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mole Mar 2, 2012 7:09 PM

Early Spring in East Tennessee
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We've had an amazingly mild winter here in the hills of East Tennessee. Some plants & animals are keyed more to hours of daylight than to temperature, but the warm weather seems to be awakening many things early.

One of our earliest blooms is a tiny member of the carrot family called "Harbinger of Spring." It's only about an inch high, and would be easy to overlook later in the season. But our winter-weary eyes are eager for spring signs these days!

mole Mar 2, 2012 7:14 PM

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Spring Beauty is another aptly-named early season bloom. Like many early spring blooms, spring beauty grows close to the ground, and easy to miss if you're not watching for it. It's also getting scarcer in many places, because feral wild hogs enjoy the taste of the starchy tubers. This is the Virginia Spring Beauty - our other species (Carolina Spring Beauty) should be blooming soon.

mole Mar 2, 2012 7:16 PM

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Hepatica is also blooming here and there, mostly on sunny, rocky cliffs. They have three-lobed leaves, which reminded early settlers of our three-lobed liver. Hence this plant was thought to be useful for liver disease!

mole Mar 2, 2012 7:19 PM

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Early spring is also great for "bugs!" Here's a tiny Mayfly, just emerged from its immature stage in a small stream. Most mayfly species emerge in late spring, but these Baetid mayflies are "early arrivers!" After two years in the stream, the adults only live a day or so. (You can tell his size because he was kind enough to perch on the back of my index finger).

mole Mar 2, 2012 7:20 PM

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And here's another just-emerged insect. Not sure which species of lacewing this is... Most are rather fierce predators of tiny insects.

mole Mar 2, 2012 7:24 PM

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Several species of AngleWing Butterflies spend the winter as adults. Here are several views of one of these anglewings, called a Question Mark - named for a mark on the underside of the wing (not visible in these photos). This little guy was out enjoying the almost-spring sun. He spent most of his time perching on the dry seed-heads of crownbeard, but frequently flew up high and fluttered - probably a way to attract a mate. Kept returning to the same perch, which made it easy for me to get close enough to photograph him...

mole Mar 2, 2012 7:28 PM

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Spring does not "officially" arrive for a few more weeks, but we sure are enjoying these spring-like winter days! It IS still winter though - these Hermit Thrushes are only here in the wintertime, and the Pied Billed Grebes are still in their winter plumage...

mole Mar 2, 2012 7:31 PM

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Sure hope you've enjoyed this little stroll across the beginnings of Spring's green across our East Tennessee landscapes, and that you will share your comments & critique.

bluenose Mar 2, 2012 7:33 PM

Wonderful images of "spring". As a fly fisherman the photos of the Mayflies have me looking forward to being out in a stream during the hatch and casting to some rising trout.


mtnman Mar 2, 2012 7:36 PM

Wonderful photos Mole. We also have had a remarkably mild winter here in Vermont, but just as I was giving up on winter and starting to wish for an early spring, the temperatures dropped and we got two notable (though not massive) snowstorms in a week. please take good care of the Hermit Thrushes -- they're the Vermont state bird, and we are looking forward to their return!

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