Sunday, March 21, 2010

Signs of Spring

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

The calendar declares spring is officially here. Even though there are not many signs yet, we’ve been feeling it coming for several weeks. Warmer temperatures made everyone want to get outside after the long winter. And even though we awoke to snow covered grass yesterday, it melted quickly and reminded us that this is Wisconsin and the weather changes rapidly. Spring means new and green and that part can’t get here soon enough.

Not Yet Sign, Wright County, Iowa

Spring bulbs are starting to poke tender shoots out of the ground. The crocuses are flowering and the clusters of early daffodils are starting to bud out.

Spring Daffodil, Richland County, Wisconsin

Every day on the way to work, I check the pussy willow tree in the marsh for signs of its fuzzy buds. This week they were coming on strong, and next week the whole tree will be covered with them. And as I drive past the marsh each morning and evening, I scan the hay field for the pair of cranes that return each year to nest.

Sandhill Crane, Columbia County, Wisconsin

Early wildflowers can be found in the woods, but you have to look closely. Most of these early flowers are tiny, and they hide among the leaf litter. After our long winter, they are a welcome sight.

Rue Anemone, Sauk County, Wisconsin

Many birds that migrated are returning and you see robins hopping about on the grass and early returning bluebirds checking out nesting boxes.

Bluebird Feeding Young, Sauk County, Wisconsin

I just know the colors of spring are coming and yet it seems like it moves too slowly. The temperature rises and then abruptly falls only to return to higher temps in a few days. As these temperatures fluctuate, we wait in anticipation for the color to burst forth.

Almost Sign, Wright County, Iowa

Then the understory in the woods starts to green up and you can find many more wildflowers. If you’re lucky, you can find Jack-in-the-Pulpit. This wildflower takes 3 years from seed to its first flower.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Dane County, Wisconsin

As the trees in the woods begin to bud out, you can find carpets of wildflowers beneath them. Many woods have carpets of white trillium, Virginia bluebells or violets.

Great White Trillium, Dane County, Wisconsin

For the last few years, Joann and I have planned a spring photography trip to capture the magic in other parts of the country. Often we head south. We leave Wisconsin before all of the spring color has arrived and as we drive south on the first day, we pass from bare trees to the light green of spring.

Mail Pouch Barn and Redbud Tree, Lawrence County, Indiana

In those years when the route takes us through southern Indiana, we pass many redbud trees interspersed with the light green of other deciduous trees. The buds cover the branches and the woods are dotted with the bright pink of these early spring flowering trees.

Sheeks House at Spring Mill State Park, Lawrence County, Indiana

If you head far enough south, you can find dogwood trees mingled in with the redbud trees. Native dogwood trees are white, but you can find non-native pink flowering dogwood as well. A town we visited in Kentucky in 2006 gives away dogwood trees each year for its residents to plant. What a beautiful town that was!

Pink Dogwood, Oldham County, Kentucky

After we’ve worn ourselves out with a spring photography trip of long days, we return home to Wisconsin to find spring has finally arrived in the trees and flower beds at home.

Tulips and Dogwood, Clark County, Illinois

Then we can’t wait to hit the road in Wisconsin to take in more spring sights. We often head to the west to our favorite rolling countryside.

Spring Road Scene, Vernon County, Wisconsin

If our timing is right, we might find that the apple trees are heavy with blossoms. And we find apple trees along many of the back roads we drive.

Apple Blossoms, Richland County, Wisconsin

We also have a secret corner with a whole line of lilac bushes. You just have to stop and smell a lilac bush, don’t you?

Lilacs, Lampost, and Stone, Iowa County, Wisconsin

Enjoy the anticipation of spring color in all its glory. It is always worth the wait!

Happy Shunpiking!

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