Sunday, March 21, 2010


I took these photos a couple weeks ago, and I thought I'd like to share them because they represent part of something I've realized over the last few years, something that began when I took systematic botany (I had to look at a copy of transcript to get the right class name). In the systematic botany class I took, we were taught a mix of taxonomy, which is the system of classification to identify species of organisms and to further identify their genetic/evolutionary history to other species, and plant identification. We moved from understanding how they worked, which you learned in basic biology and is further developed in later biology classes, to being able to identify them. We had to collect a certain amount and preserve them, which resulted in me traipsing all over the Auburn campus and beyond looking for strange plants. A few things stuck with me, and I'll discuss them in later posts, but what mainly stayed with me was the ability to find, identify, and name a plant I've probably seen all my life but hadn't bothered to figure it out. A lot of wildflowers were named for me that semester, and a few were able to stick with me.
While I honestly can't recall if the periwinkle was one of those that I managed to find for my collection at the time, it is one that I've seen a lot every spring along the roadsides and open fields. I didn't have a ruler with me to make measurements, so I'm not sure if these were Bigleaf Periwinkles or just plain Periwinkles, but part of me is leaning for the latter. According to eNature, they're not native to Alabama, but are escaped introduced plants, like a number of wildflowers probably are. I don't know why, but I've always liked this little guy. Maybe it's the nice shade of blue-purple, or how they're like small morning glories. Who knows, but now I definitely know the name of the flower, and that's a plus.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Signs of Spring

We're well into the first week of March. For a lot of people, this gets them in the mind for spring, and the weather around here is certainly beginning to move more towards the warm sunny days than the dreary cloudy days of the last couple of months. But for me, I started seeing signs of spring a couple of weeks earlier.

I'd noticed a couple of years ago that the first birds I started to really notice around this time was the robin. Now, I see birds throughout the fall and winter, usually mockingbirds and finches, sometimes pigeons, and because they're always around they tend to fade into the background. But robins stand out for me during the late winter and early spring. They tend to flock in moderate to large flocks on the roadside or on the various lawns. When it's just a handful, they're easy to miss. But when you have a dozen or more, they tend to stand out, especially the males with their orange breasts.

A few friends have commented about the rather sudden appearance of robins, and they do have that feeling of appearing without warning. I believe they started appearing this year in late January, and I know I saw a couple here and there by February. But by the middle of the month, they were becoming much more common. Even now, I see them searching the fields for food. Not particularly large groups yet, but I'm sure I'll see them.