Freakish May weather notwithstanding, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about the matter - Spring has Sprung in the valley of the Sawkill here in Waghkonk (the ancient, pre-settlement Algonquin name for what we now call the Woodstock Valley).
FLORA As we speak (or write), the bright green line of new hardwood growth is gradually working its way up the flanks of Overlook, changing from wintry brown to verdant spring green. Down here in the valley, everything (except the White Pines and Hemlocks) is now colored that high-nitrogen bright green of Spring, almost iridescently infused with the richness of fresh growth and new life. Not just all the hardwoods and shrubs, but even the forest floor is carpeted with the rich verdure of mosses and the new sprouting of the Spring Ephemerals of 2020. The same Canada Mayflowers (Wild Lily-of-the-Valley) I mentioned in my previous Note as leaves unfolding are now starting to flower (it is May, after all) - little, teeny-tiny white sparks starting to dominate the floor of our forest in their subtle fashion, to (not so) gradually turn into a widely-spread carpet of frozen fireworks. Trout-lilies are going past now, delicate little yellow lanterns hanging down, their leaves bearing a similar speckled pattern to local Brook Trout. They always start when the trout-run begins, hence their name. Woods Anemones and the Dutchman’s Breeches and Brown- and Green Jack-in-the-Pulpits are showing, too, as the short cycle of the Ephemerals moves inexorably onward. Soon the Purple Trilliums and Starflowers will flower, as well. Around then, the understory will fill in and darken as leaves of Beech, Birch, Oak completely unfold, announcing the advent of late spring. Once this occurs, and the bright, light green of leaf and twig changes to the dark green of full leafage, we’ll know that summer can’t be far away.
FAUNA Every creature is active now, either having young or taking care of newborns. Local Bald Eagles have eaglets now, rapidly growing and busily learning to eat what Mom and Dad bring to their giant nest (which they will outgrow very soon). Barn Swallows sweep through the air in their mesmerizing fashion, helping to reduce the burgeoning insect population. Hummingbirds are showing up from their phenomenal migration, which includes an incredible 500-mile dash across the Gulf of Mexico. Pretty amazing for their size. If you put out feeders for them please make sure they are clean and that the nectar is fresh. Every year some of these intrepid creatures perish because people were not careful about feeding them. For information on the correct and safe way to feed hummers - and other birds - I suggest www.audobon.org. In general, wild birds don’t need feeders now and feeders attract bears (for this reason I also suggest bringing hummingbird feeders in at night) - they simply love birdseed. Continuing on the avian theme, remember that you can simply return a fallen bird-egg to a nest with your bare hands. Another local migrator winging its way here as I write this is the majestic Monarch butterfly, due here any day now, to spend its summer ruling our milkweed patches, making the next generation of Monarchs (which will be the ones to return to the mountains of Michoacan in Mexico for the winter) and nectaring on any flower that meets their fancy. For more on Hummingbirds, Monarchs and other migrators, I highly recommend www.journeynorth.org, definitely the go-to site for the subject. Black Bear cubs will be gamboling about with their mom, so keep your eyes open and if you see these black fur-balls give them a wide berth - the most dangerous bear is a mother bear with cubs. White-tail Deer fawns birth in May. Please remember if you find one in the tall grass to leave it be - it is not abandoned. The doe will be feeding nearby. Turtles will be moving now, searching for places to lay their eggs and, in doing so, will cross roads, so be extra careful. You can move it out of the road, but make sure to take it in the direction it was going, otherwise it will turn around and try the road again. On the subject of fauna, I might as well remind you that it is Spring Turkey season through May, so please be extra cautious and wear orange if anywhere around hunters. LIGHT Part of what makes this season so extraordinary is the bright, high-angle sunlight, illuminating every nook and cranny, contributing greatly to the luminosity of the growing verdure around us (and greatly lifting our spirits). Very importantly, we now have more of it, with earlier sunrise and later sunset, as we approach the Summer Solstice in late June. At least the lockdown didn’t happen in the cold depths of mid-winter, when everyone is already cabin-feverish, and now we have more light in the day, making being sequestered a little easier.
ALONE TOGETHER We’re so fortunate to have the Ashokan Rail Trail (ART), an 11 1/2 mile-long world-class linear park nearby, as well as so many other great places to recreate outdoors, like the Overlook Trail, Bluestone Wild Forest/Onteora Lake, the Ashokan Promenade and many others, including some properties of the Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC) www.woodstocklandconservancy.org . Yes, luckily for all of us, many of our County and State parks are still open, but for that to continue we need to all maintain social-distancing guidelines. In general, let’s all please be even more considerate of each other than usual - it is an unusual time and we have to work at playing (alone) together.
One thing that binds us all is that we have to keep somewhat apart for now. For more about the ART, visit www.chronogram.com and Search for my article “Path To The Future”, in the April edition. Otherwise I can send you the pdf. I hope you like it. Thank you for your continued encouragement and support of Woodstock Trails. I’m still making trails commercially on private property and taking people hiking (socially distantly (?), of course) and may be leading some Socially Distant Group Hikes, so please watch my Facebook page.
“Ranger” Dave Holden
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lovingly maintained by June Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org.