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the pink moon

Finally Spring begins to unfold and this moon (interchangeable with “month”, but runs from full moon to full moon) is the epitome of the season - bright, full of life and light - a time of rebirth and renewal. Rarely is this moon really pink, but this is the time when Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata), also called Moss Pink and Creeping Ground Phlox flowers unfold in the Northeast. Tribes further west in the Rockies, still mired in winter, called it Ice Breaking in the River Moon. Other common Indigenous names for the full moon in April are Egg Moon, referring to birds laying their eggs, and the Fish Moon as fish return in numbers to northern waters. Don’t forget, Spring is burgeoning everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere and all northern peoples had their names for this time, like the Celt’s Budding Moon and New Shoots Moon. To Slavic people it was the Birch Moon. In China it was called the Peony Moon, which is interesting since most peonies will be pink. Again, all these names reflect a common theme - the return of life, light and warmth to the Land. A major reason why the Full Pink Moon was so important was that it was the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which marks the halfway point between the Winter and Summer Solstices. Not only is it a major turning point in the year for Native, Traditional peoples, but it coincides with some of the holiest times of different cultures and religions. Passover begins with the Pink Moon, or Pesach Moon. Easter, the modern Christian holiday of resurrection (inspired by the ancient Celtic holy day of Eostre, which celebrated the rebirth of Life), occurs on the first Sunday of what’s called the Paschal Moon. It is a special time - no matter how we celebrate it.

FLORAL FAUNA - The vernal season is a notoriously fickle one in our part of the world and this year is a perfect example, oscillating warm and cold, sun and cloud, three steps forward, two steps back. With any warming trend the myriad animals, flowers, shrubs and trees can all start their seasonal cycles. As the light green of spring ever-so-gradually courses up the valleys - first low, then high - the season of new life begins in a steadily increasing stream of verdure, soon (not soon enough!) to become a raging, unstoppable torrent of vibrancy. Yet, before the hardwoods can leaf out and become green, we will see a dark-red haze among their branches - the little red bud-caps that precede and protect the actual buds. Then these old, old mountains will again ring to the cries of new life as Spring progresses inexorably on. The natural signs of Spring abound - millions of bright green shoots are, well - shooting up; the Daffodils are out and Coltsfoot will be lining our roads; the shoots of new Beech-leaves pushing off last year’s dried golden leftovers. If you look carefully you will see that some trees and shrubs have buds now, ready for warmer weather. It is a calculated risk they take, since it is very likely that we will have more extreme cold and some of them will not be able to re-bud if they freeze. This can explain one reason why some trees and shrubs don’t seem to fill out well. It seems that the plants growing closest to the ground are the readiest for Spring. Partridgeberry is one, bright red berries very visible on the forest floor. Soon, they’ll present their little white, trumpet-like flowers to tempt insects with. Partridgeberry is very hardy, growing all winter on their leafy vines hugging the ground (photo, left). Black Bear cubs seeing their new world for the first time; wild grasses greening up for the season in the valleys and the plaintive “peent” of the Woodcock. The local turtles (Box, Painted, Snapping) should stay buried in the mud for a little bit still, unlike the Wood-frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) which are already cavorting wildly in their Vernal Pools. Amazing, since these woodland pools may still have ice in them - a testimony to the incredible adaptiveness of these little amphibians that have a natural form of antifreeze - a glycol-like substance - coursing through their system. This is the same adaptation that allows them to lie frozen under the leaves all winter, suspended, waiting for that day. If the Woodies are out, then the Spotted Salamanders (Ambustoma maculatum) must be, also. Those wet nights that were about 40 degrees was when both species crawled and hopped to their ancestral breeding areas. Still please be careful on the roads near ponds and let the Sallies and the Woodies cross the roads safely. For more on this, or to volunteer to help protect them in their perilous journey next season, visit . If you do move them off the road, wet your hands first (no nitrile gloves - they will absorb the chemicals on them). Both of their egg- masses will be evident shortly, all to become tadpoles (Woodies) or larvae (Sallies). Soon, Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), with their higher pitch call, will be out. They are a species of tree- or chorus-frog that will be with us all summer. So many firsts, now and to come. More and more moths and the first Mourning Cloak butterflies. They’re always among the first because they winter full grown under bark or siding and then wake up ready to go, already having gone through their metamorphosis last year. With more and more insects unfolding there will be more and more birds to feed on them as the migrators return, most notable now are flocks of Blackbirds and Grackles (and Hummingbirds in late April! Yay!). The larger avians - Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons and Ospreys - are taking advantage of the burgeoning fish populations in the now-open waters of creek, pond, reservoir and stream and welcoming soon their own new progeny. BIRDS-EGGS - yes, FAWNS - no - If you can replace an egg that fell from its nest, please don’t hesitate to do so - I’m sure their parents will appreciate it. You can touch a bird-egg since they have no sense of smell. This is in contrast to a newborn fawn, which - amazingly - is born without scent. This incredible adaptation allows the doe to leave it in tall grass while she desperately feeds to regain strength, knowing that predators (Black Bear and Coyotes, for instance) will not smell it. So bird-eggs, yes, and fawns, no. Actually, if you handle the fawn you may imbue it with your scent and mom will most likely reject it, so please. WINTERSPRING - As you can tell, I love Spring (who doesn’t?). The only issue I have with it is that it takes seemingly forever for it to come to fruition. All of the other seasons fairly zip along by comparison. Maybe it would help if we made four minor seasons in between the four major ones - Winterspring; Summerspring; Summerfall and Winterfall. Then it might be easier to adapt from one to the other. Still I think Spring will always suffer from our green expectations after so long without verdure.

Thank you all - “Ranger” Dave Holden


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