Updated for 2018
Spring Has Arrived!
While we had our first spring flowers show-up in the early days of March, we also got a few unexpected snow storms which took their toll on us all. As we move into April, it’s still possible to see snow, however it’s more likely to see rain and chilly temperatures. The old saying: “April showers bring May flowers” however is a bit misleading since April is really the beginning of the spring flowering.
In the month of April we begin to see everything coming back to life in the forests. The ground soon becomes littered with small clusters of spring flowers and the protruding tips and stalks of some of the more prominent summer foliage. The trees also begin to bud and we see the return of deciduous leaves.
Fungi kicks-off to slow start in Connecticut, as we are still seeing mostly the year-round polypores in April. However there are a few early rising mushrooms yo might come across if you get lucky.
We also begin to see hibernating animals returning including amphibians such as frogs, toads, and salamanders. Snakes and turtles are also out basking in the sun in a warm day. With the warmer weather, we also say goodbye to the winter migrant ducks and the return of the summer birds.
The foraging season also begins in April with the first ramps (wild onions) that pop-out of the ground around the first of April but are ready for harvest a few weeks later.
April Species of Interest
We have picked-out a few species from each category that we think are important to look for and be aware of in the month of April. While there are many more species out there, this list should acquaint you with what you are most likely to see outside. For the sake of keeping it interesting, we generally skip-over most the year-round species unless relevant.
Tadpoles in the ponds should be a regular sight by the mid-to-end of April, as well as adults out basking in the sun. If you turn-over a log in the forest, you may also see a few salamanders.
Northern Green Frog
(Lithobates clamitans melanota)
Most of the winter migrant birds have left and the spring/summer birds are returning and singing their songs of courtship.
American yellow warbler
Fungi gets off to a slow start in Connecticut. Still mostly the hardy polypores with the occasional mushroom popping up from the ground. You might get lucky and find a morel as well.
With April, and the return of flowers, we begin to see a wide variety of insects including butterflies, beetles, and moths.
American painted lady
Banded woolly bear
Common water strider
Spotted cucumber beetle
(Apheloria virginiensis corrugata)
Lichens tend to persist all year long, but have a new growth phase in the warmer months.
Smooth rock tripe
April is not a very exciting month for mammals. While they are out there and waking-up from hibernation, most of what we see in April are the common, year-round species.
American red squirrel
While many mosses may be able to persist through the winter, they are generally not in a growth phase. In April we begin to see some new growth and a few species may stand out.
Tree ground pine
There are a ton of new plants that emerge in April, and it would be impossible for us to list them all here. But we have provided what we think is a good selection of some of the more notable species for April.
Eastern spring beauty
In April, reptiles become a much more common sighting, especially painted turtles basking on logs by the water on a sunny day. We also see a number of snakes emerge from hibernation.
Eastern painted turtle
(Chrysemys picta picta)
Northern water snake
(Nerodia sipedon sipedon)
Eastern garter snake
(Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)
With the warmer weather, a few sea creatures will show-up on the shoreline, including mating horseshoe crabs.
Atlantic horseshoe crab
We don’t have any notable slime molds for the month of April on record, however we do expect to see them.
While we do get some emerging tree flowers in March, it is really the month of April that puts on the best display.
Starting near the first days of April, we officially enter the foraging season in Connecticut. Ramps, aka wild garlic/wild onion, are found in great abundance on forest floors near streams and swamp lands. While they first start poking out of the ground around April 1st, they are better harvested after their leaves have fully emerged and developed, which is around the 3rd week of April. For conservation purposes, it is recommended to only harvest the top leaves and leave the bulbs in the ground.
We also get an abundance of garlic mustard, which is an invasive weed that makes a rather good pesto sauce. There are also a number of smaller, less flavorful greens including dandelions and purple dead-nettle, both of which can be found in abundance.
There is not too much happening with fungi yet, although we have seen some early dryad’s saddle mushrooms and it is the right time of the year for morels to pop-up, if you are lucky enough to find one.
Important Foraging Species
Smooth rock tripe
We have chosen a few recommended hikes and places to visit during the month of April. With the explosion in spring flowers and new plants coming up out of the ground, we are recommending forests and parks with flower gardens as the best places to visit.
Devil’s Den Nature Preserve
Devil’s Den is an excellent forest for hiking in the Fairfield county area. It has miles of hiking trails and a variety of habitats including lakes, swamps, new forest, high elevated hills and a few vistas that should still be good. Please remember that foraging is not permitted at this location.
Cranbury Park has a nice mix of habitats in a relatively small location. There is new forest, wet lands, open grassy fields a well as cultivated flower gardens. It’s an excellent place to see the emergence of spring flowers. The park also has recreational facilities such as Frisbee golf.
Preparing for May
There is a lot to do and see in the month of April but unless you’ve been getting regular exercise, you will feel the strain on your body after the long winter. So the best way to prepare for May is to get outdoors as much as possible in April and break-in those legs and get your strength back for hiking during the fair weather month of May. Since it’s not too hot outside yet, it’s an excellent month for checking out the vistas and high points in the state.
May is also an awesome month for species. We have baby ducks and goslings out foraging in the grass. The ponds come alive with turtles and frogs. Various shapes and colors of fungi start popping out of the forest floor, dead trees, and woodchip piles. Insects including butterflies and colorful beetles are quite abundant. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. It’s a great month for nature photography, so make sure your camera is in good working order. See you all next month!