Naturalist, Clear Creek Metro Park
Regardless of the forecast or temperature, nature has many ways of letting us know spring is on the way. Signs of spring are scattered throughout the Metro Parks, so take time to listen, look and appreciate the way nature comes alive during this season of change.
In Ohio, the earliest signs of spring sprout from the forest floor. Skunk cabbage, a unique plant with the ability to produce heat, is the first wildflower to make an appearance as it melts through snow and ice to bloom. Woodland wildflowers like Virginia bluebells, spring beauties, dutchman’s breeches and hepatica will soon begin to decorate forests with a variety of colors.
On warmer days, wood frogs and spring peepers are among the earliest amphibians to create a chorus as they call for a mate. Spring peepers have a stretchy vocal sac that produces a high-pitched “peep” while wood frogs sound similar to a group of quacking ducks. Listen for these sounds radiating from shallow ponds and roadside ditches.
Butterflies like the mourning cloak and eastern comma overwinter as adults in the crevices of bark and leaf litter allowing them to be the first Lepidoptera to be seen in the spring. The earliest warm days usher them out of their winter hideaways in search of sap to feed on.
More sunlight brought by longer days and warmer temperatures begin to awaken trees from their dormant winter state. Look overhead on your next hike to observe leaves and flowers beginning to emerge. As the Naturalist at Clear Creek, I look forward to the beauty of blooming dogwoods and redbuds throughout the park, as these beautiful blooms are a welcome sign of so much more to come.
Migrating birds will soon add to the chorus of sounds as they pass through to their breeding grounds, and warblers are one of the most exciting birds to see during spring migration. Their vibrant colors help them stand out as they move through trees feasting on insects.
As courtship begins, the avian world fills the air with a melody of birdsongs; it truly is music to the ears. I always carve out time in the spring to experience the “dawn chorus,” a time immediately before and after sunrise when birdsongs reach their peak. It’s incredible to observe and listen as parts of nature wake up with the sunrise. Typically a clear day without wind in late April or May is the best time to experience the “dawn chorus.”
As new life emerges in nature, the sights and sounds of spring remind us of warmer days ahead, and there are so many opportunities for new discoveries in 20 different Metro Parks and numerous Greenway Trails. Don’t miss out on the excitement and symphony of spring in 2022!
To learn more about Metro Parks, visit metroparks.net.