this post has been days in the making..
Last Saturday, I thought I'd post this as a "weekending' post. Later, when I hadn't gotten around to it, I figured I'd plug it into a "walk with me wednesday' post. It is neither. Seems like there ought to a day to mark the first bike ride of the spring.
The weather was SO warm and beautiful (and partly overcast), that we decided to throw all of our previous plans out the window, load the bikes onto the back of the van and head to our nearest bike trail.
The Blackstone River Bikeway, part of the RI State Park system, is a nearly 12 mile trail that runs for a time along an old towpath paralleling both a canal and the river. It travels through history, passing by archaeological ruins of several New England milltowns. For an urban trail, there is a remarkable amount of wildlife. I've seen deer, beaver and muskrat, blue heron, ducks and geese. This weekend it was turtles. They were everywhere!
When we crossed the marsh, we stopped to watch the largest fresh water turtle I've ever seen. It had a shell nearly two feet long! While we watched, it caught dinner, a bird!!!! I still can't believe it. I was very happy to be way up high on the boardwalk. That's one bit of water I don't want to wade in.
Sorry, no pictures. I tried. For the longest time we thought it was a submerged tire. Then it swam. I had only the camera in my phone. Though most of the turtles we saw, and at one place we counted 19, were the painted variety, the big ones must have been snappers.
It was an all too short ride, round trip about 12 miles. Still, perfect.
New Englanders, GET OUT YOUR FEEDERS!
This was not the Wednesday post I had planned. That changed this morning, when I saw these migration maps..
They are sure signs that the hummers are on their way. Soon. We did get a hard freeze two nights ago. Lots of the flowering trees were damaged. It is anyone's guess when the huimmers will show. But, just in case... GET YOUR FEEDERS OUT!
Just when I was about to check off winter for 2012, we turned the February page back on the calendar and somehow, by displaying March, kick started what remains of winter. (omg, I can hear it.. she's put up more turkey pictures!)
It has gone SO fast.. January was spectacular for hikling in the woods. No snow. Most of you know this. Eventually, I'll populate posts with some of the pictures from those afternoons, poking around in my sneakers, in January, in New England. The last weekend in January, there was the annnual (it has gotten to be annual for me..) spinning retreat in Wareham, MA. All play, relaxation, spinning, walking and eating. Without the usual ice and snow cover, I was able to expand my walks into the woodlands abutting the salt marshes. It was a good change. Most days, I was getting the year end stuff done for the business(es), dyeing yarn, skeining yarn, labeling yarn and doing what it takes to get ready for shows. There were two coming up in February, the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival and the NETA Spa in Maine. Both, FUN! Believe me, getting ready took most of my time. The days sped on by. We are so easily entertained. Mornings start with turkeys, and afternoons end about the same way. As I type this, there must be over 40 birds pecking at what's left of the seed that I threw out for them an hour or so ago.
The cats don't mind the turkeys and the turkeys are much to busy minding each other to care about a couple cats. With all the warm weather, it was getting a bit randy with the rafter, lots of displayed tail feathers, red reds, hot headed arguments, and a general one upmanship of the toms. The snow seems to have slowed it down. Winter, remember?
Time to post this. There's a bit of action I want to watch. It is getting darker and the 'boys club' has arrived ( a group of 12 toms, all huge and very beautiful, the head council, whatever). What they say, goes.
Maybe I should have titled this post How I Spent My Winter, or Easily Amused. But hey.. millions watch the Decorah eagles.
ps. I could have shown you show pics...
pps. Ocellata is a turkey colorway offered in Super Sock 416.
On a dark, snowy New Year's eve afternoon, ten (or so) years ago, two friends and I hiked into the woods. It seemed a good idea at the time. Small flakes were begining to fall, dusting the path and looking very seasonal. A perfect way to end the year. I knew the main trail well and we moved along it quickly. We were out for a walk, with the need to explore. When we passed a small trail to left we decided to take it, just to see where it went. Within a short time, the snow began in earnest. The trail, what there was of it, was still evident and we felt we could easily follow our steps back the way we came. No worries, at least for two of us. We continued. The snow fell harder and fast, and before very long there were inches of snow mounting on top of the now obliterated trail. Visibility was failing. We continued, now with a slight feeling of adventure. We'd hiked together many times in the snow, often on snow shoes. No matter the weather, it was shaping up to be a perfect afternoon. Anyone who walks in the woods in this part of New England knows that trails are often more evident with snow cover than in the summer when covered by new growth. I say again, we were not worried. Besides, this is hardly wilderness. Walk in any direction for an hour and surely you will cross a road. My story ends well. Our tracks were obliterated by the sudden and heavy snow that afternoon. We managed to find our way back to the main trail, and home to a warm fire. But.. since that time, I've never been quite sure which trail we took.
..and that brings me to yesterday.
I decided to try another side trail, just to see if maybe it was the one. See the little black arrow heading off to the left? It isn't easy to see. Maybe with snow. As I walked, the trail widened. It was beautiful, passing several areas of high ledges and winding around small hills. I passed a pile of fox scat, then another, this one with vomit next to it. ( I know, I really am going somewhere with this.) Animals like using trails in the same way we do. It makes the going easier. Why they have to leave scat in the middle of the trail instead of conveniently off to the side.. oh well. I walked the trail to the end, then turned around. On the way back, I passed a rather larger pile of scat that I hadn't seen a half hour earlier. Coyote, for sure. But then I started thinking. Really, would I know the difference between a dog and a coyote? Probably depends on what they had for dinner. Then it came to me.. I had my phone. Was there an app for scat?
I laughed all the way home.
There haven't always been turkeys around here, at least not in any great number. Occasionally I'd see a couple cross the road, or at the base of a tree in the orchard. It was an exception, the kind of thing you'd mention to the neighbors. 'Hey, did you see the wild turkey? ' Exciting. One December, years ago, I saw a rafter of about 20 wild turkeys on a hillside along rt 80 in Pennsylvania. It was so unusual that I still remember where it was and how they looked as we sped by. As I write this, there are nine wild turkeys, looking for food, not more than twenty feet from me on the other side of the glass door. The cat is outside watching them. So am I.
It starts early, just before dawn. I hear then making soft calling noises high up in the trees. Where are you, I am here. Look hard, you can see them roosting. As the sky begins to brighten, the noises get louder, much louder, until everyone is wide awake. Myself included.
Then the fun begins. Wild turkeys are not graceful fliers. As they descend, small branches snap, there's crashing commotion all the way to the ground. LOUD! They do this one at a time, and all at once. That is what all the noises have been about, your turn, my turn. The more I know, the more fascinated I become.
Several weeks ago, we saw a special on PBS Nature called My Life as a Turkey. You can watch it streaming on your computer. I saw it again a few days ago as I tied red bows in my studio. It was that good. The story is about a clutch of wild turkey eggs that imprint and are raised by a naturalist. He learns to talk turkey. Check it out. Gorgeous photography.
I'm thinking that it is way to early to feed them. A neighbor does. There will be plenty of time when the snow falls. I wonder what they find without acorns this year.
The more I learn, the more I want to know. We aren't the only ones who speak to one another. Just listen.
Do you think they knew??
No, I don't think dirty kittys should be on the table. Nor, do I think that gray squirrels should be cleaning out my bird feeders. But this year.... I will be feeding them.
It was months ago, that gray squirrels (at least in my area) started jumping in front of cars, in extraordinary numbers. One day I counted six fresh dead squirrels in the 1.5 miles it takes to get to the bottom of the hill. Driving anywhere was a challenge. It almost seemed that they waited until the car was upon them to leap from the roadside and under the wheels. I hated to go anywhere. I'll do almost anything to avoid hitting an animal, or frog, or turtle.. or anything. I swerve, slam on my brakes and drive entirely too slowly when creatures are in the road. This year it was spooky.
The prediction is that we could lose 50% of the squirrel population this year, to starvation. There are NO acorns. Seriously. I usually rake acorns into piles 3 feet high and six feet across. This year, nothing. The turkeys are missing from my yard, too. I know that they've been seen regularly at nearby orchards. But here, where last year, I had 37 of them, everyday, I have none.
I hadn't given any of this much thought until my friend Manise posted a link to an article in the Boston Globe last week titled, Where Did All the Acorns Go? Reading it got me thinking, a proverbial light bulb. This isn't the first time we've had a shortage. When I first moved to this oak woods, we went several years without acorns. I remember asking around to see if these were a species I was unfamiliar with. I didn't know that the oaks had acorn cycles. One year, I blamed it on a gypsy moths infestation. Not this time. Another article I've come across describes a shortage in the mid atlantic states during 2008. That year we had a bumper crop.
The past few years have been mast years for the oaks. Huge, abundant amounts of nuts. It only makes sense then, that the squirrel population would have flourished. I had only to look up to see them, racing throughout the woods, leaping branch to branch and tree to tree, small figures against the sky. I love watching them. Treetops full of motion, and commotion!
So, yes.. I'll be adding extra seed to the feeders. Sammy will be pleased, he'll have a bit more to watch during the winter. Aaahh.. the table, it will need to be cleaned before each meal.
The beaver is a large, semi aquatic rodent. It is the largest rodent in North America. It is clever, hardworking, stubborn and at this point, winning. All summer we tried to discourage the beaver that came to live on our pond. In the evenings, after dark, we'd go down to the damn and make noise, smack the water with a paddle, and do our best to chase him away. He'd smack the water back at us, loudly with his tail. Then swim back and forth along the dam until we headed up the hill to the house. Each morning, often with my first cup of coffee, I'd don my rubber boots and head down to the dam to clean out the past nights endeavour. By the end of the summer, we had to use the bucket on the tractor to move away the piled high sticks and mud that I'd hauled onto the bank from the overflow pipe. The spillway was more of an issue. This he'd dam with larger material. Sometimes it would take two of us to move the water soaked logs he'd pushed into place the night before. As the weeks went by, and not helped by the extraordinarily wet season we were having, the dam grew soggier. I worried. I fought back. So, did the beaver.
In desperation, we decided to electrify the spillway.
That did work to keep the water flowing. And, if what I read is true, I take great pleasure in thinking about the discomfort and frustration that the sound of the running water must cause him. Small victory, indeed.
I figured that if we could find his lodge, we'd have more to use against him. Beavers, it turns out, don't need a home until winter. We searched.
Eventually, in late summer, we found a place on the island that he'd begun building and an underwater log storage area for his winter food. We worked hard, daily polling our raft over to the island and removing the saplings he was accumulating. Most days, his night's work filled the raft.
As we stole his cache, he upped the ante. The trees he felled became larger. My willows disappeared.
As he built his lodge, we poked holes in it, we sprinkled coyote piss around the perimeter, and even put some inside. Still his stash grew. Above water and below.
At this point, we haven't seen him in months. He works only after dark. I hear him.
I give. Cry Uncle... but to a rodent???
this is the end...
..considering the size of the piles this winter, a small reminder of what was.
Isn't spring grand?
Drying sweaters outdoors is SO much easier. I finished my Dark and Stormy over the weekend, weaving in the last ends this evening after packing the truck for the NH Sheep & Wool Festival.
Out on the pond, the Canada Geese have nested on the smallest of the islands. Most years there are two pairs. This year, if the other couple is around, I haven't seen them.
Momma's looking away from me. Dad chased away two Canada geese that flew in the other day. Couldn't have been the other pair, they've aways shared parenting chores. Very strange. What has happened to them? The geese must miss them, too. They've let a lone Mallard Duck take turns guarding the nest. If only I could chase away the beaver that is hoping to make his new home here on the pond as easily.
The blackberry patch has dried enough to get in to thin out last year's canes.
It's a prickery business that leaves me looking like the loser in a cat fight. But, it isn't a job that I mind. Something about it, working in the sun, one of the earliest gardening chores of the season.. I don't know. Look how rewarding, see how nice it looks afterwards. maybe it looks good to me because I know what it will become. I can taste the berries. (Probably from breakfast, there are still loads in the freezers. We love them in yogurt.)
While the native landscape hasn't shown much bright color, the transplants are brightening it up. Another thing to put on my list.. learn how to prune. It isn't in my nature. The bushes are wild, out of control.
Seems I'm not the only one in the family with my eye out for the birds.
As I was eating breakfast a flock of 60 - 70 robins flew in. I have seen a flock like that down by the lake but not here. The snow has melted from about half the back yard and the robins carefully groomed that open space. Do you think they got the groundhog's message and decided that spring is here?
We haven't had a flock of robins show up here. But, just the other day..
I was so unsure that what I was seeing was a robin, it seemed so out of place against the icy landscape, that I actually got my binoculars out to double check. We've had a lot of visitors to the feeders this year. It seems much busier than usual. Wonderful to watch. Always entertaining.
and of course..