At one point, the trail passes over a very long footbridge that provides beautiful views of the lake, which was mostly covered with a thin sheet of ice. I walked this trail just a year ago, when several feet of snow covered the woods, and the ice was thick enough to support the wanderings of deer across its surface. They would not have been able to do that today. (To compare the amount of snow this year to last at Teatown, click here.)
The terrain surrounding the lake is rugged and rocky, with many outcroppings studded with glassy patches of quartzite.
Wherever the lake lay unfrozen, various waterfowl swam about in the open water, including this pair of elegant swans.
Because of an overabundance of deer in Westchester County, most of the woods, although lush and green, are bereft of native species of plants, supporting only those invasive plants that deer avoid. A number of nature preserves in the county are fencing off portions of their acreage to keep out the deer, allowing the native plants to be reestablished. At Teatown, this process is being actively managed, with removal of alien species and the planting of native shrubs and trees and wildflowers. This rustic gate marks one entry into such a fenced-off exclosure. I look forward to revisiting this area during the growing season to see what native plants have come into flower.
One of my favorite features of Teatown is the exhibits of native birds and mammals, especially the enclosures containing raptors and owls and other birds of prey, all of them having been rehabilitated following serious injury but too permanently damaged to be returned to the wild. Here, one of the caregivers, Lisa, enters the enclosure of an American Kestrel to offer it shreds of meat.
In a nearby enclosure, a Red-tailed Hawk hunches over to enjoy its lunch of rat. How lovely to get such a good view of the ruddy tail that gives this large raptor its name. We usually can only see this bird from underneath, as it soars above us, high in the sky.
Inside the nature center are tanks and terraria housing a number of amphibians, snakes, and turtles, including this rare Blandings Turtle that came close enough to let me see its yellow chin and throat, and the distinctive black and white mottling of its shell.
An informative sign near the turtle's pool stated that this turtle is found in New York only in Dutchess County, but I was able to leave a message for Teatown naturalists, informing them that this rare turtle has also been found at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, right here in Saratoga County. Where I am again very happily at home, eager to get back to my own Saratoga County woods and waters.