Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13, 2014

It is curious how one seems to search for the elusive.  I went for a walk yesterday in a quest for signs of spring - on my snow shoes - as there are still copious amounts of snow in the forest, and even in some open fields.

Signs of cross country ski tracks are still evident in the snow.

Ski trail covered with spring debris
Something I always enjoy in the spring is watching tracks that were imprinted on the lake months ago, and long since hidden under layer up layer of snow, become revealed as winter recedes.  

Snow show and ski tracks emerge from under the snow as winter melts away
Saturday was a delightful, 60 degree day, and though I searched diligently, signs of spring were few and far between.  Sunny, south facing hills are mostly free of snow, and where the water runs off under the snow pack there is bare ground - or puddles - showing through.

All that melted snow has brought the lake to a high level, 15" above full, and it is flooding the low spots around the lake.  The stream to Winnisquam is a torrent.  Soft snow leaves evidence that deer have been moving around in the area;  Linda saw a pair of white-tails, though I missed them.
Deer print in soft snow
In searching for buds, I found that the Blueberries, and even the Red Maples, still have their buds tightly wrapped.  Only a few Witch Hazel and Beech trees are bold enough to confront old-man winter at this point.
The first leaf of 2014?

Bud emerging from a branch nipped off by a deer

Just when I thought these would would the be most commendable sightings of my journey, I perceived motion in an open spot where the sun had melted the snow and dried out the leaves.  Approaching slowly, I discovered a Common Garter Snake which had come out from hibernation and was also enjoying the warm spring sun.

Its natural evolution is so refined that had it not moved I never would have noticed it, how thoroughly it is camouflaged - it looks just like a dead stick lying on the leaves. 
This could well be the first reptile or amphibian to have emerged from hibernation, and is an encouraging signpost on the path to spring.  Can the Spring Peepers be far behind?

The lake creatures are getting impatient with the arrival of spring as well.  This evening I watched a  beaver navigating the meager channel between the shore and the ice, taking a deep breath when the passage became too constricted, diving under the ice and reemerging at the next breach of the frozen cover. 

This morning my attention was attracted by a mink bouncing along the shore line, hopping up and down the bank, poking around in the brush and into the tunnels fashioned under the snow by the red squirrels through the winter.  I suppose the mink are pleased that the chipmunks have emerged as well.

I have a challenge for people this week:  Can you identify this historic marker from the local region?

Here are few hints, showing its surroundings.

The marker is to the far right in front of the blue house

That steeple is a good clue, but if you need one more hint, we were walking the WOW trail (Winnipsaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam Rail Trail).  Leave your guesses as a comment (click on "comments" or "No comments" at the bottom of the page, and submit as anonymous if you wish);  I'll provide the answer with my next post.

As I was walking the woods in my pursuit of spring, I was thinking how in just a couple of weeks, I'll be out stalking the last remaining gasps of winter (I hope!).  I guess it's just more rewarding to discover that which eludes us.  

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