Looking for Spring | An Enchanting Walk in the Woods
Looking for Spring | An Enchanting Walk in the Woods-
What a great day for a walk in the woods! As many of you know, I do not care for the cold weather and winter in general. This has been a very long, snowy and cold winter, and quite frankly, I wish it would come to an end. Oh, I know, the calendar says it’s spring, but someone needs to tell Mother Nature as well. I think she forgot to turn the page on her calendar! Kidding aside, it’s never really Spring here until well into April and quite possibly even May. Sometimes we are blessed with some mild temperatures, but we’ve often had hard frosts in late April that have killed off all of the new flowers I planted. That happened to me last year- I was trying to get a jump on planting, even though I knew better. About a week after I had all of my new flowers and vegetables in the ground, we had a severe frost overnight and all of my hard work was brought to a screeching halt. Everything had to be pulled out, I had to buy new plants and replant everything. We have also seen snow here as late as Mother’s Day, in May- just some snowflakes, but snow none-the-less!
Today started out with a cold wind that just made me want to stay in the house and snuggle up under a blanket and take a nap. However, by the time I dropped my son off at work, the sun was shining and the wind had died down a bit. It was 40 degrees (4 Celsius) out and sunny- I needed to do something productive! Seeing that the birds know it’s spring and they have already begun searching for the perfect home in our yard, I decided to clean out the birdhouses and make some needed repairs. We have 14 birdhouses on our property. I was able to get 9 of them cleaned out, and it was a good thing I did because some of them had nests 3 high inside. Many of the Sparrows have 2-3 broods per summer and just build on top of the old nest or add to it. It was interesting to see the assortment of items that made up the nests- sticks, mosses, bits of plastic and even bird feathers- not their own, but Blue Jays and Cardinals. These were nests built by House Sparrows so they must have collected the feathers that the bigger birds dropped when they molted, or after the Coopers Hawk attacked them.
This is a great time of year to clean out your birdhouses and get them ready for the spring birding season. Many birds have already started scouting out and claiming birdhouses in the area and if yours is clean and ready, they just might make your yard their home. Many books and birding sites suggest cleaning your birdhouses with a solution of bleach, to kill off any mites that may inhabit them. I don’t agree with that. Through experience, I’ve found that after a cold winter, nothing is living in a birdhouse and a good sweeping is enough. Also, you know what it smells like when you clean your bathroom with bleach- imagine being a little bird and having to smell bleach in your new home. Yuk!
After I cleaned out most of the birdhouses and made a few minor repairs, I was intrigued by the sunshine and sound of chirping birds. It was the perfect opportunity to go for a walk in the woods behind our house and look for signs of spring. While cleaning the houses I heard quite a few Woodpeckers in the woods and I should have investigated further at that time. Wouldn’t you know it, by the time I went for my walk, the birds were quiet! The only thing you could hear was me stepping on fallen branches and the sound of mud squishing under my boots. Our woods is actually a protected wetland, so no one can build there and it always has a lot of standing water in the spring and fall. There is even a small creek back there that pretty much dries up in the summer and stops just before our property. I’ve often wondered where this little creek emptied before the houses appeared on my street.
It didn’t take long before the birds started singing again. I could hear at least 4 different kinds of Woodpeckers– I heard the Pileated many times but had no luck finding it. The Northern Flickers were making lots of noise, but no luck seeing them either. I did manage to find the Downy and the Red-Bellied after much searching. They were quite vocal, but actually locating them is much harder than you would think. Luckily, I know the sound of their voices and sometimes they could be heard drumming on a tree. Still, when you’re in a woods full of tall trees, with the sun shining in your eyes, it can be very difficult to pinpoint exactly where this little 6-10 inch (15-25 cm) bird is. The fact that there are no leaves on the trees didn’t really seem to help as the birds are good at camouflaging themselves.
Walking through the woods can be a very educational experience and a great way to connect with nature. The next time you find yourself in the middle of the woods, or anywhere for that matter, take some time to look around and appreciate the beauty in front of you. Look closely at the details of trees, their bark and their leaves are truly unique for that particular species. Look around on the ground- what do you see? Pinecones? Acorns? Look up into the tree that they came from- it’s amazing just how big some trees can grow. Check out some of the fallen trees- do you see any fungi? There are so many different types of fungi growing on dead trees and if you look really close, they are quite interesting. Fungi grow in an assortment of shapes and sizes as well as colors and textures. I didn’t see any today but I did see a lot of it on my autumn walk. It’s amazing what you can see if you just look around and open yourself to all that nature has to offer.
Check out these cool fungi I saw on my walk this past Autumn…
In addition to tree bark and leaves, trees have another really cool feature. Some of the trees actually have cavities at the base where small animals and other wildlife can nestle and hide. I saw many trees like this and as I looked at them, I wondered to myself, “who lives in here?” I did not see any animals in the cavities, nor did I investigate too thoroughly, as I didn’t want to disturb anyone who might have been sleeping or bring attention to their hiding place.
So the next time you have a free hour, take a walk in the woods, stroll through a park or go down to the waterfront. Turn off your music, silence your phone and quiet your mind. Listen closely- what do you hear? Listen to the birds as they sing, the woodpeckers as they drum, the frogs croaking in a pond, bees buzzing about and the wind rustling through the leaves on the trees. Look around- what do you see? Do you see squirrels chasing each other across the yard and up and down the trees? Do you see any ducks or geese on the water? Look at the beautiful flowers and trees, find and appreciate the mosses and fungi. Take some time to connect with nature- you’ll be glad you did.
As always, keep those bird feeders full and get those birdhouses ready for the next generation of feathered beauties. Happy Birding ~ Karen