Thursday, January 13, 2011
When It's Snowy Time Down South
I think our snow has decided to head south for the winter this year -- or at least as far south as Mt. Kisco in Westchester County, where I'm spending the week babysitting my grandkids. I was just here for Christmas, when more than a foot of snow fell. And again this week, whole heaps of it fell again. The above photo is of my daughter's backyard on Wednesday morning. The grandkids had a snow day off from school, but no one would come outside and play in the snow with me. But today they were back in school so I had whole hours to be outdoors.
Happily, there's a wonderful nature preserve called Teatown in nearby Ossining, which is where I went today. Its 834-acre site contains two lakes, many miles of forested trails, a nature-education center, and a natural history exhibit that houses live animals, including a number of large birds too damaged by injuries to be returned to the wild. I always like to stop and say hello to the owls.
This was a very friendly crow, who had been illegally raised in captivity, so he continued to seek human company. All the time I remained by his enclosure, he leaned against the bars and made eyes at me.
I chose a trail that runs about a mile and a half around one of the lakes. What a splendid day to be outdoors! Just look at that clear blue sky and sparkling snow.
The snow in the woods was so deep it was hard to discern what animals had made the many tracks, but deer and coyote seemed to be plentiful. When I first saw this rollicking trail out on the ice of the lake, I assumed it was someone's dog out romping in the way dogs do. Imagine my surprise when I discovered these swooping curves were made by a deer!
We don't see many tulip trees in northern New York (I know of just one in Saratoga Springs), but down here they are as common as maples. And what a splendid sight they make, their golden seed husks lit up by the sun against that blue, blue sky!
Here's another tree I'll never see growing wild in the woods around Saratoga: a holly. This was the only one I saw today, so they probably don't grow that plentifully around here, either.
Aren't these pretty? I believe they are Highbush Cranberries, and many bushes of them were thriving within a grove of tall spruce trees.
Rustic benches are placed at scenic spots along the trail.
At one point I set out across the lake to explore this little island, which in other seasons is accessible only when escorted by a guide -- and for a fee.
When the ice melts, the island can be reached by this bridge, with a gate kept locked to prevent casual access by humans and other animals who might damage the native wildflowers growing out there. For the sad truth is, there are very few native wildflowers growing in the surrounding woods, because of overbrowsing by deer, as well as the overabundance of invasive species of alien plants. This Wildflower Island was officially established as a sanctuary for native plants in 1983 and now contains over 230 species of wildflowers.
The Teatown folks now plan to extend the sanctuary to include three more acres of lakeside woods, fencing the area to keep out deer, removing alien species, planting native species, and thereby restoring the habitat to its natural condition.
Makes me really appreciate the incredibly diverse and thriving native habitats that surround us in Saratoga County and on up into the Adirondacks.