18 August 2009

Belated Arrival of Spring: Birds, Fish and Flowers - Leaves from the Notebook of an Old Nature Student

By Sandy Griswold.

That the flicker and the red-headed woodpecker did not put in an appearance in this immediate region until the past 10 days is proof enough of the belated dominance of spring.

While there were a few yellow-hammers seen at diverse near points as early as April 10, undoubtedly birds that had passed the winter in some protected nook of deep woods or tangly creek valley, there were no red-heads reported prior to May 1, and even just not they have not arrived in their normal numbers.

The oriole and wren are also laggard, the first of the orioles were noted in the early part of last week and but few wrens have been seen or heard at any time previous to the close of the month of showers, which consisted this spring of snow, instead of gentle rain, and these facts all go to prove that the individual who has postponed his bassing trip is, in the picturesque argot of the day, a wise gasaboo.

While we have been granted with precious little of the legendary gladsome springtime and sweet old summer hereabouts this year, there remains no longer any doubt but what we are going to have plenty of the kind of weather the optimistic fisherman dreams of an longs for from this time on to the sweltering dog days, and thence into autumn's golden reign. The right feel has at least crept into the air, the birds are about all here, even unto the shyest of the warblers, and in safety you can now get out the old fish-box and set your faces toward the wide open spaces.

Almost uninterruptedly, up to date, the spring has been little less than one long siege of wintry conditions, with brief interruptions of promise, but hardly a day of good old-fashioned angling weather.

Happily, however, the dawn of a change is here - things meteorological are properly shaping themselves and the coming weeks will, without much chance of failure, be prolific of happiness for the basser, the bird and flower lover.

But speaking of the proper season for fishing, while as I have, probably for the thousandth time, told you in these columns, the early springtime, in normal season, is the best period in the whole twelvemonth, for catching fish, of course, these conditions do not obtain when the sun is slowly climbing high in the heavens, and pelting hail and rain delay vegetation and roil streams and lakes, and the sport is meager indeed, and now days in most states unlawful. Such a season we have just gone through, but now that the atmosphere has assumed the proper fervor in these early summer days, they are certainly preeminently adapted to the wants and whims of the angler and the student of our flora and fauna. We are having now the weather that we should have had one month ago, and now is certainly the clover days for both bass and trout catcher, wherever it is permissible.

Leafy and odorous have the days at least become, and we can well afford to forget the disappointment that came to us in the true vernal season. Woods and fields and waters are now life-giving and animated with the countless insect forms that should have arrived with the first sultry days of April and will be multiplied and intensified long through June and July. But there is little to be gained in comment or regret, the weather is here at last, so be wise and enjoy it. You can catch bass in Nebraska, absurd as the fact is, at any time that suits you best.

This year, anyway, as I intimated above, these late May days are proving the real days for not only the angler, but the lover of wild flowers and the birds, too.

In this connection, let me say, that nowhere in this broad land of ours is a more inviting field offered the student of our woods and waters, hills and streams than right here in Nebraska. The woods, particularly, at this late date, are at their most charming state, and the fields at last redundant with beauty. During the latter days of April the first flowers of the sweet vernal season, in normal seasons, open their bright faces on an awakening world, but in May they appear, as if by the wand of necromancer, in their richest profusion. The birds, too, are all here usually, at that time, but were unwontedly delayed this spring by unfavorable conditions, as noted above, but all are on hand now, from the rhythmic catbird and the flirtatious chewink to the gaudy oriole, and in their gay finery vie with the inflorescence of tree, vine, and bush.

Within the chlaro-obscuro of the river road woods the delicate flame of the wake-robin, in purple and white, is now to be seen everywhere lighting the way. These lovely blossoms are of the Trillium family, and are partial to the dark crypts under the shade of elm, linden, or maple. The wake-robin is far more pleasing to the eye than it is to the nostril, for while it is a lovely flower, with its white or purple petals standing out from a background of he deepest emerald, its dull yellow pollen emits and odor anything but delicate or delightful.

In some few favored but well hidden dells, the Hepatica, which also came late, still shows its maiden blushes, but this is a rare flower with us, indeed, and but few would know it should they be fortunate enough to discover it. In old-fashioned language, this tiny flower is the squirrel cup, from belief of primitive people that from these little white and cerulean bells, bunny, in the golden morning, sips the nectar that appeases his thirst. The squirrel cup is a moss, distinguished only from the mosses by having a fourleafed capsule. With all the anemones, it is a ranunculaceous plant; some are flowering, others not, like those of the polymorpha species, which have an irregular lobed, spreading and forked frond. In April it is usually to be found crawling over the surface rocks, anywhere along the river road woods, although there are some botanists who thin I have confounded this plant with some other class. I have not. It includes in its varieties many medicinal plants, the crowfoot, buttercups and others. A cultivated relative has double flowers of various colors.

Along the gulch north of where the Big Spring used to gush so bounteously, but has gone forever, on the resplendent old river trail, is to be found the Green Dragon, and its cousin, the Jack-in-the-pulpit, with their ecstatic bizarre of blossoms, highly colored in purple and sea-green, which, in the hazy fall time, are succeeded by deep scarlet berries. Here, too, are the violets, both light and deep azure, and yellow, too, in intoxicating abundance. So seize your book, and get thee hence - this delightful epoch will be found all too short, and you will miss an opportunity you will never know again.

May 20, 1928. Sunday World-Herald 63(34): 5-B. Leaves From the Notebook of an Old Nature Student.

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