Tuesday, March 5, 2013
March? It's March already?! Gosh, here I am, still waiting for winter, and all of a sudden it's almost spring. I was away caring for my granddaughters most of last week, down in Westchester County, and it did start to feel like spring down there, with temps in the 40s most days and lots of rain. We did have one fairly pleasant day with no rain, so after I put the girls on the schoolbus, I hurried over to Teatown Reservation, a nature preserve near Ossining, and hiked around the lake. As this photo shows, there's not a trace of snow left in the woods down there, and the ice has retreated quite a ways from shore.
A pair of swans was decorating the dark water, and when I tried to take a photo of one's elegant profile, it promptly did what a swan will do when it wants to eat. I didn't notice the Ringneck Duck until I enlarged this picture on my computer.
This time of year, with the woods so gray, I hunger for any spot of color, and this lovely cluster of Turkeytail fungus provided quite a vivid offering.
The Teatown Reservation has a nature-education center, with several exhibits of live animals. One of the exhibits is of turtles native to New York State, and among them was this beautiful Diamondback Terrapin, with its black-and-white striped and spotted skin and ornately colorful shell.
This is one turtle I'm never going to see up in Saratoga County, since it lives only in the brackish waters of coastal salt marshes, tidal creeks, and estuaries, coming ashore only to nest. One interesting fact I learned is that the gender of its offspring is determined by the temperature of its nest site, with cooler nests producing males and warmer nests producing females.
I returned to Saratoga late on Sunday, surprised to see the landscape freshly dusted with snow. I was up and out early on a frigid Monday morning, eager to get back to my local woods and waterways. Stopping off at the boat launch site along the Hudson below the Spier Falls Dam, I noticed that the river is now wide open, although thick ice sheets still line the banks.
This very clear set of prints in the freshly fallen snow showed me exactly where a mink had traveled along the banks and then dived into the icy water.
I made my way home along Parkhurst Road in Wilton, intending to visit Orra Phelps Nature Preserve to see if there were any signs of spring along the creek that runs through this preserve. I was really startled to see the creek completely frozen over and covered with snow. This creek had been running freely all winter long, and NOW it freezes over? How odd!
There's a broad mucky bank along this creek that is watered by springs and is dense with Skunk Cabbage, and I expected to see many shoots protruding from the snow, since this is a plant that will often melt the snow around itself by producing its own heat. But the whole bank remained completely covered with snow, with nary a shoot protruding. Except for this one. And only this one. The spathe had turned the rich red that is typical of spring growth, but it remained tightly closed to protect the developing spadix within. This is our very first flower of spring, but it looks like we will have to wait quite a while longer before it blooms.
Along this same creek grows a huge Rosebay Rhododendron shrub, the leaves of which stay green all winter, as do its flower buds. So seeing these fat yellowish buds is not exactly a sign of approaching spring, but they at least reassured me that this shrub will indeed be blooming this year. I hope I manage to catch it in bloom, since its flowers are spectacularly beautiful. And hardly ever found in the wild this far north. We're lucky this shrub has a happy home at Orra Phelps.