up around the cabin this weekend, pulled out of the sky no doubt by the fog and drizzle that pervaded the weekend. I saw several American Restart and a Black-and-white warbler. Both species have visited the cabin in other years and both are among those that I’m likely to see here. Some warbler species are more likely to stop at my woods than others.

I’ve yet to see worm-eating, Wilson’s, orange-crowned and several others at the cabin. Black-throated green is usually common and Blackburnian isn’t unheard of. For several years black-throated blue was common, but I haven’t seen one of those lately.

The fog and drizzle of the weekend kept the skies gray or invisible most of the time. The warblers weren’t inclined to attempt to migrate through it. Instead, they spent the weekend around the cabin throughout most of the day. Birders typically get up early during warbler season to catch a glimpse of our little jewels. This weekend that wouldn’t have been necessary. The gloomy weather kept the birds around all day, even into the middle of the afternoon. They also didn’t seem to mind my presence very much. When I was outside I was moving around from one chore to the other and the birds weren’t fearful or shy. I wondered if the calm presence of my chickens outside their pen and foraging made the warblers feel safe enough to ignore me.
"Can I have the keys?"
I did hear a yellow-billed cuckoo this weekend, which is always a treat. The bird never seems close to the cabin, but the sound of that odd call travels a longer distance than do most. Sometimes the bird sounded as though it was high up on the mountain. Sometimes it sounded down along the lower slope, but never did it sound close enough to attempt to look for it. I had to content myself with listening to its haunting call. Maybe one day that call will be close enough to the cabin to make it worthwhile to attempt to find the bird.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Forest life

That’s the last of them! This morning the eastern pewee’s plaintive call echoed through the forest around my cabin. The pewee is the very last of the summer residents to arrive. So now everyone who normally should be here is here. Oh, I could have another one or so. Some years I have a yellow-billed cuckoo somewhere on the mountain. I suspect that poor bird has yet to find a mate, at least here on Roundtop. The calls echo throughout the summer, moving from spot to spot as though hoping for someone to answer. Maybe someone did answer, eventually, but I don’t think it was here on Roundtop.

So now, instead of trying to find new summer residents, I can relax, pull up a chair and...No, that’s not going to happen. I have a list of outside work that’s longer than my arm, starting with trimming back the various tree branches and bushes that scrape the sides of the car as I travel my driveway. Just because I don’t have a yard doesn’t mean that there’s no work to be done. It can be a near-constant fight against multi-flower rose, poison and assorted saplings determined to take hold and cover the cabin.

It can be tough work, particularly when it’s hot outside, so now is the time to get at it. Some years it gets hot so early in the season that I don’t really get it done to the point that I’m relatively happy with it. This year so far, it’s been fairly cool, so at least I don’t yet have that to deal with. Still, it’s something of a race to get done, because I know summer’s heat is only a few weeks away.

I use hedge clippers and a longer handled clipper rather than a weed whacker. I used to have a weed whacker. Several, in fact. None of them lasted very long. I couldn’t handle the heavy weed whackers and the lighter weight ones didn’t hold up. I’ve had the clippers for years. I don’t mind that this is a battle I will lose. My only goal is to keep the tendrils of new growth from scraping the car along the driveway or me as I walk around the cabin. The forest will win, eventually. So be it. In fact, I hope the forest does win, eventually. If not now then at some point, even if that time is far into a future I will never see. I have faith in the strength of the forest to survive even mankind’s mindless destruction. Though I also believe that mankind would survive longer than I expect they will if there were more of us who believed in the importance of forests.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wild Geraniums in bloom

Wild geranium
More spring flowers! Today the first of the wild geraniums are up. They qualify as one of my favorites. That lovely pale purple shade isn’t common on the wildflowers around Roundtop. That alone makes their presence welcome.

Wild geraniums are a small flower. Even with that unusual shade they can easily be overlooked. I first saw this bloom last night as I was walking Baby Dog. I checked the surrounding landmarks and then returned later with my camera. And I still spent a minute or so looking for it.

The near-frost I had in the morning didn’t hurt the plant any. In fact, none of the woodland flowers that are out right now were bothered by the 30 degree drop in temperature. Perhaps it’s only the cultivated flowers that are less able to withstand big drops in temperature.

So far this May has been cooler than most. I don’t mind that in the least as long as whenever the seasonal warm-up finally does arrive it doesn’t appear all at once. I hate those years when I have to turn off the heat in the morning and turn on the air conditioner later that same afternoon. This year my heat is turned off, but the overnight chill was enough to make me, momentarily, re-think that choice. Instead I opted for a sweater and another cover on the bed, where I was eventually joined by every cat in the house. Amazing how quickly they want to sleep with me when the night is a cold one.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Don't wait!

Along N. Wharf Rd., Monaghan Twp., York County PA
May is a lovely time of year for an evening walk. I have nothing against walking in other months of the year, though some of them present difficulties for those of us who aren’t retired or independently wealthy.

Walking in winter’s darkness can have its charms, though that can pall before the light returns to the evenings. A little bit of nighttime walking is fine, but I find six months o f it not nearly as interesting or enjoyable. A winter’s walk in daylight is still restricted to weekends for me, and those are busy enough that a daylight walk feels hurried, crunched in between this errand or that one.

In July and August, morning walks are preferable as the day’s heat takes all night to dissipate. An evening walk then can sometimes be hotter than one in the middle of the afternoon. Summer’s heat is hardly conducive to an enjoyable foray. And there are the ever-present evening storms to contend with, too.

But May is one of those months where daylight stretches on for hours and the temperature is pleasant and even a bit cool as dusk approaches. What could be finer? I think it’s the best month for walking. October has its charms and the temperature is usually fine, but the evenings are already growing quite short. No, May is the best month for an evening walk. The day’s work is done, the dinnertime chores are done, and daylight still beckons me outside. It’s enough to make me wish for May to last for months. Hurry! Don’t tarry or you’ll miss the best walking time of the year. We’re already halfway through the month. Don’t waste another day of it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wet weekend

More flowers and more birds are making their first spring appearances around my cabin. Alas, none of the birds were warblers. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had any good ones. A male scarlet tanager seems to be taking up residence right by the cabin’s north side. I was treated to his sweet song all weekend long and saw him a few times as well.

I frequently see scarlet tanager deeper in the forest. Down in the valley between Roundtop Mtn. and Nell’s Hill they are regular summer residents. I’ve never had one so close to the cabin before, though, so I’m quite enjoying his presence. I haven’t yet seen him with a female so I don’t know if he will end up with a nest nearby or not.

The blue jays that are nesting on the south side of the cabin must have hatched. I no longer see mom’s head or tail constantly poking up out of her stick nest. The babies, if there are any, aren’t yet big enough for their heads to appear above the edge of the nest.

The first wild geraniums have appeared and, as you can see, so have the first mayapple blossoms. Mayapples are difficult to photograph. The flowers are usually hidden under the umbrella-like leaves, which means I have to get down on the ground to get a photo. That’s not so bad, but at least at my cabin, wherever I see mayapple blooms, I also find poison ivy. You can see one of those on the left side of today’s photo. I’ve already had all the poison ivy I need for this year. A few weeks ago before the leaves of anything were out, I pulled up some stray twigs and roots and ended up with poison between my fingers. That was not fun at all. I know enough to wear gloves most of the time, but I wasn’t thinking that those bare roots might be poison. Now I know.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dogwood in flower

 Dogwood blossoms are hard for me to photograph. The lowest blooms are usually well over my head, and the sky in the background doesn’t always cooperate either. This week the sky has been especially gray—not the ideal background for a while flower. This morning the sky was a bit more cooperative, and besides if I don’t get a photo of the flower soon, I will miss them this year.

I am impatiently awaiting the arrival of warblers, and I’m starting to think my fear that they will overfly me this year is what is happening . Certainly, I haven’t had anything other than a few yellow-rumped warblers. This morning I stood outside the cabin and listened to the dawn chorus, hoping for the sound of one at least. The chorus was filled with the sweet songs of many wood thrush and ovenbirds, but nothing that sounded warbler-ish to me at all. It feels ungrateful to complain while the wood thrush are filling the woods with their songs.

Wood thrush songs seem to emanate from everywhere and nowhere in the forest. The sound surrounds me, though the birds themselves are often invisible. Sometimes I can place them in this tree or that one, but that usually doesn’t help me find a bird that’s sitting deep in the tree. Occasionally they will sing in the open where I can see them, but that isn’t typical. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Bird migration at its peak!

This week will be the biggest birding week of the year. It’s the week when migration explodes and millions of songbirds and summer residents head through the lower 48. Indications are already that birds are moving through the Central and mid-Atlantic. Many summer resident birds are here already, of course, though this week is still the biggest single time of the year for birds to move.

Unlike fall migration, which is spread out over a longer time, often with males, females and immature birds heading south on different schedules, spring migration is all about finding the best habitat for the best nest site and doing it before anyone else gets there or takes the best spot. Here in the northeast, we’ll have to wait for the low pressure system that’s sitting over top of us to move before the action really takes off. Last night, radar of the DC metro area showed a big concentration of birds, as did central Kansas.

Here at Roundtop, you can see what the sky looked like this morning—foggy, with rain expected off and on all day. It’s the kind of weather where birds like to sit and wait for conditions to improve. In a way, the concentration of birds in DC may prove to be unlucky for me just over a hundred miles or so to the north. Birds can cover 100 miles in several hours of flying; they may not stop here this year. It may be that only the birds who come for the season will land. The birds that we only see during migration may well not be ready to stop for lunch, let alone for the night, at the point when they will be over top of my cabin.

The serious bird radar watchers (or is that serious radar birdwatchers?) suggest that this year fewer birds are to be found anywhere on the trip north. Their radar spikes aren’t as concentrated or as large as is normal. I haven’t yet heard anyone discuss what that means—an ordinary variation in numbers, a sign of trouble in the wintering grounds. So I will try and resist the temptation to speculate and will instead just note it for the future. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013


The view of the mountains to the west of my cabin is already obscured by spring’s new foliage. It will be November, a full six months from now, before I am able to see those hills again. The leaves first began to appear slowly, but once they started to bud the change to leaves was rapid. Even so, the canopy isn’t nearly as dense as it will be in another month. To the north, I can still see through the forest, a bit, to the sky. By summer’s solstice that will disappear, too. For now, I am enjoying what view of the sky I have left.

A couple of things about spring have surprised me this year, though after all the years I’ve been on the planet, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d forget something so obvious so easily. The first is the sound of the breeze through the leaves. The sound is entirely different than the sound of winter’s wind through the trees. My first thought when I heard the breeze was that the wind must be a lot stronger than it looked, to make so much noise. Then I realized that I hadn’t heard that sound for roughly 180 days, so it seemed new to me again. It doesn’t take much wind to make a summer breeze sound noisy compared to winter. All those thousands or millions of leaves rustle loudly on even the lightest breeze.

The second thing isn’t quite so much of a surprise, but a pleasant remembering. It’s nice to get up in the morning and have it not be dead dark outside. Even at 5:30 a.m., when I get up, daylight is now apparent. It’s not sunshine and it’s not yet very bright, but it’s light enough to do without the headlamp and that’s a nice thing. It seems so much more civilized to get up when the day is already producing some light. In midwinter, that 5:30 a.m. alarm seems as though it’s going off in the middle of the night.

My photo today is the first jack-in-the-pulpit that I’ve found so far. They are a pretty little plant but seem to want to grow around poison ivy, so getting a photo of one without having to tiptoe around poison requires careful reconnaissance before attempting a photo.

Monday, May 06, 2013

New arrivals--all kinds

Tiger swallowtail on lilac bloom

The first goose babies have arrived! The Canada goose pair closest to my cabin just fledged a clutch of six babies. I saw them the first morning they appeared and saw them take what may well have been their first swim. Two days later all are still doing well. One might be a bit smaller than the others, but even that one seems healthy enough at least for now.
I also saw the first tiger swallowtail of the new year, here perched atop a lilac bloom. I took this photo with my phone at my father’s farm. I thought it might be a tad early for the first tiger swallowtails to be appearing, but I checked NABA, the North American Butterfly Association website, which does keep track of such things. There are no sightings recorded from my immediate area, but as best I can tell from other sightings in the surrounding states, May 5 is about right for here. The lilac blooms? Perhaps a tad early. I think of them as a Mother’s Day bloom and we’re not quite there yet.

6 new goose babies about to take their first swim

I saw three yellow-rumped warblers flitting through the trees around the cabin on Saturday. Yellow-rumped warblers are pretty little things, but they are by far the most common warbler that passes through. More than one birder I know finds yet another sighting of them kind of disappointing. “Anything but another yellow-rumped” is a comment I’ve heard more than once. Roundtop is not a great warbler spot, so I’m not quite so jaded. For a while I was thinking I wouldn’t have any warblers to report this year, so even a yellow-rumped warbler is something of a relief. Still, now that I’ve seen them, I will be happy to see any other warbler than is not a yellow-rumped.
The rest of my summer birds are mostly here and singing. The wood thrush have arrived in numbers, as have the ovenbirds. The only voice missing from the usual chorus is the eastern pewee, always the last to join the crowd.
The weather was gorgeous here this week, though I feel as though I didn't make the most of it as I should have. I was about to leave for a walk when a chicken mini-crisis occurred. At the time, I thought it was a full-scale major crisis and that one of my girls had been snatched in broad daylight by something, probably a fox as I couldn't think of anything else that would snatch her without a trace and be gone in seconds.  Doodle the rooster made frantic warning sounds. The other girls rushed to the juniper bush and hid, gathering together in a pile making themselves as flat as they could.  They were scared and wouldn't come out, not even for me to put them back into their pen.  Doodle wouldn't quiet down for the longest time.  I was convinced I'd lost another chicken. And then after an hour, she strolled out from under another bush. She was hiding too, but by herself and across the way from the others. So what scared them so badly?  I have no idea.  All are safe and all of them are inside today.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

New birds and April temperatures

Nice patch of rue anemone

The first wood thrush has arrived, a dim and distant trill somewhere behind my cabin. I knew it was time. The ovenbirds arrived two days ago, and wood thrush are always close on their heels. The ovenbirds are always first, often by just a single day but never more than three days ahead of the thrush. This year the birds are actually later than is typical. My most common arrival dates for them range between April 23-27, so May 1 is a couple of days behind schedule at Roundtop. I’ve been listening for them, too, so the later date isn’t because I wasn’t paying attention.

I also heard the first blue-headed vireo last night. I never did see it. It’s a good thing the bird was nearby, even though still invisible. I have a difficult time differentiating the red-eyed vireo from the blue-headed vireo by their songs as they sound very similar to me. If the bird hadn’t been nearly overhead I’m sure I wouldn’t have identified it as anything more specific than a vireo species. As it was, I was glad the bird sang happily for a few minutes so I could be sure.

Wild turkeys continue to gobble and fly and run and scatter all over the mountain. At the moment they are more common than deer, many of which are hidden away and birthing the first fawns. The turkeys on the other hand are seriously courting, and the toms don’t care who knows it.

On an entirely different topic, last evening I was examining the average April temperatures from Harrisburg since 1935 and found something interesting. In the 1930’s and ‘40’s April’s average temperature varied much more than it has over the past 20 years or so. Earlier in the 20th century, the average temperature often varied by more than 10 degrees from one year to the next. For example the average in 1942 was 55 (high even today) but in 1943 it was just 45. Year to year variability back then was quite often 10 degrees, sometimes more. Over the past 20 years or so, that variability has much diminished and the monthly averages now rarely vary by more than 6 degrees. The temperature average itself is trending higher—certainly those low April averages in the mid-40’s seem to be a thing of the past—but the range is noticeably less.

April 2013 was higher than the average of all Harrisburg April records by nearly a full degree, but only slightly higher than the average from 1981-2010, which are the only years that meteorologists use to calculate what they consider the normal temperature they are always talking about. 2013’s higher result was almost entirely due to 3-4 days early in the month that zoomed near and into the 80’s. If not for those days the monthly average would have been slightly before average, but those days were so extreme they skewed the entire month.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Comings and goings

Spring is a dramatic time, with new blooms opening virtually every day. Yesterday, the first of the native purple violets began to open. Tiny, with a deep shade of purple not seen in any other flower, the violets are still easy to overlook unless you happen to have a good-sized patch of them in front of you. When the plant is a singleton, in amongst the twigs and pebbles, they can be easily overlooked.

And while it’s easy to focus on the newest bloom of the week, it’s easy to overlook the blooms that are already fading. Bloodroot is gone the fastest, with only a day or two to bloom. But now the first bloom of spring, the coltsfoot, is done too.

Even as the blooms fade, the seed tufts of coltsfoot still resemble the dandelion that it is often mistaken for. The fuzzy tufts are not pure white, as are those of the dandelion, and the centers still retain a bit of their bright yellow blooms. But you have to look close to catch the difference.

The biggest difference is that even at this stage, the coltsfoot has yet to produce leaves. The leaves will only appear after the bloom stalk is gone. And that’s where the biggest visual difference with the dandelion is. The coltsfoot’s leaves don’t look anything like that other plant. If the leaves appeared with the bloom few would mistake the one plant for the other. But once the blooms are gone and the coltsfoot's leaves finally appear, there’s nothing about the leaves that are interesting enough to stand out amongst any of the others in the near-carpet of greenery that is the forest’s floor.