WINTERSPRING (part 1)
Snow-devils spin their spritely dervish-dance, winds rage across the suddenly-winter landscape,snow and sleet pelt the window-panes, brown leaves skitter helplessly across rapidly shifting snow-dunes to ﬂy up against tree-boles plastered in wind-blown whiteness. Branches bend and break, shedding the weak or old. Whole trees bow deeply down in obeisance to the power of the arctic Winter-king as we are all reminded of his bitter-cold might (just in case we had forgotten). The small-birds are the only ones to brazenly venture forth. All other creatures (us included) hunker down to wait out the snowy onslaught, huddled closely together in primeval awe (and possibly raw, unutterable fear) of the incredible power of our sometimes still-wild world. Maybe this is a good thing, to be reminded of how really small we are in the scale of the natural world.
A NEW SEASON IS HERE Like many of you, I'm tired of living in a house where it's snowing outside, with the winter winds howling and the heater cranking. Now I want to live in a house where it is Spring outside, withTrout-lilies, Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Trillium and all the other Spring Ephemeral wildﬂowers coming up, Wood-frogs frolicking and where snow
is just a white memory, tucked away in photos and occasionally to be found under north-facing ledges into May. I've had enough "wintery, deep inner-reﬂecting" and am ready to get out into the woods more now as they will soon burgeon with life, greenshoots unfolding to the joyous cacophony of increasingly multitudinous bird-calls of Warbler and Woodthrush and the faint "peent" of the Woodcock as he pirouettes high to attract a lady-friend. Wow, just the thought of being able to stick my toes in the Sawkill without freezing them off!That can't be far off now as the daytime temps are consistently above freezing, with a constant, steady run•off, starting to build the stream-level higher and higher.Today (3/16) is the warmest yet, "soaring" into the 50s. Such a joy to feel, not just the sunlight on one's skin, but the wonderfully warm air, as well. Yep, ready for Spring.
LIFE ABOUNDS (REBOUNDS?) Some signs of Spring are here. Radically increased bird-activity is one sure sign. More songbirds have shown up. More and more Canada Geese are arriving on their way home from their southern sojourn, as well as increasing Turkey and Black Vulture populations. Our localBald Eagles are spending more time in the area now, as the streams and ﬁelds are starting to open up, exposing more possible food-sources (I know eagles are best-known as ﬁsh-eaters but they are also opportunists, eating whatever is at hand, preying on whatever they can grab - dead or alive). I wouldn't be surprised if there are eggs in local eagle-nests now. Our winteringHawks and Falcons have disappeared the last week. I suspect they're also nesting. I've seen increasing Turkey-sign, as they prepare their roosts for the season. Reports of Fishers on the move. They are our largest local member of the weasel family - very aggressive and voracious predators. As usual, the local Coyotes and Foxes are keeping to themselves, leaving their tracks in the disappearing snow, looking for
whatever they can ﬁnd. I saw Bobcat tracks right where there was a lot of mouse-activity. No coincidence there. As the weather mellows the local Black Bears will be waking - hungrily - from their winter naps, so I would suggest that nowis the time to take in bird-feeders. Remember, bear have an incredible sense of smell (superior to dogs, even) and love birdseed. It is like candy to them and they will travel miles to raid a bird-feeder. Also, now that the ground is increasingly open and that the snow as it melts exposes preserved seeds buried among its many layers, wild birds really don't need to be fed by us anymore. Most importantly, it is all of our responsibility not to feed bear - either on purpose or inadvertently. We should do nothing that encourages our largest wild mammal to be in contact with people.It never turns out well for the bear. DEC has a ﬁtting saying - "A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear". These are all just the early signs, with the best yet to come - Woodfrogs and Spotted Salamanders, birds ﬂedging,Whitetail Deer fawns, the Spring Ephemeral wildﬂowers, new green shoots poking up from the ground and popping out of tree-branch. Yes, indeed - the Spring of 2019 is on its way.
YAK-TRAKS or MUD-SHOES? BOTH? That's the conundrum of this time, the craziness of March. It is what makes it such a loopy,wonderful time yet it can be very frustrating for the outdoors-inclined. We go back-and-forth,from warmer to colder, sometimes within a matter of hours. Mud and snow-melt turn to ice and back from day to night. Frozen trails become quagmires in no time at all. Yak-traks or mud-shoes? Sometimes, both are necessary to navigate our confused, freeze/thaw world. At this point I have to emphasize the importance of wearing the proper footwear (with or without traction-devices) and STAYING ON THE TRAIL - no matter the ice or mud. If we venture even slightly off-trail right now, we take the chance of crushing soon-to-be-emerging Endangered/Threatened wildﬂowers, as well as creating braided trails and more work for trail-maintenance people. Of course, one major plus side of this see-saw time is maple syrup - yum. The creation of maple syrup depends on the early spring freeze/thaw cycle where the cold of nights draws the sap back down into the roots and the warmth of day releases it back into the branches and trunk of the trees, some of it diverted into maple taps in the process. Then the sap is boiled down to become one of the northeast's most delectable treats.
Thanks a lot for your continued support and for loving Waghkonk and, hopefully, each other.
Take Care & S.Y.O.T.T. (See You On The Trail),
"Ranger" Dave Holden
(For more of my writing and photos, as well as general information about Woodstock Trails, please visit www.woodstocknytrails.com, and to follow my Guided Hike schedule Like Woodstock Trails on Facebook.)