Hopeful Starts


It is only the last day of February, but in this unusual “false spring” there have been many surprises. From my studio window I can see that my neighbor’s plum tree is in bloom, and down the street the stellar magnolia (Magnolia stellata), so susceptible to frost, is covered with floating white stars. The daffodils on the south side of the house are blooming earlier than I’ve known in all my years here. I may be a bit apprehensive about the effect on plants of all this early sun and warmth, but I’ve also taken advantage of it to be outside with my camera. On a hike through my favorite local woods at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, I encountered an event I have never before witnessed. As I neared a small pond, I heard a strange chorus of croaks that sounded like a lively conversation of crows. I kept looking up into the trees and practically missed the action at my feet—water teeming with skinny wood frogs, sunning themselves and singing. They must have just emerged from hibernation, because there were dozens moving slowly among the sticks and debris on the pond’s surface. The sound was an odd combination of clucks and croaks, nothing like the hoarse, throaty summer call of a bull frog or the rhythmic chirps of spring peepers. I stood for a long time listening and photographing. The frogs seemed too happy to bother about me, and I later learned from one of the staff that these frogs were busy mating. Wood frogs, as there name implies, don't usually hang out in the pond, but they're the first of the frogs to take advantage of water to lay their eggs. As far as they're concerned, spring is here!