Saturday, March 2, 2019
Hurrah! It's March! Winter will soon be over! But don't be fooled by this robin feeding in a sumac thicket. We have robins all winter now, as long as they can find sumac and crabapples and other fruiting shrubs and vines to feed in. But the sight of this robin yesterday along the Spring Run Trail in Saratoga Springs gave me a little jolt of joy, nevertheless. Especially since the snow still lay deep in the woods where I made my way down to the trail from a parking area near a residential development at the end of Excelsior Avenue.
Thankfully, though, the Spring Run Trail is plowed all winter, and so is this beautiful boardwalk that crosses the marsh at this end of the trail. When your legs grow weary of snowshoes or microspikes, this trail makes a great place to stride out on an easy walk.
This paved and plowed trail runs about a mile from East Avenue to where it ends near the Northway (Interstate 87), and much of it passes through woods and wetlands, as well as some residential neighborhoods.
A rushing creek runs most of the way along the trail, and the sound of its splashing water sure sounded like spring to my ears, especially with a warm sun beating down on the softening snow.
For a moment I thought there were tiny insects flying about, adding to the illusion of spring, but when I reached out to capture one of them on my glove, turns out it was only cattail fluff wafting on the air from a trailside marsh.
There's been news of Red-winged Blackbird sightings in the area already, but the only sign of them I saw on this day was one of their leftover nests hidden within the swampside shrubbery. Filled with snow, not eggs!
I do yearn to see flashes of color to liven up the dull wintry landscape, so I was delighted to see these garnet-red Highbush Cranberry clusters glowing in the sun. After the winter's freezes, the normally bitter berries should have become more palatable by now, offering sustenance to migratory birds who return here when little other food remains.
The branches of Red Osier Dogwood add their own brilliance now, too. Thickets of this native shrub grow along the trailside stream.
Thickets of a second red-twigged dogwood, Silky Dogwood, also crowd the streambanks, and the two species would be easy to confuse when seen from a distance. But observed closely, it's easy to see how different their barks are. Silky Dogwood, seen here on the left, has its light-colored lenticels occurring in long stripes along the twigs, while the lenticels of Red Osier appear as dots. This distinction makes the two shrubs easy to differentiate, even in winter.