Lime Hollow Nature Center
Covered Bridge at the Lime Hollow Visitor Center

From My Sit Spot

by Pete Angie

TrilliumA green haze welcomes the month of May. Delicate young leaves have opened, so that I can still see through the forest, but a green fog now hangs in the branches. The new growth and activity of spring, which was in its infancy in March and April, has become a toddler by May. Everywhere, the natural world has woken up and is coming into its own. On a recent evening walk I descended to the edge of a wetland where the overwhelming chorus of spring peepers drowned out all other sounds. Roughly the size of a nickel, the vociferous amphibians will sit inside crevices and holes in the soil to make their sharp, high pitched calls, using the ground like an amplifier. Peep, Peep, Peep, about once every second. In ponds and vernal pools these hard to spot tree frogs—brown, tan or gray in color, with a dark x on their backs—are laying their singular eggs along submerged plants. Peeper tadpoles are searching for meals of algae and detritus in those same bodies of water, and raccoons, possums, birds and snakes are looking for them to make meals of their own.

No peepers call this morning, where I sit in the woods near Chicago bog. It is too cold for them I think, watching my breath uncurl in front of me. A group of screeching blue jays flies overhead, followed by a pair of honking Canada geese. I wonder what predator or other disturbance is the cause for their alarm. Maybe it is me. I recall a much closer encounter, while walking a pond-side path, where I was clearly to blame. A pair of Canada geese stopped me dead in my tracks as they came running, wings spread, heads low, mouths open and hissing, telling me I was too close to their nest. Nests are being left behind now, the late April to early May peak of hatching nearly over. I look forward to seeing the fluffy, yellow-brown chicks closely following, and being closely guarded by their parents. Today, I settle in with my back against a moss covered log and try to disappear into the landscape. A robin and a cardinal sing their ubiquitous, clear songs several times before falling silent, or moving on. Then in the quiet I hear, to my delight, my favorite song of all. A whirl of serene notes flowing into each other like water, seeming to make the very woods more peaceful. The hermit thrush has spoken. That song has captured my ears and heart countless times, though it was not until this month that I learned it was the hermit, and not the wood thrush, who makes that most ethereal of phrases. There is the beauty of May, for me. It is the time of year when the rapid profusion of life makes me pull the field guides off my shelf, get down on my knees in the leaf litter, perk my ears, open my eyes and look closer. There is so much going on, a tidal wave of changes.

My time is up, it is a week day and I must go to work. I pack up and walk past a miniature forest of may apples, with their drooping, umbrella like leaves, speckled trout lilly, a cascade of white trillium, and a shy purple trillium, bowing its head. Is that blue cohosh? Is that squirrel-corn? I wonder, unsure.

It is a good season for finding out.