As I sat on the front porch this morning, jotting down notes from my morning walk, I watched three young bunnies nibble clover in the mowed lawn. Until now, their mother had kept them hidden, but they have begun to explore their new world. They seemed nervous and stayed close to the safety of the tall grass at yard's edge. Occasionally, when they hear a strange sound or see something unfamiliar, they dash back into the tall grass. Each time they timidly reappear, however, and with new courage they begin to munch on the fresh green clover.
Though the bunnies aren't much bigger than chipmunks, they soon will begin life on their own. Their mother must move on, and give birth to a new family. This turning of the cycle of life is nature's way of telling me what time it is. In each moment, wild creatures instinctively prepare themselves for the season. There is no need for them to keep track of time as humans do, because the schedule of life is a given.
Now is time for trilliums to appear in the woods. Their large, showy white petals stand out in their lush green surroundings. Along the roadsides the summer phlox begins to show off beautiful lavender blossoms, demonstrating once again how well spring colors go with green. The fresh green grass and new leaves seem to complement every new flower that appears. Even the bright yellow faces of the dandelions in the mowed yard seem to belong. Walking through the short grass barefoot is a new sensation; the dandelions break off between my toes. They are welcome to find a home in my yard, and their flowers please me for three to four weeks each spring. Besides, the bees and butterflies think they are great. As pretty as they are, however, I still pull them from the flowerbeds and gardens.
In the garden, each day is full of new surprises. Potato plants are up, and I've been eating fresh asparagus. The past two days, the canna lilies have poked their green heads through the loose dirt. Also making their debut are the dahlias and runner beans. I notice a group of tiny new morning glories that have sprouted from seed from last year's vines. I picture in my mind a lovely blanket of blue covering the corner of the house. With luck and a little TLC, a blanket of blue may appear again this summer.
I always keep an eye out for new discoveries. This afternoon I noticed a discovery I had forgotten about, sitting in a pickle jar in the corner. While visiting Lake Bryant near Oclala during my Florida trip, I had found a dead worm-like animal in a flower garden. On closer observation I noticed it had scales and looked more like a snake than a worm. The lifeless creature had a creamy beige color and was about 7 inches long. For me, this was a new discovery. I put it in the empty pickle jar with some clear alcohol, so I could do more research when I got home.
As it turns out, the little snake-like animal is a sand skink. There are some 14 varieties of skinks living throughout North America, most of them east of the Rocky Mountains. They hunt for small insects during the day, and hide and sleep at night. Interestingly, skinks are more closely related to lizards than to snakes. They do have legs, but their legs are too small to be very effective. Being nearly legless does not prevent them from moving quickly, and they are hard to catch. Most skinks have very sharp teeth and won't hesitate to bite an attacker. If a sand skink is threatened, it may at first roll over and play dead.
The sand skink's territory is limited to two small areas in central Florida. Maybe someday I will be lucky enough to get a look at a live one.
What new discoveries have you made this spring? There's always something new to see on nature's trail.
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