Spring has truly sprung!

Pine tree flower. Photo by ©Maria de Bruyn.


By Maria de Bruyn

Like last year, spring plants have been leafing out earlier than usual in eastern and central North Carolina. Earlier springs mean plants have longer to grow and produce more pollen. While yellow dust covering everything outdoors is a bit irritating for me, it unfortunately does make springtime much less enjoyable for people suffering from pollen allergies. Nevertheless, this is one of my favorite times of the year.

Top left: native holly; top right: redbud. Bottom left: trout lily. Bottom middle: spring beauty; bottom right: red dead nettle. All photos by ©Maria de Bruyn.

Spring flowers blooming in my yard and in the natural areas where I walk have been wonderful to see. Western honey bees have been enjoying the tiny flowers on my native holly bushes. Eastern carpenter bees visit the pink redbuds for nourishment, while trout lilies, spring beauties and red dead nettles make the ground colorful and attract bees, flies, butterflies and other insects.

Top left: male downy woodpecker probing seed with his tongue. Top right: Carolina chickadee balancing while eating seeds. Bottom left and right: Eastern gray squirrels eating tree blossoms. All photos by ©Maria de Bruyn.

Animals other than insects are also happy with the blooming trees. Downy woodpeckers and Carolina chickadees enjoy eating seeds as well as the small bugs they find in blossoms. Eastern gray squirrels have been eating flowers from many different budding trees.

Top left: beaver pair sunning in the late afternoon. Top right: chipping sparrow showing dark under feathers. Bottom left: pine warbler showing dark under feathers. Bottom right: Carolina wren showing dark under feathers while grooming. All photos by ©Maria de Bruyn.

The abundance of rain we’ve had has made the beavers happy. It was a real surprise for me to see a pair taking the sun one afternoon close to their lodge and even more surprising that they didn’t immediately jump into the water when they spotted me.

The birds may be a bit less enthralled with our frequent rains. They do like taking baths, which helps keep their feathers in good condition but when they are soaked for hours, their feathers get disheveled. You may see their dark insulating feathers that are usually hidden by the top feathers that show their usual colors.

Top left: downy woodpeckers mating. Top right: male bluebird courting female. Bottom left and right: downy woodpecker challenging red-bellied woodpecker for nesting site. All photos by ©Maria de Bruyn.

Breeding season has also begun. Downy woodpeckers were mating during one of my walks, while a few days later a male Eastern bluebird was courting his mate with tasty tidbits. Some disputes are also taking place regarding desirable nesting cavities. One brave little downy could be seen challenging a larger red-bellied woodpecker for a potential nest site for quite a long time.

In the coming month, the yearly avian spring migration will be well underway. Our summer and fall residents such as gray catbirds, ruby-throated hummingbirds and house wrens will arrive. Birds such as the winter wrens, yellow-rumped warblers and hermit thrushes will head toward their breeding territories.

My hope for you is that you get to see some interesting and charming animal behaviors as the spring season progresses. The anole lizards will be out and about, Eastern chipmunks will be more visible, and you may get to see groundhogs trundling about. If you see something interesting, please consider leaving a comment to this column to share your sighting with other readers.

Maria de Bruyn participates in nature-oriented citizen science projects, volunteers for the Orange County Senior Center and for projects removing invasive vegetation and planting native plants. Her photos are posted on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/bruynmariade/) and in blogs at https://mybeautifulworldblog.com.

This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocalReporter.press

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