Thursday, April 7, 2011
Whirligigs, Wood Frogs, WARM!
This beautiful day dawned bright and clear and held the promise of warmth at last. It also held the promise of a wonderful time with a great bunch of folks who call themselves the Thursday Naturalists. Comprising both passionate amateur naturalists and deeply knowledgeable professionals, this group meets weekly to explore natural areas throughout New York's capital district, and this week they chose to walk the Spring Run Trail right here in Saratoga Springs. Lucky me, they asked me to join them as they explored the mile-long trail that traces the route of an old railroad line through marshy woods and past streams now rushing full with snowmelt runoff.
I asked my friend and nature buddy Sue along, both because I knew she would love the TNs (as they call themselves) and they her, and also because she's great at spotting birds and recognizing their songs. This Spring Run Trail, with abundant thickets and marshes and streams, is a birder's heaven. Or will be, as more and more migrants arrive. The Red-winged Blackbirds announced their arrival weeks ago, and today we heard the sweet, sweet, sweet trilling Song Sparrow's call.
Here's Sue in front of the root mass of a fallen White Pine. Note how amazingly shallow that root system is for such a giant tree.
Although the only flowers we could find along the trail were Skunk Cabbage and Coltsfoot, a great time was had by all just enjoying this beautiful morning outdoors and in one another's good company. Then our pleasure was punctuated very nicely when we got back to the parking lot and discovered a hot-dog cart emitting the tantalizing odors of grilling franks. Just in time for lunch.
Well, after the group dispersed, the day was still young, and I decided to check out the Bog Meadow Nature Trail on the other side of town. This trail has three access points, and the first one I came to, off Rt. 29, proved to be too flooded to walk without Wellies. It looks like beavers have dammed a nearby stream and created a lake.
So I drove around to the Meadowbrook Road access several miles away and was able to find my way on to the trail, despite some remnants of ankle-deep snow and a bit of squishy mud. By the time I reached the boardwalk over the pond, the walking was clear and easy.
Birds were flitting and singing everywhere, but without my bird-expert buddy Sue and her excellent eyesight, the only one I could recognize was this Phoebe, sitting out in full view on a twig and yanking its tail in a downward direction, in the diagnostic way that Phoebes do.
The wonderful warmth of this bright sunny day was inspiring all kinds of animal activity. The pond was aswirl with the circular dances of these Whirligig Beetles, the first sign of pond life I've yet to see this spring.
I searched for Water Striders in the little streams along the trail and didn't find them. I did, however, disturb this little sunbathing spider, who quickly scooted away, but not before I managed to capture its picture.
Ah, the crowning moment of this splendid day! Turn the volume up when you play this video. There's not much to see, but somewhere off in those woods the Wood Frogs were croaking their love songs. Spring is here!