Technically, it is still winter, but on our walk today spring was peeking out all around the edges - tree buds were swelling, there were eggs and bugs in the pond, and even some early wildflowers!
Right by the pond there was a tree with clusters of flowers all over its branches, like little pom poms. I don't remember what type of tree it is from last year - we'll have to remember to check again when the leaves appear:
Smallmouth salamander (Ambystoma texanum) eggs in the pond - these were laid some time in mid-February and are already partially developed. The salamander larvae will hatch by mid-March and feed on zooplankton and other small animals, then lose their gills and crawl out on land to live in the forest some time in May or June:
We also found several clusters of snail eggs in the pond - the snail eggs are on the stick on the left and look like small clear blobs of jelly. Each small blob has 20+ tiny clear eggs inside.
Sycamore seed balls were everywhere by the pond, falling from the overhanging sycamore - some whole and round like this one, and some smushed with their brown-yellow seeds scattered across the ground. Sycamore seeds sprout best after being soaked by water, so the white-branched sycamore tree is usually found growing near streams and rivers:
A leaf of a mystery wildflower - maybe Virginia waterleaf? Any guesses? Hmmmm....we'll check back in a few weeks and see.
Wildflower! One of the earliest of them all, Salt and Pepper, also known as Harbinger of Spring. This is a close up shot - in real life the flowers are very tiny and often go unnoticed unless you know to look for them: