Natural harbingers of spring

Killdeer

If the warm weather was not enough to signify that spring is here, now you can view some of the early season migrating birds returning to our area such as the killdeer [Charadrius vociferous].

This member of the shorebird family gets its name from its shrill “killdeer” call it makes when excited. Despite being a shorebird, the killdeer can be found in a wide range of landscapes where the ground is disturbed, muddy, or where the grass is short.

Killdeer

Courtesy photo

Killdeers can be spotted in lawns, vacant lots, golf courses, or any area where the ground is uncluttered. The killdeer likes to run along the ground in search of insects, worms, snails or other delicacies. This bird is also a good swimmer and can navigate water well in search of aquatic insects, frogs or small fish.

The killdeer lays its eggs on the ground and places rocks and twigs around the nest to try to camouflage the eggs somewhat. If you approach a killdeer nest, the birds will try to lure you away from the eggs using a broken wing display, and they will miraculously get better and fly away once you are far enough away.

Killdeer live throughout North America. The northern populations migrate south during the winter and are one of the earliest birds to return to their summer homes.


Trout lily

Frederick County forests are coming back to life and many of the early season wildflowers, including the trout lily [Eruthronium americanum] are now in bloom.

Trout lily is an herbaceous perennial plant that develops a shared root system forming dense colonies, some of which are at least 300 years old. These are one of the first wildflowers to arrive in the spring and they disappear by midsummer.

Courtesy photo

Trout lilies prefer deciduous forests that have rich humus soils. Its leaf has a brown, mottled look, much like our native brook trout. Our native trout lily has a yellow drooping flower; however, there are about 30 species worldwide with a wide variety of colors.

There are a number of ornamental varieties of this attractive plant. The bulb of the trout lily is edible and it can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried and ground into a flour.

Nature Note for 4/17/2016