It’s been a grey couple of days leading into the long weekend, enlivened by extremely colourful birds.
The Goldfinches, of course, bright little yellow lanterns in the rain. A pack of Baltimore Orioles, attracted by some cut oranges, their colour eclipsing that of the fruit. A House Finch, richly red. And a pair of male Indigo Buntings in deep blue, shimmering, absolutely shimmering in the setting sun that decided to brighten up the end of the day.
I want to know where my hummingbirds are. They have returned to our area. The first sighting I heard of was in Midland on May 8. The Ontario Hummingbird Project has a map
illustrating their arrival and there are little flags all over Huronia. Cindy Cartwright, whose project this is, spoke to the Midland Penetanguishene Field Naturalists recently. She advises against using the commercially available hummingbird nectar which has potassium (a preservative) or other additives in it. Straight 4 water to 1 sugar is all that’s needed and don’t change the proportions, a stronger mixture will kill your hummers. If you’re on municipal water, let it sit for 12 hours to release the chlorine before you heat up the mixture – and change it every few days, daily in the high heat of summer.
The spring flowers in the woodland bed don’t rival the brilliance of their avian counterparts. Their colours are more subtle. But the deep red of the Trilliums is a satisfying counterpoint to the strong blue of the Virginia Bluebells, complementing the pale yellow of the Large-flowered Bellwort*.
There’s a tinge of silver to the Wild Ginger* leaves – lift them up and take a peek at the plant’s curious maroon flower resting on the ground. Pollination occurs thanks to passing beetles, ants and other earthbound insects. You also need to bend low to enjoy the yellow trumpet of the little Trout Lily, offset by brilliant scarlet stamens.
The Mayapple’s pale green flower bud is forming under its umbrella leaf. The white petals of Canada Bloodroot* have fallen; now the interesting kidney-shaped leaves are fully unfurled. The pretty clusters of Hepatica blooms in mauve or white are disappearing too. The Hepatica seedhead is round and knobbly and I have wrapped a handkerchief around one of my plants, to catch the seed, which has to be sown fresh, as soon as harvested. As delicate as Hepatica is the Shooting Star*. The flower stalks have emerged from the light green leaf clusters and the buds are about to burst – this is a striking little flower, with white petals flared back from projecting stamens.
Plump buds are pushing up through the soil – Lady’s Slipper orchid, Solomon’s Seal*, with is promise of delicate bells depending from the arching stem, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, which will be dramatic with its green and purple striped hood curved around a central spathe.
These jewels of the northeastern deciduous forest are known as spring ephemerals – we enjoy their brief season of glory before the leaf canopy closes in and they disappear under the leaf litter. The ephemerals all do well in dry shade, but even better with moisture, so don’t rake dead leaves away - let them break down and provide needed protection.
*Available for sale. A sale is set for Saturday May 31 - but feel free to drop by any time, just phone ahead (705-322-3545) to be sure I'm here. And no obligation to buy if you do visit!