Friday, March 20, 2015
Here's the first day of Spring, but we're still held tight in Winter's grip here in Saratoga County. It warmed up a bit last week, enough to start the sap running in maples, but now it's turned so cold again that the sap freezes solid as it drips from the trees. It was down around 20 degrees this morning, thick snow still covers the ground, and it hadn't warmed up much by afternoon, when I forced myself grumpily outdoors. If you're a nature blogger, ya gotta get out on the first day of Spring, right? So I took myself off to the Bog Meadow Trail just outside of town. Maybe I'd find some Skunk Cabbage there. Maybe some migrating ducks.
The trail didn't look too promising, bumpy and slippery with icy snow, but at least it was packed down hard enough I could walk it with only grippers instead of snowhoes. And soon I heard the sound of rushing water. Yes!!! The creeks have started to flow! Last time I was here they were covered with solid ice. Now there was just a bit of filigree ice at the edges.
I approached the open marsh as covertly and quietly as I could, hoping to spot whatever waterfowl might be swimming in there among what little bit of open water there was. But nope, not quiet enough! First, a pair of quacking Mallards took off (no big deal; they're here all year), and then I saw and heard about six other ducks take flight, making the high-pitched hoo-ee, hoo-ee, hoo-ee sound I associate with Wood Ducks. Darn! Wood Ducks are so beautiful, and I missed my chance to see them.
Since the ground is still frozen solid, I could venture out into the swamp where in warmer weather I'd sink to my shins in muck. But today I could follow the running creek well back into the swamp, walking on solidly frozen snow instead of teetering along atop mounds of Tussock Sedge.
I was hoping to find the masses of Skunk Cabbage plants that crowd the banks of this stream, but most of them were still buried deep under snow. I did spy a few in the muddy shallows, but the spathes had only just begun to emerge, still tightly closed, no sign yet of the pollen-bearing spadices within.
Those reddening Skunk Cabbage spathes, the deep-red branches of Red Osier Dogwood, and the gray-green disks of Green Shield Lichen adorning the trees were just about the only spots of color in this winter-dreary landscape today.
Ah, but look what a sign of hope for Spring I found! Although it looks like another dry dead leaf, I recognized the cocoon of a Cecropia Moth, one of our more spectacular moths, brightly colored and as big as your hand. I reached to break off the twig it was attached to, planning to bring it home to my screened porch, where I could watch it emerge in late May before I returned it to the wild.
But oh dear, someone else appears to have found this cocoon, and has drilled a hole to get inside and . . . what? Eat the caterpillar? Or lay eggs that will eat the caterpillar when they hatch? It doesn't bode well for this Cecropia Moth. I brought the cocoon home anyway. It might be interesting to see if other creatures emerge.
The day grew dimmer and dimmer as the afternoon wore on. And colder and colder, too. I'd had enough of the great outdoors today. And then it began to snow! Aaargh!!! Time to go home.