With the daytime temperatures in the mid-70s, cooler evenings and the occasional shower or two, it appears that spring is finally upon us. Beautiful sunrises greet the morning skies, and the sunsets can be spectacular, with so much to see and do throughout the day. Additionally, since the last week in May and the first week in June is that “Magical Time of the Year” when the young of most species are brought into the world, these next few weeks will afford us the opportunity to witness the antics of many of these young birds and animals.
Just last Monday, I had the pleasure of coming across two different ruffed grouse families. The first emerged as a single chick running from the edge of the yard into the nearby cover of beech tree brush. As it scurried toward safety, a hen grouse appeared and fluffed up her feathers and fanned her tail to ward off any threats to her newly born chick. Later the same morning, I encountered a second family of grouse — this time it was along a logging road, and the hen was guarding 7 or 8 small chicks. It was difficult to get an accurate count as they all raced back and forth in the grass and weeds, then slowly ran toward their guardian who had eased off the road and into the adjacent weeds and mountain laurel. That afternoon, I watched a hen turkey with her poults feeding along the edge of a woodlot. Actually, I never saw the poults, but they were surely there by the way the hen was acting. She did not move around as they usually do when alone and feeding, but instead moved very slowly in a small area, watching the surroundings for any predators and occasionally would puff up her feathers and stretch out her wings to protect her young. Then, two days later, I saw her again. This time she was passing through a path that I had recently mowed, and it revealed her nine young poults as they scurried to catch up to her.
To the watchful eye, whitetail does, and their fawns are often seen, not just early morning and late evening, but any time throughout the day as the doe feeds to replenish her milk supply and the fawn nurses from time to time. So far, all of my sightings of new fawns have been single newborns, but twins are not uncommon, and triplets will happen on rare occasions.
But it is not just the newborn birds and animals that make this a special time of year, but the emergence of interesting flora as well. The wild leeks are beyond the stage where their delicate flavor is palatable, as they are now too strong to eat. Mayapples are nearing full size, numerous wild mushrooms adorn the forest floor, and some are beginning to pop out of the sides of decaying trees, while wildflowers of all kinds are beginning to open. Look closely, and you may find trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits and, later, Indian pipes.
If you are one who enjoys hiking nearby trails and logging roads, you will be seeing a spring tradition of the blooming of the mountain laurel that inhabits much of our county hillsides. Their pink and white blossoms will usually remain until mid-June or so. The mountain laurel is our official state flower and when in bloom can provide a very picturesque backdrop for portrait photographs.
Lycoming County and our adjoining counties are loaded with beautiful flora and fauna, and throughout the springtime, days will offer wonderful chances to observe, photograph and video some of these wonders of nature. Take advantage of the wonderful weather we are now experiencing by getting outside, going for a hike and seeing for yourself the charm that is unique to our area. Better yet, take a youth or the whole family on a hike and share with them your knowledge and love of the outdoors. You will create memories that will last a lifetime!