Thursday, January 13, 2011

When It's Snowy Time Down South

I think our snow has decided to head south for the winter this year -- or at least as far south as Mt. Kisco in Westchester County, where I'm spending the week babysitting my grandkids. I was just here for Christmas, when more than a foot of snow fell. And again this week, whole heaps of it fell again. The above photo is of my daughter's backyard on Wednesday morning. The grandkids had a snow day off from school, but no one would come outside and play in the snow with me. But today they were back in school so I had whole hours to be outdoors.

Happily, there's a wonderful nature preserve called Teatown in nearby Ossining, which is where I went today. Its 834-acre site contains two lakes, many miles of forested trails, a nature-education center, and a natural history exhibit that houses live animals, including a number of large birds too damaged by injuries to be returned to the wild. I always like to stop and say hello to the owls.

This was a very friendly crow, who had been illegally raised in captivity, so he continued to seek human company. All the time I remained by his enclosure, he leaned against the bars and made eyes at me.

I chose a trail that runs about a mile and a half around one of the lakes. What a splendid day to be outdoors! Just look at that clear blue sky and sparkling snow.

The snow in the woods was so deep it was hard to discern what animals had made the many tracks, but deer and coyote seemed to be plentiful. When I first saw this rollicking trail out on the ice of the lake, I assumed it was someone's dog out romping in the way dogs do. Imagine my surprise when I discovered these swooping curves were made by a deer!

We don't see many tulip trees in northern New York (I know of just one in Saratoga Springs), but down here they are as common as maples. And what a splendid sight they make, their golden seed husks lit up by the sun against that blue, blue sky!

Here's another tree I'll never see growing wild in the woods around Saratoga: a holly. This was the only one I saw today, so they probably don't grow that plentifully around here, either.

Aren't these pretty? I believe they are Highbush Cranberries, and many bushes of them were thriving within a grove of tall spruce trees.

Rustic benches are placed at scenic spots along the trail.

At one point I set out across the lake to explore this little island, which in other seasons is accessible only when escorted by a guide -- and for a fee.

When the ice melts, the island can be reached by this bridge, with a gate kept locked to prevent casual access by humans and other animals who might damage the native wildflowers growing out there. For the sad truth is, there are very few native wildflowers growing in the surrounding woods, because of overbrowsing by deer, as well as the overabundance of invasive species of alien plants. This Wildflower Island was officially established as a sanctuary for native plants in 1983 and now contains over 230 species of wildflowers.

The Teatown folks now plan to extend the sanctuary to include three more acres of lakeside woods, fencing the area to keep out deer, removing alien species, planting native species, and thereby restoring the habitat to its natural condition.

Makes me really appreciate the incredibly diverse and thriving native habitats that surround us in Saratoga County and on up into the Adirondacks.


June said...

That SKY!!! I checked out weather report, and we are due for sun . . . mmmmm, a week from tomorrow...

The birds! Did the owl blink*blink*blink at you? I stood and did what I thought was "communing" with a little screech owl at a nature exposition . . . who blinked*blinked*blinked at me. I thought it was SO CUTE! Until his keeper gently told me he was doing it because he felt threatened. I left quickly, poor thing.

And, I have to say . . . gently . . . there's something odd, to my mind, about fencing out animals in order to create/maintain a natural habitat. But if it works for them, that's nice.

Louise said...

That looks like a lovely place to visit, especially the island. And, what a beautiful day to explore territory new to you.

As someone who is just learning about nature and the beauty around us, I have to say that I was often frustrated when I "found" a plant, only to discover it was an invasive. Sadly, we need places like that fenced in island to preserve our native plants. I'm glad that they are expanding the protected area to include a part of the mainland.

One of our nature sanctuaries here is doing the same thing, right now on a much smaller scale.

Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

We have the tulip poplars holly trees and deer but so far I have seen none of them making a weaving trail like the one you came across on your beautiful sunny day.

Ian said...

Wonderful photos of beautiful countryside just so different to here where it is hot and humid.
Very impressed with your blog and will keep checking out your adventures around Saratoga.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi June, thanks for the info about blinking owls. This owl just stared and stared. I think he was hoping I would bring him little mousies for dinner. Regarding the deer fence, there IS no natural habitat in Westchester County, because the deer have no predators here, other than speeding cars. So they've eaten into oblivion every native plant that grows, except for maybe poison ivy and skunk cabbage.

Yes, Louise, it sure was a beautiful place and a lovely day to be out exploring it. Regarding invasive plants, it's true that many are beautiful and interesting and often a delight to find. Wouldn't it be grand if they would learn to mind their manners and not overrun the place?

Nice to hear from you, Beyond My Garden. No, I have never seen a deer trail like that before, either. But a close look revealed the distinctive two-toed hoof print. And there were many curving trails just like this one along the shore. Like they were all out dancing!

Ian, what a pleasure to make your acquaintance! The world-wide reach of the internet continues to amaze me. Thanks for your kind comment and the opportunity to visit your part of the world through your beautiful blog.