03-21-15 Field Note

Beau Larkin recently explored MPG North on a grey, rainy day. Water ponded everywhere, white pines showed signs of frostbite, and willow buds remained closed. These signs belie the closeness of spring. Foraging bluebirds remind us that green-up is just around the corner.

Posted on 3/21/2015 by Beau Larkin

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Hawthorn plot 1 lies inundated after collecting valley snowmelt and rain. The mat under these shrubs still keeps the reed canarygrass at bay.
Bebb’s willow buds’ spring opening seems a few weeks off (top). Many egg cases of some insect stick to willow branches (bottom). The cases look like spittle bug foam that hardened. Maybe we’ll see insects emerge over the coming weeks.
Many white pine seedlings show signs of frost damage. The damage is more severe on the upper needles; lower needles were more often under insulating snow.
This white pine seedling bears few green needles. The damage had occurred before January 15 (inset photo). The seedling could flush new needles this spring. Rust resistant, Bingham genotype seedlings contain no genetic material from the coldest parts of the species’ range. Possibly they lack cold tolerance.
The silver lines on white pine needle undersides comprise thousands of tiny holes (stomata) that the trees use to exchange gases with the atmosphere. Water droplets magnify these tiny patterns.
In Entrance Meadow, six mountain bluebirds darted from low perches into the grass to grab groggy insects. They added color to an otherwise drab day.
The landscape and conditions provided little joy for photographers, but the next few weeks will see this scene transformed. The quiet of shoulder seasons like this builds anticipation for the arrival of spring.