We’ve been enjoying spring for a few weeks now and in the lower mainland this is reaffirmed by cherry blossoms filling the boulevards as well as dominating every form of social media. However, they’re now so commonplace that even thise with the tightest jeans among us focus their sepia-toned-crooked-horizon-cameras on something other than the fluorescent foliage. Subtract a million or so people, add a wee bit of elevation, and the confirmation of spring looks a little different.
This early in spring the forest floor is still painted a thousand shades of brown. The scraggly branches of the undergrowth are dotted with buds and blossoms, but most of the green leaves have yet to explode. Salmon berry, devil’s club, vine maples stand scrawny and naked. The green that does exist belongs to a few snow flattened sword ferns, and trillium. Trillium has been noted here previously, but it’s just too amazing to pass up. Coles Notes for trillium: it takes roughly fifteen years to mature and flower, it comes in two varieties – pink and white, and it’s projected by law. The distinctive three leaves and bright flower help the trillium stand out against forest floor.
With the forest still lacking any real foliage, it’s possible to see a surprisingly far distance. Mule deer briefly appear in the distance before bounding off in another direction faster than a five-year-old’s attention span. You can not only hear the flapping wings of band-tailed pigeons, but also see them through the sparse canopy above. Overall, it just feels very different walking through the forest with so little foliage. Give it another two weeks and this will all change. The small changes in terrain will become hidden, the visibility will be worse than diving in a plankton bloom, and the cause of loud snapping branches in the distance could be anything.
Hours can be spent without seeing another human being, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. Lunch was spent with a pair of white-crowned sparrows. The white-crowned sparrow is considered one of the most well studied songbirds of North America. What’s interesting is they do quite a bit of studying of their own. Males will study and learn songs that they’re surrounded by while growing up. As a result there can be very specific song dialects in isolated areas among populations of white-crowned sparrows.
It’s not every day you encounter something new while in an environment you’re familiar with. Nevertheless, this one was new to me, it’s fir clubmoss. It really does look like a miniature stand of fir trees, or a futuristic city made entirely of green skyscrapers. Fir clubmoss can grow twenty centimetres in height and favors moist open terrain. Oh, and it’s explosive. The spores, commonly referred to as vegetable sulphur, are currently used in fireworks and were once used in old school photo flash bulbs. The Ditidaht Nation also found it to be explosive as a laxative.
Of course there are occasions where a walk through the woods is just that and nothing more. However, this wasn’t just a walk – it was a continuation of a search that was suspended by winter. Some may recall a creature referred to as the yookeroo. Well as luck would have it, one has been located. Located, yet unseen. The yookeroo has a very unique trait that involves chopping down its dinner and leaving it at the front door. A burrow entrance sized appropriately for the girth of a yookeroo, accompanied by one of its favorite meals, all but confirms who lives within. The challenge to photograph one is complicated numerous possible entrances to a single animal’s burrow.
For now the lazy photographer’s best friend will do the work – a motion and infrared activated camera remains trained on the yookeroo’s front door. Hopefully this will reveal potential patterns in behaviour, such as when it leaves for work each morning. These patterns will be very helpful in photographing the yookeroo. In a couple of weeks time I’ll return to see what the trail camera has captured.