Hunt for the Harbinger

The weatherman had been calling for rain today, but it ended up mostly sunny and around 65 degrees. After all the rain, snow and generally nasty, cold weather we’ve had lately, it was glorious.

After finding the witch hazel in bloom the other day, I’ve been thinking I need to see if I can’t find Harbinger-of-Spring (Erigenia bulbosa) since we’re well into its possible blooming period. I had to run to Poplar Bluff this morning, but on the way back I managed to find a half hour to walk around the river bottom at Watercress.

The first thing I found was that a turkey (or turkeys, I couldn’t tell for sure) had been scratching in the leaves behind the campground. I was a little surprised to find turkey sign here since it’s basically in the middle of town. Granted Van Buren isn’t exactly a metropolis, but still. I wasn’t really convinced it was turkeys until I found a dropping. For some reason I didn’t take a photo of it, which is odd, because I almost always photograph any poop I find. Read what you want into that! đŸ™‚

Walking around the bottom, I never did manage to find a single harbinger-of-spring plant, but I did find at least a dozen of these small spiders.

Notice the 2 missing legs on the spider in the first photo. I wonder how he managed to loose those. Anyway, they were small – 1/2 an inch or so – and the leaf litter was crawling with them. I believe them to be Lycosidae or wolf spiders, but I haven’t been able to identify them beyond that level. Wolf spiders generally aren’t web spinners and hunt on foot which is what these appeared to be doing.

Walking back to the truck a pileated woodpecker flew across the road in front of me and landed on a tree (as woodpeckers tend to do.) He was almost cooperative and I manage to get this shot before I spooked him.

Right after leaving the woodpecker to his business, a butterfly came flitting out of the brush and landed on the leaf litter in an open area. As I approached I could see that it was either a Comma or a Question Mark but couldn’t tell which. I can’t remember their field marks, so if I can’t see the diagnostic mark on the underwing, i have to look them up.

After looking at the photo, I was able to tell that it was an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma.) Commas overwinter as adults, as do Question Marks and Mourning Cloaks among others, and a nice warm day like today will find them flying about. Not surprisingly, this one looks a bit worn at the edges.

Well, no harbinger-of-spring today, but if the thunderstorms hold off tomorrow, I have another location or three that I plan to check. I’m betting on the thunderstorms!

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