I have some photos and stories about plants ready to compose but I face a major distraction: birds. Lots of birds. Different kinds of birds. Birds I've not seen here before. So first I'm going to do a post on what's flying, singing, eating and nesting in the holler this spring.
Indigo buntings have shown up in the holler every year -- usually late March or April -- since I moved here twenty years ago. For several years, now, goldfinches from open fields farther down the holler have been coming to feed on Echinacea fruits. Last year I added bird feeders around my planter garden, and they have attracted quite a few more goldfinches.
I bought a digital SLR camera last year specifically to catch more bird images. Here are some early photo results for indigo buntings and American goldfinches:
Rose-breasted grosbeaks, a species I had never seen in the holler or anywhere else, showed up at my feeder on April 25th. First I saw a male and female. Since then, more have gotten brave enough to stop by -- as many as four females and three males so far. Here are some photos:
I see Tufted titmice and Carolina wrens year round. Both species build nests and raise chicks near my house every year. The wren couple has not been around much in the past week. They often come together in the evening and groom, eat and play around my planter garden. Once a new batch of wrens has fledged they usually come to play as well.
In addition to the birds I've managed to photograph this spring, I've seen others at a distance and heard many more voices in the woods around my house: cardinals, eastern phoebes, blue jays, crows, wood thrushes, hooded warblers, white-eyed vireos, common yellowthroats, yellow-throated warblers, and some others I'm still working to identify. I'm pretty sure that at least one pair of northern cardinals is nesting nearby. A male phoebe has been around since January 27th but I don't think he's found a partner yet. The first ruby-throated hummingbird of 2020 -- a female -- came to my window on April 30th, the earliest I've seen one, I think. She came several days in a row after that, but I haven't seen her since May 3rd.
I love to take porch breaks to see who's around and hear the tweet-storm du jour!
Peak color for most of the trees in the holler happened around the 25th of October. With windy storm fronts moving through during the first week of November, many of the leaves came down. RedMaple2, for example, lost all remaining leaves --95% or more-- early on November 6th in a thunderstorm strong enough to wake me and my pets up at 3am.
As of today -- except for the Amur honeysuckle, forsythia, multiflora rose and the beech tree farther down the holler -- all the forbs, shrubs and trees I observe have lost 95% or more of their leaves.
The holler had a couple of light frosts that shriveled leaves up and down the lane. Out in my planters, however, the chives, lavender, foxglove, and a few of the bee balms still look good. Time for one final chive and lavender harvest, I think.
So, in terms of phenology observations and reporting, I'm pretty much down to noting phenophase shifts for 3-4 plants and watching for birds and animals that will be around the rest of this fall and winter. The quieter times in the holler gave me some space to think about what's happened since my last post, and to write a little about how things went for some of the plant species this season.
I noticed tons of white avens (image above) in more places around the holler than I'd seen since I moved here. The same was true for orange coneflowers and common St. Johnswort (images below).
I hadn't seen much St. Johnswort the last 2-3 years. I'm still checking photos to decipher the species. On occasion I've observed Spotted St. Johnswort considered to be "rare" in terms of frequency in this part of Tennessee. If they come up in such perfusion next year, I need to get a better record of the tops and bottoms of the leaves, and clearer images of the flowers to help myself out on identification.
A new arrival to my eyes this far up the holler is one of the dayflowers. I've seen these down near Terry Creek for many years, but not up here. The blue color of this flower is striking, but it only flowers for one day. Maybe I've just missed them. For now I've decided this one is the non-native Asiatic dayflower:
Among the abundant populations around the house and the holler was Echinacea, leafy elephant's foot, orange jewelweed, and the smaller of the two purple aster species that grow here.
I try to mow around patches of Elephant's foot because it produces a thistle-like fruit that draws goldfinches, white-throated sparrows and other birds to the yard on cold, snowy days.
I observe two different jewelweed plants, both of which are in an area that receives less sunlight than when I began to track them. Compared to larger patches in a sunny area on the opposite side of the lane, the individuals I track did not produce as many buds, flowers or fruits this year.
A year or so ago the utility company did a massive clearing of trees and brush around the power lines that run along State Route 297 from Pioneer to Jellico. Since then, populations of small purple asters have flourished. This summer there were tons of them to inspire jaw-drops and wows from me every time I drove to town. I even had some up here in the holler, but I photographed these growing at the end of Terry Creek Lane just before it intersects with TN297:
Plants having lower numbers than usual throughout the summer and early fall included white wood asters, lobelia, and goldenrod.
For example, this is about as good as things got for the wood aster I track. Before it could produce any buds, the leaves got holes in them, turned gray-brown and disappeared:
On November 5th, however, I happened to catch activity of a relative just a few feet away, on the other side of the tree from WoodAster1:
The wood aster a few inches away from this flowering one already had mature fruit:
So many factors impact the lives of each individual forb, shrub or tree -- a good reason to track more than one plant of the same species.
Great blue lobelias were also missing in the holler this season. I love these plants. They are photogenic and often have an interesting mix of little bugs and pollinators crawling around on them (though this one didn't have any on the day I walked by):
Didn't see as much goldenrod this year, either, and most of what I saw -- at least around the holler -- was early goldenrod:
Some of the other plant stories of 2018 that I'd classify under "kind of weird": I didn't see as much heath aster in the holler, and the one I finally spotted was a volunteer in one of my planters. By the time this species starts to come up, they are already surrounded by a lot of other plants, making initial leaves hard to see. In fact I almost pulled initial leaves of this aster out because I thought it was a weed. As it continued to grow, I didn't really notice its distinctive narrow, pointed leaves because they blended in with the little snapdragons that were supposed to be the only residents of that planter. I didn't figure out I had a white heath aster in there until it made flowers:
I finally located the real HeathAster1 after it grew taller than the surrounding Echinaceas and the bright white flowers caught my eye. It did not produce a lot of leaves or flowers this year though. I wondered if it had to spend most of its energy reserves just to get up out of the Echinaceas.
And one final weirdness: the mapleleaf viburnams had a tough year for some reason. I track only one of this species, but new viburnams in its neighborhood have been increasing yearly since I began observing them, seeming to do very well. This year, the only one to get all the way to the flowering phenophase was the plant next to the one I track, and it never made fruits.
As the holler slides deeper into fall and winter, I'm thinking about future posts for the slower observation season. I have expanded my Phenology Album at Flickr. In my next post -- unless something unexpected emerges -- I decided to gather images of my Nature's Notebook observation area and its neighboring landscapes to share more of a "whole holler" background for blog posts on species I observe.
In my last post I talked a little about my new butterfly milkweed plant and its magnetic qualities. Once its flowers opened on June 3rd, I began to see butterflies on it. On June 5th, two great spangled fritillaries came to feed several times:
The next day I saw as many as four fritillaries and a crescent butterfly on it throughout the day. In the photo below are three fritillaries and the pearl crescent:
They are so focused on feeding that they remained at the flower even when my dog or cat walked by. I easily got a close up of this single fritillary:
The butterflies seem mesmerized by the milkweed, and I'm definitely mesmerized by the butterflies. Here a video of them:
Of course, where butterflies and other insects gather, there, too, may be dragonflies such as this pair of common whitetails. I see them hunting together almost every day:
Among the amphibian visitors to my planters are two skink species -- the eastern 5-lined skink and the broadheaded skink. Recently I got short video clips of each while I was recording activity of the butterflies and dragonflies:
Even with all of this happening, the story of life around my planter garden continued to unfold with the return -- exactly a month later -- of the Carolina wrens that fledged on May 6th. I'll share what the holler wrens are up to in my next post.
Out in the holler, trees are fully leafed out and most of the early spring flower species have pretty much finished their above-ground phases. Among the plants I observe for Nature's Notebook, I've turned my focus to Echinacea, jewelweed, wingstem, and hopes of catching initial growth phases of later summer species like the frost and wood asters.
Activity of winged creatures -- birds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees -- brings new amazements daily. After zero sightings of red admirals last year, I saw one (images above and below) the first week of June.
There are many butterfly species that I see infequently, for example, the hackberry emperor. Until last week, I had not seen another one since my memorable introduction to this species in June 2010, when one landed on my window sill and walked around for several minutes while I got plenty of great close-ups:
The one I saw last week stayed for a long time on a pile of garden soil, but I was not able to get closer than a long lean out of my study window with my video camera for this photo:
I could have rested in butterfly bliss with the return of the admiral and hackberry alone. Then along came an Appalachian brown, my first ever. Again, I managed to get a few distant images from my window. When I went outside to do some planter maintenance a little later, I saw it just a few inches from me. Not only did it stay put while I ran back inside to get my camera, it let me get right up in its face, so to speak, for 15 to 20 shots from different angles:
Just to make sure it was an Appalachian and not a Smoky brown, I submitted an ID request at BugGuide. You can view the entry and confirmation at my BugGuide user account.
I saw my first ebony jewelwing of the year on May 29th -- too far away for a photo. They are one of the most strikingly beautiful winged creatures that live in the holler.
I'm still seeing toads around. I almost dropped a new tarp for my brush mower in this one's head. If it was sitting there when I approached the car, it's a wonder I didn't step on it:
This toad sighting was of interest because I'm pretty sure now that I'm seeing at least two different toads. American toads' skin can be brown, red, olive or gray. To complicate identification, air temperature, humidity and stress can cause color shifts. Fowler's toads come in shades of gray or brown to brick red.
I have taken this into account as I've collected and recorded toad sightings. It's also why I treasure any photos I can get to look for more reliable differentiations. The one above is lighter in color and slightly smaller, but had the space between the cranial crests and the parotoid glands.
I had a surprise encounter with a darker toad on June 5th when I went out to re-pot a new foxglove plant. I'm not sure if it was a Fowler's or American toad -- no photo to study later. I was happily shoveling dirt around the plant when the toad suddenly popped into view near my hand. I have no clue where it came from, unless it had been sitting within the dense leafage of the foxglove before I pulled the plant from its plastic nursery pot.
I'm still doing some upgrades around my planter garden. In addition to the foxglove, I found a butterfly milkweed at Stanley's Greenhouse -- my go-to nursery for annuals and perennials -- that already had buds atop very sturdy looking stems, and brought it home to the holler. I've tried to grow this species for the last few years, but I'm doing something they don't like, I think -- new plants have come up every spring, but they're skinny, budless, and only one or two have made it through to the fall. At this point, I'm guessing the problem is that the soil and planters I've put them in don't drain or dry out very well. Also, I am pretty deep in the woods here. Plants that need full sun occasionally require that I move the pots around as the sun shifts across the seasons. Or maybe I need to buy plants that are more mature to begin with.
The first flowers opened on June 3rd. People are not kidding when they say these milkweeds are butterfly magnets. That's my next post.
I've been listening in to the holler for 18 years, now, and there are a few sounds I can't identify even though I've heard them many times. This past week, however, I heard some new ones. I also happened to see some toads and, in trying to verify their identity, got a clue to the "waaaaa!" being sung just beyond my planters, near the edge of the woods.
I believe all of the sightings have been of American toads. I managed to get the photo above on the occasion of the third sighting. Based on the presence of a space (albeit small on this individual) between the cranial crest and the parotoid glands, I decided they were all Anaxyrus americanus.
The toad call I was hearing, however, was closer to that of Anaxyrus fowleri -- Fowler's toad -- another species I've seen around my planters. Fowler's toads typically make shorter, raspier calls (1-4 seconds) compared to the longer, clearer call of American toads (4-20 seconds). It's also possible that I was hearing both, especially before I heard recordings of each one. I was hearing these calls several times a day over a 5 to 6 day period.
Whoever they are, I'm glad they're around, and I'll welcome as many more as want to be here.
The other froggie sound to erupt in the holler this week was that of Lithobates catesbeianus, the American bullfrog. No questions about that one! Very early this morning I heard overlapping bullfrog calls at the upper pond in my Nature's Notebook observation area.
One more amphibian note: I saw my first Southern red-backed salamander -- maybe two weeks ago, by now. Seeing such an amazing variety of creatures makes my efforts to maintain a planter garden worthwhile.
Cutleaf toothwort-1 reached the ripe fruit phenophase around the 10th of May. In the photo above, this plant still has some fruits, but some of the pods have opened and dropped seeds. This is the first time I've gotten a photo of ripe fruits for this species.
The oxeye daisies have flowered in the past week or so, replacing the lyre-leaved sage and fleabanes around my yard that are well into their ripe fruit and seed drop phases:
I noticed this morning that a few orange day lilies have flowered. On trips to town this week I saw quite a few evening primroses and Indian pinks.
In terms of what's flying in the holler, I caught up with one of the crescent butterflies that have been around for awhile. The one below is likely a pearl crescent, but I took the photo so I could study it, because the color seemed a little different. I haven't decided for sure if this is a pearl or northern crescent -- I didn't get a wings-folded image, which would have helped differentiate them. Other butterflies I've seen since my last post include red-spotted purples, spicebush and zebra swallowtails, and a great-spangled fritillary that I've seen almost every day since May 10th around my new planter arrangements.
Whitetail dragonflies are among the damsels and dragons populating the holler now. Almost everyday last week, I observed a male and female whitetail hunting around my planters, in addition to several others congregating in a wet area farther down my lane. I think I saw one of the large petal-tail species yesterday and, a few days ago, a large greenish dragonfly that I could not identify.
Returning birds' songs over the past week or so include the wood thrush and common yellow-throated warbler. I got my annual planter flowers installed just in time to welcome a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds that I hope will nest again in the lespedeza and orange jewelweed tangles in the Hudson Branch floodplain.
Coming back from town last Friday, I came upon a wild turkey trotting up the lane ahead of me. I haven't seen one that close to the house in awhile. One of my neighbors said he saw a hen and 8-9 chicks heading into the tall grass of one of their fields just a few hours before I saw the single turkey further up the holler.
It's still a very busy time of year up here as we transition from spring into early summer.
Just before noon today, I went out to get some photos for this post and, just by chance, caught the fledging of four Carolina wrens! I thought they had already gone because I hadn't seen parents taking food to the nest for awhile, thus I'd planned to weed-eat around the patio today so I could get on with my 2018 planter projects. As I came to the edge of the porch, I startled the mother wren (she had a bug in her beak) and she went into hiding near the planters. I decided to delay the weed-eating until I figured out where this wren family was in their process.
A few minutes later I saw both parents near the nest with food, but staying just out of reach of the chicks. I noticed one chick had already flown to a ledge above my house's rock foundation, and at least three others were visible at the edge of the nest:
Soon, two more of the chicks flew down to join the first one:
One by one they flew off toward a brush pile -- I could hear the adult male singing from that direction. The one in the image below was the last of these three to fly off:
When the mother wren came back to the nest, the last chick came out a little further, crouched low, then fluttered down to the ledge. I got a somewhat blurry photo of the exit before my camera battery dropped out of warp:
As I write this post, wren calls and songs still fill the air space beyond my window. I might weed-eat later, but for now it feels good just to write this post and enjoy what I've seen today.
So, around the corner from all the sweet wren babies, the sweet bubbies -- aka Carolina allspice, Spicebush, Sweet Betsy, Sweet shrub, and Sweetshrub -- are out:
Calycanthus floridus buds on May 6, 2018. [Photo: Cathie Bird]
These bushes attract a number of butterfly and other insect species. Over the years I've gotten quite a few pictures of bubby bush visitors whose vibrant colors are easy to capture against the large green leaves and dark flowers.
I was really surprised to look out into a very rainy holler yesterday and see that my Siberian iris is flowering. It's been four or five years since they last bloomed. I blame weird spring weather for this flower drought.
Another reason I delayed firing up my weed-eater this week is that so many flowers that bees and butterflies use have been in the line of fire. In the last two days, however, both white and red clovers have bloomed in all parts of the yard, so I feel like I can at least whack a path around the patio and to my car without taking too much of their food out of production.
I could swear that all of this lyreleaf sage popped up overnight. I noticed a few plants blooming along the lane this week but today when I looked out my study window, the yard was pale purple:
I usually hold off any major mowing until these plants finish their flowering cycle. Bees and butterflies seem to like them, so I tolerate a few pathways around the house being knee high in vegetation until more nectar species are available.
The first Amur honeysuckle flowers opened on April 26th. I finally remembered to get a photo for HollerPhenology:
Yesterday I made my annual run to my favorite Knoxville nursery to get plants for my patio garden. I didn't have a chance to get any planted today because of the wren and weed-eating delays, but bees and butterflies have already found them in their temporary pots. I saw my first spicebush swallowtail of 2018 checking out the lyreleaf sage and all of the new plants, and several carpenter bees have visited them, though much of their activity today has involved courtship and turf wars. I saw a couple of bumble bees on the clovers, too.
An amazing new bird week started the day after my last post. On Monday, the 23rd of April, within a space of 2-3 minutes, I saw all of these birds right outside my study window (and not near the new bird feeder that no one has discovered yet!): a pair of tufted titmice, blue-gray gnatcatcher, male indigo bunting, two white-eyed vireos, a brown thrasher, cardinal, blue-headed vireo, male yellow-throated warbler, and an American redstart -- the first one of its species I have ever seen.
But it didn't stop there. On the 24th, I noticed a female Carolina wren catching food and flying toward a nest under my satellite dish. Over the next couple of days I saw both parents bringing food to the nest with greater frequency.
During my holler walk on April 27th, I heard the first wood thrush of the season, and, on the 28th, the song of a common yellow-throated warbler.
Wren feeding nestlings on April 28, 2018. [Video: Cathie Bird]
I'm now into day 5 of the wren nest watch. After getting my video camera charged up for the occasion, I caught one of the parents -- the mom, I think -- bringing more food to the nest.
Yesterday while I was watching the wrens, I saw another holler neighbor crawling up my porch steps while my cat, Buddy, looked on:
Once it crawled out of sight, I decided I should monitor its progress, first, to make sure it didn't turn back toward the wren nest, and, second, to make sure it didn't try to go through the pet door.
Up on the porch, I got the next two photos of the snake, and of the snake approaching my dog, Shadow, who came close to sniff but otherwise took alternate routes to his favorite porch spots:
Very slowly the snake kept moving across the porch, occasionally winding its way up the hemlock sticks then back down to the rails. When I was sure it intended to keep heading north, I went back to wren watching.
Plenty of new things happened with trees and flowering plants as well this past week. The other American beech I observe for Nature's Notebook leafed out, and the Amur honeysuckle now has flowers.
Dogwood-3 has flowers, too:
After a rough growing season last year, Cutleaf Toothwort-1 has safely arrived at its fruit production stage. This is the first year I've seen its fruits develop this far. I hope to catch their ripening and seed drop in days to come:
Finally, here's a dwarf crested iris in bloom -- not too many out yet:
Such an exciting week in the holler, and it's only the end of April!
I watched Today Show coverage of the very first Earth Day in 1970 from a motel room in Denver, Colorado. I remember it well. I had just graduated from Michigan State, just gotten married, and wasn't sure what I'd be doing next. The room served as temporary housing for us while we waited to hear what my husband's next field assignment with the Federal Highway Administration would be.
I had spent the previous few years studying environmental interpretation, hoping to work as a naturalist, or maybe write about nature and the ecological systems of planet Earth. It blew my mind to see so many people celebrating that day -- in retrospect, the demands of completing undergraduate education had drawn my attention into a much smaller geographic area than the world I studied.
Now, 48 years later, as I enter the final decade or two of my life on the planet, I celebrate this Earth Day writing a post at HollerPhenology.
American beech (Fagus grandifolia) on April 22, 2018. [Photo: Cathie Bird]
I thought Beech-1 would leaf out sooner than it did. It was not until yesterday morning that I saw a few buds that looked like the image above. Today, more buds are breaking, and many others already have little leaves hanging down:
This particular beech is a very mature one. You can see its huge trunk behind the leaves in the image above. As I recall, this tree produced nuts last year, so it will be just the leaves I'm watching for phenophase shifts this season.
Dogwood (Cornus florida) on April 18, 2018. [Photo: Cathie Bird]
A few days after my last post, Dogwood-3 (above) started its flowering cycle. Today it has quite a few buds as well as some leaves starting to emerge.
I can't get real close to white oak-1's buds, however, a view through binoculars and a telescoping camera lens both show what looks like buds breaking:
I have never seen flowers or nuts on this tree, but it's surrounded by other oaks that bomb my roof and driveway with acorns every fall. Then, it's kind of like trying to walk on ball-bearings out there. This year I have a bunch of baby oaks sprouting in my planters (thanks to squirrels and their kin), and around the yard:
Looking out across the holler's landscape and beyond this week, I can see that the pale spring greens, reds, golds and purples create more of a continuous coloration of hillsides.
On April 20th, in the planters, I spotted this butterfly milkweed (photo above) coming out.
A few fleabanes have planted themselves in my planters as well. I usually let them do their thing, since they will have finished flowering before I need to plant anything else in their spot. Their flower colors range from white to pink to purple, adding some nice color in the yard before I dare plant the more cold-sensitive garden species. The fleabane below is over in the Echinacea patch, so it's in a safe zone:
I think this is probably a common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus), but I'm still in the process of learning to differentiate the fleabane species that grow here. I had been calling flowers like this daisy fleabanes, but I think it has too many of the white rays to be Erigeron anuus. Now I need to take a closer look at the leaf structures to figure this out.
Wild geraniums are flowering up and down the holler. I look forward to these every year. I took the image above from a slightly different angle than usual, giving a bit of a profile to the pistil and stamens rather than viewing them head on. Bees and butterflies seem to like this species, too.
Near my house there is a large area with lots of dwarf cinquefoil (above) this week. And just to compare the difference, here's an Indian strawberry growing a couple of feet away from the cinquefoil:
Earlier in the week I found violet wood sorrel leaves near some of the other plants I observe. Here's a little colony of them:
I finally got a photo this week of what I think is a "sweet betsy" trillium. It's on a steep hillside with tricky footing, otherwise I would have tried to get closer to see all of its parts better. According to my look-here-first guide for southern Appalachian wildflowers, the Sweet Betsy and Yellow trillium form 'hybrid swarms' in Tennessee. Sweet Betsy is more prevalent until you get to the west flank of the Smoky Mountains, the authors say, where it's replaced by yellow trillium.
Just a few notes on birds before I finish up: I saw a male hooded warbler and great blue heron in the holler this week. I had been hearing the hooded warbler for a couple of days, and it sounds likely that I'll have a nesting pair of them near the house again this season. Other bird voices common in the holler this week were titmice, white-eyed vireos and blue-headed vireos.
I bent down to pull some vegetation away from the edge of my planters a couple of days ago and found this skink sunning itself. I think this one is a broad-headed skink, not the eastern five-lined species I observe for Nature's Notebook:
All in all, a great Earth Day week out in Frog Pond Hollow.
I love that it's raining in the holler today, 4" since yesterday afternoon. First, we needed some; second, I'm content to be huddled indoors with a cup of coffee, my dog and my cat, blogging instead of roaming the holler looking for stuff.
The major flower story in the greater holler neighborhood this week has to be the trillium. Both Southern red and large-flowered trillium (pictured above and below, respectively) have drawn my attention, more so than the yellows (T. luteum) that blend in with the general greenness of early spring. I think there are a few "sweet betsies" (T. cuneatum) around as well, but since their maroon buds have opened, the group I found shows the yellow and green flower form and not the maroon, and they are difficult to differentiate from the yellow trillium around them.
I may take the back road through the Royal Blue wildlife management area on my next trip to town. I have seen more of the bronze and maroon sweet betsies at the lower end of Old 63 near Jacksboro.
On Friday the 13th, I found some amazing broadleaf toothworts with lots of flowers open. The one below is in a group of 4-5 plants that are quite tall now and looking very sturdy, even after some challenging freezes this week. What drew me to this group was a West Virginia white butterfly sipping at the flowers. I came very close to getting a picture of this butterfly on a species that is a preferred food source for the West Virgina whites in their caterpillar phenophase, but it was flitting around too much to catch a good image.
Very often I start seeing sharp-lobed hepatica about the same time rue anemone comes out. So far, the leaf below is one of the only one's I've seen this season.
Small but conspicuous white flowers of the wood anemone have appeared in the holler this week, many of them growing near other species I routinely observe at Nature's Notebook. I found this one near buckeye-1:
I took its photo because the flower is larger than many I've seen for this species, perhaps because of the rich soil and somewhat protected space it occupies along the banks of Hudson Branch. On my holler walks, I often take several minutes in the space around buckeye-1 just to look around and notice what else is there. The diversity of species in that relatively small area never fails to amaze me.
The Robin's plantains are peaking along the drier stretches of Terry Creek Lane. The flowers of this species open at the end of a hairy stem, often several inches above its (also hairy) basal leaves. The plant spreads with runners, which is why I often find them in small colonies along the road. A relative of Robin's plantain, the common fleabane, is ubiquitous around my yard, and just starting to flower this week.
With more species making their spring appearance, I find intriguing groups of multiple species such as the row of rue anemone, early buttercup and mountain stonecrop above. I love to look for new combinations of plant neighbors on my holler walks.
As the forsythia, Amur honeysuckle and multiflora rose leaves approach full size, the red maples, dogwoods and hop hornbeam are just getting started. The apple and flowering crabapples have a full load of open flowers this week. I think one of the American beech trees I observe will move into the breaking-leaf-bud phenophase within the next 1-3 days.
This week I can report that carpenter bees, honey bees and other pollinators are present around the house and, especially, the apple and crabapple blossoms.
Early yesterday morning, I drove to Knoxville with the windows down. From my end of the holler all the way to the interstate I heard black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice calling out and being answered by others of their own species. When I got back to the holler that afternoon, I saw my first fox sparrow in awhile, and even caught a little bit of it in a photo. During the week, I heard titmouse, chickadee, white-eyed vireo, blue-headed vireo and Carolina wren songs several times a day.
The most amazing and lucky day for two blue jays happened on Friday the 13th, when a red-shouldered hawk came swooping down at them. The jays crowded in toward the trunk of a huge hemlock and managed to avoid persistent attempts by the hawk to get at them. The tangle of branches and needles prevented the hawk, with its larger wingspan, from getting close enough to catch the jays.
A neighbor shared a fun link to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency's live elk cam on Hatfield Knob in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area. I saw elk several times when I checked the webpage, and even observed some courtship behavior during one viewing.
And the rain continues: 4.5 inches in the rain gauge now.