Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Hike

We have been blessed with some fantastic weather the past week or so. Highs in the 60's and 70's, which is 10 to 20 degrees above normal. The world has burst into life and so have I, finding any odd job I can as an excuse to stay outside. Prune trees? Sure! Caulk the RV? No problem! Scoop dog poop? Can't wait!!

The girls had a better idea this past Sunday and proposed a hike. We didn't plan this real well as we left the house around 11am without eating lunch first and without packing snacks, so we were whupped by the time we got home. Even though the trail we took is only about 2--2 1/2 miles long it took us nearly three hours. Hiking with a bunch of artist/naturalists is not a good way to get an aerobic workout, but it's awesome if you like to stop every 50 feet and watch a bird or turn over logs or inspect pond life.

Many of the trees, like this maple (probably a red maple) were in full bloom.

Not to be outdone, willows in the marsh were showing off their blossoms.

We often find ourselves off the trail, following a deer path to see where it leads (and to look for shed antlers). That often leads to finds like this ant hill, which was just teaming with activity. The mound was nearly four feet across, and it looked like the ground was moving there were so many ants crawling around.

One of my favorite things about hiking this time of year is the vernal pond. Full of frog and insect life, the creatures that live here have to act fast, procreating and developing before the heat of summer dries up this seasonal habitat.

In and around these areas, the skunk cabbage thrives. Fascinating plant, this. It is able to create its own heat and so will begin to grow before the snow melts and the ground thaws. The flower part is the shiny red bit (called the spadix), with the leaves growing up around it.

Housed within the spadix is the spathe, the part of the plant that gets pollinated. Botanists think that the heat produced by the skunk cabbage is what results in it smell (not unlike rotting flesh) which attracts flies and other insects who are the pollinators of this plant. I am pretty sure that if I smelled like rotting flesh, no one would want to pollinate me. Yeesh!

While we were examining the plant life, Lori spotted a bird hoping about in the trees near the water. Ah, an eastern phoebe, apparently building a nest under the root ball of a large toppled tree nearby. We watched as he flew in and out of this sheltered spot.

Handsome fellow, watching us as closely as we watched him, flicking his tail up and down.

Near the end of our hike we spotted a small bird in the underbrush. Not until we got home and looked at the photos did we know it was a fox sparrow, well camouflaged in the shrubbery.

On the drive home we spotted a cluster of small yellow flowers along the road. I of course had to hop out and take some pictures. This is colt's foot, not a native plant but one brought from Europe and used for medicinal purposes. Pretty, though, and apparently not invasive, and certainly one of the first flowers I've seen so far this spring.

Our heat wave is over, rain has moved in and the temperature is dropping as I write this--and it's 10 am. But that's OK with me--too warm and spring moves too fast, and too much of life moves too fast as it is. I'm all for slowing things down.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh, a perfect spring exploration...and I'm Most delighted that there are stops every 50 feet or so...that Skunk Cabbage is amazing. Don't think I've ever seen one...guess I'd know from the smell, eh? And those ants, wow...what a fun day! And, yes, it all moves too fast. I love these fresh days, waking up to birds chirping, kinda being lazy, watching Nature come alive, being energetic and feeling the sun... What a gift!