Spring is Springing!

Spring is Springing!
One of my favorite things about living in Minnesota is that we get to have seasons. I like all the seasons for different reasons – fall for the colors of course, winter for snowshoeing, skiing across the snow and snow in general, summer for being able to just walk outside without a jacket on…I could keep going. But one of my favorite seasons (they’re all my favorite seasons) is spring. Every year I get excited by all that happens in the spring time! Here are just a few of my favorites:

Timberdoodle Dance Parties!
One of the earlier migratory birds that returns to Minnesota also knows some sweet dance moves! Timberdoodles, also known as American Woodcocks, return to the prairies and fields of River Bend and Minnesota in the spring to breed. Male timberdoodles put on an elaborate courtship display to attract females starting at dusk and continuing until the morning. The male starts out on the ground and walks in a circle, all while making a “peenting” call that can be heard across the prairie. After a sufficient number of turns around his dance floor, he suddenly takes off high into the sky and performs some complicated aerial acrobatics and flight maneuvers, ending with a steep dive back to the ground. Then the dance begins again!

Maple Syrup
One of my favorite smells of the whole year is maple sap boiling down into syrup! Maple sap in the spring is a mostly watery substance with a little tiny bit of sugar – around 98% water and 2% sugar. Usually, temperatures below freezing at night followed by above freezing temperatures during the day cause maple sap to flow through the sapwood of trees in the maple family. The sap flowing through the tree helps the trees get ready for spring. On trees that are large enough, we can collect some of that sap by tapping into the sapwood of the tree. This year at River Bend we had just over 60 trees tapped during the month of March. We had some days of great sap flowing weather, and others of not so good sap flowing weather. But we still collected hundreds of gallons of sap that we spent multiple weeks boiling in our evaporator. As the sap boils, the water leaves as sweet smelling steam, and the sugars stay behind, concentrating the solution eventually into delicious maple syrup!

Making maple syrup

Evaporating maple sap into delicious maple syrup!

Woodland Wildflowers
Once the snow melts, small green leaves begin to appear on the forest floor, hinting at the show that will come later. After awhile and lots of hunting and scanning the ground, a small flower or two may appear. The next day, maybe another flower or two appears, and then all of a sudden one day, flowers are everywhere! This flower show has many players that take turns blooming throughout the season. Already at River Bend, we have been seeing False Rue Anemone, Sharp Lobed Hepatica and Spring Beauty blooming, and lots and lots of baby trout lily leaves, and some trout lilies blooming too! Many woodland wildflowers take advantage of the full sunlight reaching the forest floor at the beginning of spring and bloom before the deciduous trees grow their leaves. Some flowers bloom for a week or two, others for a month or more, but by summer most woodland flowers have had their turn. Enjoy them while they’re here!

White Trout Lily

White Trout Lily blooming at River Bend (Erythronium albidum)