Thursday, February 18, 2016

Winter State of Mind

Frozen Thistle Leaves
And just like that, winter doesn't seem so bad. Last fall I joined a nature group (the "Nature Ramblers") and we had our first walk of the season today. It was chilly at 8:30am when we gathered and folks were dressed in winter coats and hats. But there was a giddy excitement in the air as we headed out as a group for the first time since November "seeking what we find" (the group motto). As we walked I realized that today was not unlike so many other sunny, chilly days this winter when I felt cold and unable to peel myself away from my warm house.  The difference was the sense of purpose and desire to learn and be with friends.  During the season, we meet every week, guided by wonderful leaders, knowledgable in botany, biology and anything else. There is so much to see and learn that I don't want to miss anything! With morning temperatures still in the 30's, many low growing leaves were wilted or covered with frost. Frozen Trillium sent out hopeful buds. We strolled along the shady garden path, spending time to learn about Witches' Broom, a growth on Hop Hornbeam trees caused by fungus, and the Medieval medicinal origins of some common plant names. Then we beelined to the prairie and found a few tufts of Frost Flowers that had not quite melted as the sun rose and warmed. And in the process kicked up the biggest Puffball Mushroom I've ever seen!

Wilted Trillium

Frosty Leaves

Frost Flower

Ginormous Puffball

Down in the lowlands we discovered great gobs of amphibian eggs, which we initially believed to be from salamanders. (Several days later one of the Ramble leaders identified the eggs as most likely coming from Southern Leopard Frogs.) Some had hatched and were immobilized by cold but moved a little when held in a warm (and brave) hand. On the other side of the ephemeral pond we found coils of toad eggs, probably from American Toads. Small hatchlings next to the curlicues waited patiently for the day to warm up.

Amphibian Eggs--Probably Southern Leopard Frogs

Warmed by a Hand

American Toad Eggs

Hepatica, Bloodroot and other early spring flowers brought excited shouts and we all gathered in for a closer look. Robins, bluebirds and nesting hawks provided the soundtrack. Bare trees reached up into brilliant blue skies.


Spotting the Hawk's Nest

Bare Trees, Blue Skies

Driving out of the Botanical Gardens I passed swaths of green Daffodil leaves, the first sunny blooms just beginning to pop out. They made me smile. Winter in Georgia is a state of mind.

Sunny Daffodil

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