By Janelle Eklund
April 28 and a brisk walk to the Tonsina bluff confirmed the bears had sprung from their dens and were digging for anything edible to fill their empty stomachs. Clumps of earth were overturned along the trail. On the sunny south facing bluff Pasque flowers had already sprung in response to the warmth of the sun, their purple heads opening to drink in the elixir of life.
Late April I had the pleasure of greeting a ruffed grouse on my morning walk sitting on his throne above the ditch of the gravel road. I would walk by and on my return thirty minutes later he hadn’t moved. His thumping call for a female resounded throughout the forest, an ode to spring.
The middle of May and all the snow is gone. I ventured out to the field behind the house to renew my senses to the earth and greet any awakening wild plants. I was so delighted to see tiny fresh bright green Botrychium springing out of the dry parched soil. It never ceases to amaze me how a fern-like plant finds enough moisture to thrive. They were everywhere. Their little round ball shapes were still tucked together in a cluster, a long single leaf protecting its infancy.
We had just sat down to dinner enjoying pork chops barbecued on the grill. I looked up from my plate and beyond the dining room window a black bear had sprung from the forest, crossing the field. He seemed to be headed to the neighbors but then must have gotten a whiff of the barbecue. He nonchalantly strolled up to the house, walking by the high deck where the barbecue sat. He didn’t seem all that curious – just checking things out. He briefly sat about 20 feet away so Paul could get some pictures from the greenhouse. I was close by with bear spray in hand – just in case he got a little too curious. But he wasn’t much interested and wandered off around the other side of the house and into the woods. Our neighbor saw two black bears several days before.
Middle of May lupine springs from the roadside in a brilliant purple leafy green dress. With cool nights and days they slowly take their time ‘springing’ up.
The Aspen have sprung lime green leaves from their branches but this year it seems like the leaves have a little more yellow painted into them than in past years. They just don’t seem so bright to me. Maybe the Leaf Miner moth is taking its toll on them, as they lay their eggs on Aspens leaves. I notice the tiny white moths have really sprung to the occasion this year. The air is thick with them. How much longer can the Aspen trees tolerate the larvae of moths eating their way through the fresh green life of their leaves? Seems like this fight has been going on for at least ten years. I give credit to the Aspen. They are tough sentinels in the Boreal Forest. For now I imprint in my mind their new green color before they turn a dull silver as the moths devour their chlorophyll.
There seems to be lots of swallows springing through the air as they search for mosquitoes and bugs. But I fear for their life as there doesn’t seem to be many mosquitoes this year – their favorite meal. We humans are delighted there are few mosquitoes to suck our blood but other critters depend on them for food.
I love this time of year when spring renews the heartbeat of all living things. Linger and use your senses to absorb the ‘spring’ of Spring.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.