While we decided that holding Prairie Appreciation Day this year was not feasible given the uncertain conditions, Friends of Puget Prairies decided we should encourage everyone to get out and enjoy those prairies that are publicly accessible. To that end, we thought a “virtual” Prairie Appreciation Spring, accessible via the internet might spur people to get out of their houses and apartments and get some much needed fresh air. As an added bonus, it provides impetus to us to get out to the prairies to see what’s going on, take pictures and pass it on. This, then, is the first installment.
Today was a gorgeous day to be out in the open air enjoying the morning fog that does wonders to emphasize the Mima Mound topography of many of our prairies and creates an intimate and mysterious feel. Since the clear weather has created freezing temperatures overnight, the fog formed frost on all every leaf and spider web (yes, the spiders are out and busy).
The Swallows are also back and actively arguing over nest boxes and even they acquired a bit of frost as evidenced by the drops of melted frost on this Violet-green Swallow photographed Wednesday morning.
Our other species of cavity nesting swallow, the Tree Swallow is also back and looking for a place to raise their young this year. This one, in an image taken last week, seems to have laid a claim on a box already.
In addition to the swallows, Flickers are whickering constantly, Kestrels are setting up housekeeping, and the Red-tailed Hawks have been at it for some time.
As for the plants, the Spring Gold (Lomatium utriculatum) has gotten a nice start.
This is the first flower to bloom on our prairies in the spring and it lasts a long time, with the bloom heads multiplying on the same plant. It is still in very good form at the traditional Prairie Appreciation Day on the second Saturday of May. For the best specimens, look for a nice south facing slope. The earliest blooms are just little spots of yellow less than a centimeter in diameter. This one, taken Thursday, was about the size of a quarter.
While you’re on that nice, warm south-facing slope, look around for the leaves of the Chocolate lilly (Fritillaria lanceolata). These were about 3 inches (7.5 cm) tall today.
That star of our prairie flowers, the Common Camas (Camassia quamash) is coming along nicely with many shoots over two inches (5 cm) tall and some as much as four (10 cm). The moss, still nicely green from our winter, made a nice background for this little stand of Camas.
To top off today’s discoveries, Tim Leque of the Center for Natural Lands Management told me he’d spotted some Western Buttercup in bloom in a controlled burn area from last year. It didn’t take very long to find one.