A GREEN GLACIER
The Lady has doffed her snowy mantle, exchanging it for her verdant Cloak of Life. As each day goes by, more and more bright-green leaves unfold from the safety of their buds, to take a chance on a new season, and while Spring seems to happen in ultra-slow-motion, its process is as inexorable as an incredibly massive, hemisphere-wide green glacier - a veritable tsunami of new life, oh-so-gradually flooding the earth, working its way up the hollows and valleys, rising up the side of the mountains, re-infusing the Land with the very Life-force that has been dormant these long months. In other words, Spring has sprung - to the great relief of all.
NATCHA - Alders, Ajuga, Ants, Barn Swallows, Bats, Beebalm, Beeches, Bee-hawk Moths, Birches, Black Bear, Blackbirds, Black-capped Chickadees, Black Vultures, Blueberries, Bluebirds and Bluejays, Bluets, Brown Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Buttercups, Canada Mayflowers, Cardinals -THE - Cedar, Cherry-blossoms - ROAD - Chipmunks, Chipping Sparrows, Cinquefoil, Club Moss, Coltsfoot, Crabapple, Crayfish, Crickets, Crows, Daffodils, Dandelions, Daffodils, DeKay’s Snakes - THAT - Dutchmen’s Breeches - IS - Dwarf Cinquefoil, Eastern Coyote, Eastern Hemlock, False Soloman’s Seal, Field Pussytoes, Fishers, Flowering Dogwood, Flying Squirrels, Forget-me-nots (how could we?) - ONE - Garlic Mustard, Garter Snakes, Gaywings, Grackles, Great Blue Herons, Green Frogs, Green Herons, Green Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Grey Fox - THOUGH - Grey Squirrels, Ground Bees - THE - Ground Cedar, Gypsy Moths, Hay-scented Ferns, Honey Bees (a few, at least), Honeysuckle, House Sparrows, Huckleberries, Jonathan Apple trees - PATHS - Kingfishers, Lesser Celandine - BE - Long-stem Buttercups, Mallards, May-apples, Meadow Voles, Milkweed (Monarchs soon to follow), Moles, Mourning Cloaks butterflies, Mulleins, Non-biting Midges - MANY - Northern (Slate-colored) Juncos, Oriental Bittersweet, Ospreys, Painted Turtles, Partridgeberry, Pileated Woodpeckers, Possums, Purple Trillium, Queen Anne’s Lace, Raccoons, Ravens, Red-backed Salamanders, Red Head ducks, Red Maples, Red Squirrels, Red-tail Hawks, Robins, Sensitive Ferns, Shadbush, Shagbark Hickory, Short-tail Shrews, Striped Skunks, Spotted Sandpipers, Spring Peepers, Starflowers, Stoneflies, Striped Maples, Sulphurs, Forest Tent Caterpillars, Titmice (Titmouses?), Tree Wort, Trout fingerlings, Trout-Lilys, Turkey Vultures, Viceroys, Violets (I’m non-violet, myself), Voles, Water-Striders, White butterflies, White-footed Mice, White Pines, White-tail deer, White-throated Sparrows (we call them Old Sam Peabodys in Maine), Wild Chives, Wild Geraniums, Wild Parsnips, Wild Strawberries, Wintergreen (not always green - sometimes red), Witch Hazel, Wood Frogs, Woods Anemones, Yellow Swallowtails, Yellow Violets (which are they, yellow or violet?). So much for spring flora and fauna (and I know I missed some)!
FAUNA - The most obvious, visceral explosion of life-forms around us is avian. To name just a few: Barn-swallows; our over-wintering, tough little Black-capped Chickadees; Cardinals; Juncos; Bluebirds; Blue-jays; House- and Carolina Wrens; Red-wing Blackbirds; Great Blue Herons; Belted Kingfishers; Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, the ever-present Crows, much offended by even the mere PRESENCE of any Hawk; whether Red-tail, Red-shoulder, or Broad-wing; Owls (mostly Barred, locally); a couple of kettles of Black- and Turkey Vultures and a gradually increasing number of Bald Eagles (most with new hatchlings). Commensurate with the increased bird-activity, of course, is increased insect activity, of which the most attractive insects are the butterflies and moths, colorfully punctuating our landscape. We've been blessed thus far with Mourning Cloaks, Whites, Compton Tortoise Shells and Captains. Also winging their way northward right now from the mountains of Michoacan are the majestic Monarchs, making their epochal journey, arriving in the summer, to grace our fields and meadows with their regal beauty (see www.journeynorth.org for all migrators). At least there are some Ground Bees and Honey Bees around (hopefully, with more to follow) and a few Paper Wasps already. On the pesky side of the insect-spectrum, I’ve seen the first hatching of the Non-biting (but very annoying) Midges. Besides feeding birds, a major purpose for our rapidly-growing insect population on the ground is to feed the insanely prolific numbers of small rodents, (though some birds eat insects both in the air and on the ground). I say that because the small rodents do multiply their kind at a breakneck speed, by exponential factors. Luckily for all (except maybe for the hapless Meadow Voles, White-footed Mice, Deer Mice, Short-tail Shrews, Moles, etc.) we have a healthy population of Coyotes, Foxes, Hawks and Owls that have adapted over untold millennia to feed on those same small rodents and once the grasses are thick in field and meadow, offering a place for them to hide, that will be no easy task. The amphibians have been out now for a bit, mating and laying eggs. They include: Bull Frogs, Green Frogs, Tree Frogs (the most vociferous of which are the Spring Peepers) and Wood-frogs (whose tadpoles will be wildly proliferating now, prey for Herons, Raccoons and others), as well as Spotted- and Striped Salamanders. I have seen Snapping Turtles and Eastern Painted Turtles, as well. On a darker note, we are seeing more and more Jumping Worms (Amynthas) in our area and they pose a threat to our forests because they consume the surface leaf-litter (see DEC or Google). They are readily distinguished from earthworms - having a white band, violently writhing around when disturbed and they leave behind black coffee-groundappearing soil.
FLORA - Most of the Beeches have lost their dried, golden 2021 leaves now, which stayed on the branches all winter, chattering lightly in the wind, adding some sound to the otherwise quietude, protecting this year’s buds-to-be. You might say the Beech-class of 2021 has graduated. If you look around at the Birches, Maples, Oaks and other hardwoods, you will see that their branches are no longer barren. Now they are adorned with a fine haze of very small green or (mostly) reddish buds - all to soon be bright green (many already popping open). Most spectacular among the native trees are the flowering ones - Flowering Dogwood, Redbud, Spicebush, Shadbush, Wild Cherry, Chokecherry, Crabapple and others - vivid counterpoints to the changing forest. Also, other non-native flowering shrubs and trees, like the various Apples, Forsythias and Pears are blooming now. Mullein rosettes are out, bright green and ready to jump to the sky. Beebalm is
starting its cycle, as is Milkweed (not to get full-grown until their Monarch symbiotes are here). Before the forest canopy fills in, the Spring Ephemerals start their inexorable march: Brown- and Green Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Spring Beauties, Woods Anemones, Trout-lilies, Dutchmen's Breeches and the beautiful verdant carpet of unfolding young Canada Mayflower (Wild Lily-of-the-Valley) leaves, soon to be topped with their delicate little white flowers. Still to come are Purple Trilliums and Starflowers. Once the forest quietly succumbs to its newfound cool darkness the flower-action shifts to our more open spaces of field and meadow. It is already getting pretty there with Bluets (4 petals), Coltsfoot, Dandelions, Forget-me-Nots (5-petals), Violets, both White- and…well - Violet. As the Beebalm, Goldenrod, Ragweed, Milkweed and all the other flowering plants of the open, sunny areas come up and out, more and more butterflies will emerge from their chrysalises, nectaring on all of them. Lost among the more colorful plants of Spring are the rapidly proliferating ferns (though in some places they are being replaced by invasive Japanese Stiltgrass). The deliciously edible Fiddlehead Fern is unfolding. The most prominent is the Hay-scented Fern, which when crushed definitely evokes fresh-mown hay. You may notice that they effectively dominate their little patches in between the Beeches, Maples, Oaks and Pines, so much so that no other plant or shrub pokes their stems from the forest floor. This is due to Hay-scented Fern being Allelopathic, meaning that a chemical these ferns produce inhibits the growth of other plants. Another common fern is the New York Fern. Unlike most ferns which taper at only one end, it is pointed at both ends. Perhaps that’s where it got its name because like most New Yorkers, it doesn’t know whether it is coming or going. The most common fern in our wet meadows is the Sensitive Fern. I first thought it was named by New Agers but it turns out it is because of it being an indicator of the presence of water.
GREEN LIGHT - I love the the bright, viridescent, nitrogen-rich light that suffuses our world at this time. It’s as if nature has given the “green light” on growth and life. There’s nothing like looking across a large meadow now and seeing rich, luminous verdancy for the first time in what seems like ages. Life is pouring back into the land and has its foot in the door now - there will be no denying its emerald flood. Please have a safe Spring and enjoy this wondrous time. Slow down a bit and look around you - it will all disappear into Summer before we know it. And remember - leave Bambi be, but return an egg into their nest.
"Ranger" Dave Holden (845)594-4863 / email@example.com / Woodstock Trails on Facebook / on Instagram at rangerdaveholden / woodstocknytrails.com