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The Nature of April

By the time April appears on our horizon, we are more than ready for spring. Peepers are peeping, daffodils are poking up through the mud and on quiet, warm afternoons, there are honeybees buzzing in crocus and dandelion patches. More than a few of us dig out the flip flops and toss the winter coats aside for lighter jackets. We will regret this decision more than once, but we are Cape Codders. We are as tough as any tiny frogs. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

In the first days of April skunk cabbage, our first blooming wildflower, begins to leaf out and fiddleheads, those tightly wound sprouts of ferns, begin to decorate muddy, soggy areas. Phoebes and other early migrants appear and begin to declare territorial and reproductive intentions throughout the landscape. Buds of the mayflower, also called trailing arbutus, hide beneath tough green leaves that cover the ground in disturbed, sunny areas along pathways, but we can peek beneath to savor the soon to bloom white and pink blossoms.

April is when green begins to reclaim her place on the seasonal palette. Vibrant green moss brightens woodland paths and the shiny leaves of teaberry, also called wintergreen due to its sharp, minty scent, cover the woodland floor. Red squirrels gather nesting materials and chipmunks chip along cheerily as they do their spring housekeeping. On warm afternoons, the sweet, tiny blue spring azure butterflies fly about. They especially love the nectar of the mayflowers which will bloom before the end of April. They aren’t the first butterflies of the season, but their diminutive size and lovely coloration make them easy favorites of woodland walkers

Mourning cloak butterflies, the first to appear, are large, dark, and hardy butterflies that winter-over in New England as adults, spending the season deep in crevices and cracks in the bark of trees. Look for them in sunny wooded areas, sometimes on an old log or even the ground, taking in the sun. At first they may seem plain, but a closer look will quickly reveal the beauty and complexity of their coloration and markings.

Every morning in April gives bird watchers new opportunities to see birds arriving from down south. Many will just pass through on their way farther north, such as wood warblers and shorebirds. The chance to see them is so fleeting that the hearts of those watching for them beat a little faster with each sighting. Even a novice can be thrilled by the sight of a snowy egret in its luxurious breeding plumage or the “drink your tea” song of the rufous sided towhee. 

By mid to late April, the herring runs will be full of fish, the gulls will be pairing up and the fiddler crabs will be running about on sun warmed sands waving their oversized claws. The whales will still be active close to shore and other sea life will return to tidal pools.

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