Monday, March 1, 2010

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: March in the Piedmont

Birds.− As spring arrives in the Piedmont this month, we begin to see some profound changes in the composition of our avifauna. Expect to hear the enthusiastic “szhree” calls of pine siskins, the striped cousins of American goldfinches. Also, look out for common yellowthroats and yellow throated warblers, both of which are often recorded in Durham in March.

Butterflies.− This month, butterfly watchers may begin to find hairstreaks (including the red-banded, gray, juniper, and great purple) and swallowtails (e.g., black and eastern tiger). Lucky observers may find Henry’s elfins and eastern pine elfins, while definitely spotting a lot more cabbage whites, sulphurs, spring azures, question marks, eastern commas and mourning cloaks. Towards the end of the month, keep your eyes open for sleeper, Juvenal’s and Horace’s duskywings, adults of which are often seen perched on bare ground, including dirt roads and trails, where they glean minerals.

Reptiles & Amphibians.− This month, expect to continue hearing southeastern chorus frogs, spring peepers, northern cricket frogs, American toads, pickerel frogs and eastern spadefoots. Fowler’s toads, bullfrogs and green frogs will start calling this month, but don’t expect large choruses until April. Continue to look for breeding salamanders. Also, be on the lookout for basking yellow-bellied sliders and the occasional black-rat snake or racer.

In Bloom this Month.−
March is a great month to brush-up on your herbaceous plant identification, starting with the spring ephemerals – fragile wildflowers that disappear after a brief vernal resurgence.

One of the first flowers to bloom in March is round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica americana). Other March ephemerals include the spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) and trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) with their yellow nodding flowers emerging from a pair of dark green, spotted leaves. If you’re exploring richer woods, you might find red trillium (Trillium cuneatum), may-apples (Podophyllum peltatum), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and a few species of wild ginger or heart leaf (Hexastylus spp.) and.

Little brown jug or heartleaf (Hexastylis arifolia) are semi-evergreen plants found hugging the ground of Piedmont forests. They are identified by their green heart-shaped leaves, mottled with silver between the leaf veins. Their furtive blooms, appearing in mid-March, resemble small brownish-red jugs, with a tripartite opening at the top. These tiny flowers, often concealed by leaf litter, are pollinated by ants, beetles and other Insecta of the forest floor.

In Bloom:
RED MAPLE (Acer rubrum)
WINDFLOWER (Anemonella thalictroides)
CUT-LEAF TOOTHWORT (Cardamine concatenate)
EASTERN SPRING-BEAUTY (Claytonia virginica)
EASTERN REDBUD (Cercis canadensis)
AMERICAN HAZELNUT (Corylus americana)
AMERICAN TROUT-LILY (Erythronium americanum)
ROUND-LOBE HEPATICA (Hepatica americana)
LITTLE BROWN JUG (Hexastylis arifolia)
LITTLE HEARTLEAF (Hexastylis minor)
QUAKER-LADIES (Houstonia caerulea)
HAIRY WOOD-RUSH (Luzula acuminata)
MAY APPLE (Podophyllum peltatum)
BLOODROOT (Sanguinaria canadensis)
GIANT CHICKWEED (Stellaria pubera)
RED TRILLIUM (Trillium cuneatum)
DOORYARD VIOLET (Viola sororia)