Spring is Really Coming…

vine maple buds
Two weeks ago I headed down valley on my spring break. Somewhere around Everett, it suddenly hit me that the world was GREEN. I realized that the ‘green’ had probably started happening before I got to Everett, but I was so accustomed to a landscape dominated by the darker shades of evergreens that suddenly noticing the pale greens of new growth was a shock to me. Although we had started noticing signs of spring over the last month, we were also still getting some snow, and spring was moving rather slowly.
I got a nice preview of what was to come while down in Oregon and the Seattle area. But I was glad to see that even when I returned to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on May first, leaf buds were still just beginning to open. In the last week-and-a-half, we have had enough sunshine and warmer temperatures that we can finally say that spring is here. In addition to a plethora of new vegetation, the Learning Center has been swarmed by an increasing number of birds. The robins, dark-eyed juncos, warblers, thrushes and wrens have been joined by rufous hummingbirds. And they are not messing around. Staff and Mountain School students who are wearing brightly colored clothing must be wary of these tiny avian fighter pilots dive-bombing them in search of nectar.

red currant

Red-flowering currant, a favorite target for the hummingbirds

yellow violets

Yellow wood violets add some color to the forest

swordfern fiddleheads

Swordfern fiddleheads poke up like upside-down seahorses


Salal is one of the slowest budding plants, with only tiny new growth visible

colts foot

Colts foot, one of the earliest new plants to emerge, is now more than a foot tall

devils club

The new growth on Devil’s club looks like an alien weapon


Kinnikinick has tiny pink and white flowers that will become red berries in summer

oregon grape

What will become Oregon grape berries are just beginning to emerge


Red huckleberry leaves are popping out from pale pink buds


Tiny leaves are emerging from one of the few beaked hazelnuts on campus


An unusual black lichen sprout amongst some moss

Before we know it all of the trees will be fully leafed out and three feet of snow will be a distant memory. In the meantime, we will continue to delight in the surprises of walking down a trail with a group of Mountain School students and seeing what new sign of spring has popped up.

All photos courtesy of the author.

Leave a Comment