Monday, May 12, 2014

Spring Spectacular

My favorite azalea at the Jenkins Arboretum
What a great spring weekend!  I accompanied the dedicated group of birders that frequents my preserve for their annual Spring Bird Count on Saturday morning.  We were out in the field for 4-1/2 hours, during which time we tallied 65 species (and I got a bit of a sunburn when the sun came out from behind the clouds during the last two hours).  Included in the list were 13 species of warblers; they were the main reason that I went on the bird walk because the warblers are only here for a few days each spring and fall during migration, and I get "rusty" on my identification skills.  The birders all proclaimed this year to be one of the best years for spotting warblers in decades.

Actually, the great "weekend" began one day earlier.  As I was scooping birdseed from my storage can in preparation for filling my feeder early on Friday morning, I heard a terrific "thwump" on the window behind me and knew instantly from that sickening sound that a bird had flown into the window.  I thought it was probably one of the Blue Jays that had been at the feeder a minute earlier fleeing from a hawk. But no, it was an Ovenbird, an aberrant warbler that looks like a tiny thrush.  Fortunately, the bird was just stunned (and not killed) from the impact, which allowed me to gently lift it off the ground and give it a good inspection - including the orange cap that is almost never visible in the field.  I placed the bird back on the ground and 15 minutes later, when I went outside again, it flew off.
Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) Image courtesy of Audubon
On Sunday (Mother's Day), Kali and I invited our friend Greta to join us on a visit to the Jenkins Arboretum, a 20-acre gem embedded in the Philadelphia suburbs.  Formerly a private estate, Jenkins is now a public garden featuring a native woodland planted extensively with azaleas and rhododendrons.  We chose Mother's Day because the azaleas were at their floriferous peak, and the native woodland wildflowers cultivated throughout the gardens were also at their best.  In two weeks, the whole spring "show" will be over.
Azalea and Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
I liked the contrast of the delicate  young maidenhair ferns over the strap-like trout-lily leaves
Along a path
Trillium grandiflorum (Large-flowered Trillium)
I am so jealous of Jenkins.  We saw only one miniscule stand of garlic-mustard (Alliaria petiolata) that the gardeners had missed in their quest to rid the garden of non-native invasive plants, and the entire property is surrounded by deer fencing.  So, Jenkins can support luscious population of several species of trilliums about which I can only dream (because trilliums are "deer candy").
Pinxter-bloom azalea
Our stroll ended along a path winding through a dense planting of native azaleas (Rhododendron periclymenoides).  These sweet-smelling azaleas have the common name of pinxter-bloom or election pink (because of the color of their flowers and the time of year in which they bloom).
I liked the contrast between the dark, coarse bark and the delicate pink flowers


packrat said...

Beautiful, Scott. I like the Pinxterbloom azalea a lot. And that Ovenbird is quite remarkable. Did you take it inside while you got your camera, setting it on that branch later for a perfect shot?


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Some beautiful blooms. Amazing what comes up when deer are excluded from an area; my local reserve have fenced off small plots of just a few square metres which rapidly show a completely different character to the rest of the reserve.

Mark P said...

We don't have any azaleas with that kind of orange flowers. I wonder if our native azaleas are the same as yours. The flowers certainly look similar.

Scott said...

I really like the pinxterbloom azalea a lot, too, Packrat. In fact, I noticed a few blooming in a private woodland right alongside a road near my preserve last evening. I was so shocked that the deer hadn't gotten to them.

I often regret that I don't take out my camera to capture some images soon after they happen (like this recent Ovenbird window collision and the Red-shouldered Hawk that crashed through our enclosed porch window over the winter--that window's still not fixed, by the way---but I'm so caught up in the moment that it's not until afterwards that I think about it.

Scott said...

John: I had no idea that folks in Britain had to deal with similar depredation situations. Of course, I know that in many locations sheep are a problem, but I didn't realize deer were a problem as well except in places like Scotland that are a little wilder and less populated.

We have some exclosures in my preserve, but they are in very shady locations and most are so infested with aggressive invasive plants that we don't notice a big contrast between inside and outside the exclosures.

Scott said...

Mark: The orange azalea is certainly not native--I'm sure it's a cultivar of a Korean or a Chinese species. But I still think it's lovely. All of the plants in the garden are meticulously labeled and cataloged; next time I visit, I should make note of the name of the azalea.

I don't know the full range of the pinxter-bloom azalea. It very well may extend as far south as your woods.

robin andrea said...

Looks like a beautiful place for a walk. Love seeing that ovenbird.

Scott said...

Jenkins Arboretum IS a beautiful place to walk, Robin Andrea. I said to Kali today (Sunday, May 18), that we were so lucky with our timing last week because so many of the azaleas here are already losing their blossoms, and I'm sure they are at Jenkins as well.