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GLACIAL GREEN

Life is starting to really flow now, gradually gaining that glacier-like, unstoppable momentum this month is known for as every day brings new life in myriad forms - flowers unfolding, rambunctious young animals seeing the world for the first time. While Flower Moon is a popular name for this time, different cultures and diverse tribes all have their own names for this month, such as the Hare Moon, the Corn Planting Moon (Algonquin) and the Milk Moon (also Algonquin), because this is when Milkweed begins to bloom. The Cree called it the Frog Moon. Wildflowers bloom during May in the Oklahoma hills, but die as taller plants crowd them out, which is why the Osage call this month the Flower-killing Moon and the murder of Anna Brown took place in May, 1921, so the title of the book and movie - Killers of the Flower Moon - serves as a metaphor for what happened to the Osage.



SPRING HAS SPRUNG - 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. BRIGHT LIGHT - What an amazing season spring is and like every season each one is unique. Also, like most local springs, it seems as if every one takes forever to actually happen. The truth is that spring in the northeast is a time of great (albeit painstakingly slow) transition and impatient humans have a tendency to forget that it is only a step towards summer, not the beginning of summer itself. The hallmark of the Spring in Waghkonk can be a repetitive - sometimes extreme - oscillation in temperature, ranging from 20 degrees above average to 20 degrees below average, sometimes from one day to the next. The amount of rainfall here can vary greatly, as well, from too much, which can lead to extreme flooding, to barely enough rainfall (and sunshine) for the plants to leaf out. Rain is also important here at this time to discourage brushfires, which is a great danger while the woods are wide open to the drying effects of the now higher-angle bright spring sunshine. One danger in early spring is that the leaf-litter left from last year, previously buried by snow, is very dry now and, therefore, highly flammable. This is why New York State bans outdoor burning at this time, which is when many brushfires do occur.

 

GREEN LIGHT IN THE WOODS - I love the bright, nitrogen-rich green light that suffuses our world at this time. It’s as if nature has given the “green light” to growth and life. Indeed, every- thing in our forest is growing, jumping up, leaves unfolding, delicate wildflower-petals opening. So many of our Spring Ephemerals are doing their thing as we speak and some of them (Dutchmen’s Breeches, Red Trillium and Trout Lilys) are done already. The Canada Mayflowers (Wild Lily-of-the-Valley) are carpeting our forest floor with their glorious, tiny little white fireworks-like flowers. Commingling with them is Hay-scented Fern (yes, it smells like hay if you bruise it). Partridgeberries are pretty now, with their bright red berries on show and the Jack-in- the-Pulpits - both Green- and Brown- are just now jumping up. As soon as the forest canopy fully leafs out all of these delicate little beauties will be mostly done for this year, seeds safely sown to await next spring. These are one major reason we should always stay on trail - our heavy feet can damage these sensitive plants even out of season. The Ephemerals come and go so quickly - if you blink…they’re gone (hence the term). VERDANCY IN FIELD AND MEADOW - Once the forest quietly succumbs to its newfound cool darkness the flower-action will shift to our more open spaces. The fields and meadows are already getting pretty with Bluets, Coltsfoot, Dandelions, Violets, both White and, well…Violet! Flitting about them are some early Comptons Tortoiseshells, Gypsy Moths (now called Spongy Moths), Mourning Cloaks, Sulphurs, Whites and a couple of early Yellow Swallowtails. At least there are some Bumble Bees (usually Ground Bees) and Honey Bees out there (hopefully, with more to follow) with more and more Paper Wasps showing up. On the pesky side of the insect- spectrum are the Non-biting (but very annoying) Midges. Our flowering trees - Apples, Cherries, Crabapples, Dogwoods and Shadbush - are just now dropping their petals. As the Bee Balm, Goldenrod (not an allergen), Milkweed and Ragweed (the real culprit), and all the other plants of the open, sunny areas grow, more and more butterflies will hatch from their chrysalises. Most notable will be the ancient symbiotic relationship between the Monarch butterflies and their Milkweed. The Monarchs have already started their epic journey from the Oyamel Fir forests high in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico and are on their way here to their ancestral summer fields and meadows. Always something to look forward to and hopefully their numbers will be increasing (see www.journeynorth.org for information on all the migrators).

 

MORE SPRING FAUNA - Our first Tree Frogs are out now and will entertain us for the season and will be joined eventually by Crickets, Katydids and Annual Cicadas. The egg-masses of Spotted Salamander (white) and Woodfrogs (light green) will be hatching into tadpoles soon. If you wonder why they incessantly dart back and forth, ducking under submerged branch and leaf in their vernal pools - they have good reason! They are prime food for many others, including (but not limited to) Great Blue Herons and Raccoons. This is why their egg-masses are so large - because only a few will survive to hide under the leaf-litter come next winter. In the meadows the Deer Mice, Jumping Mice, Meadow Voles and Moles will revel in their protection under the new-grown ground-cover at the base of the burgeoning Bee Balm, Goldenrod, Milkweed and Ragweed, giving them some protection from the hawkish knife and the deep-prying eyes (and ears) of owls. The extremely sensitive noses of our wild canids - Eastern Coyote and Grey- and Red Foxes - tells these creatures that the mice are there, but it will be harder for them to be rooted out. Remember - you can pick up a birds egg and put it back in the nest, but do not touch a newborn fawn - BIRD’S EGGS - YES, FAWNS - NO, and for opposite reasons. Birds have no sense of smell, so their parents won’t smell your scent on the egg; whereas, since the fawn was born scentless (yes, it’s incredible - but true) to help it avoid predators while it is helpless as a newborn, you could imbue it with your scent if you do touch or move it, possibly causing its mother to reject it. Black Bears are out now, roaming the valley looking for food, at least until the Blueberries and Huckleberries fruit up in the hills. Some will have cubs, of which Momma Bear will be very protective - one more reason to keep Fido close to hand. Spring Turkey Hunting has started, so please wear orange and stay on the trail.

 

Thank you all, “Ranger” Dave Holden / (845)594-4863 / woodstocktrails@gmail.com / rangerdaveholden on Instagram / Dave Holden on Facebook / www.woodstocknytrails.com

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