Dave Holden’s Waghkonk Notes: Spring into Summer
Inside+Out catches up with “Ranger” Dave Holden as he shares his insight on Upstate New York’s transition from Spring to Summer. Behold the beauty of this emerging season!
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Dave Holden: While indeed the calendar says Spring, the vernal season seems like it is racing past, as we wildly “rollercoaster” up and down between seasonably cool and unseasonably hot weather. These rapid changes have accelerated the pace of all the seasonal markers.
Let’s talk about the plant, bacterial, or fungal life called, FLORA.
How are they keeping up with our Spring into Summer? Wildflowers, which normally take a week or two to come to colorful fruition, are flowering faster than usual. This includes the delicate and myriad Convallaria majalis (also called Wild Lily-of-the-Valley). Their bright green leaves are among the first to come up and cover literally miles of our forest floor. In a more normal May, their tiny delicate buds can take a couple of weeks to transition into their signature little fireworks-like white flowers. But not this year, as the heat and bright sunlight has seemingly almost forced them to rush into full flowerdom.
It seems like this is the case with many other wildflowers as well: Mocassin Flower (most refer to it as Pink Lady Slipper – one of our only native wild orchids); Starflowers; the different Violets are jumping out; Trout-Lilys have come and gone already; we have Bluets by the bucket still; the first Dame’s Rockets are up and many Dandelions are already seeding. Plus, Buttercups, Wild Strawberries, and I’m sure there are more. These are the first that pop into my mind.
It’s not just the wildflowers – it has been a fantastic season for flowering shrubs and trees, too! Pink or white Dogwoods and Lilacs usually bloom in mid-Spring. This year’s batch of bloomers persist in their effusive beauty and their extra puff of pollen, sent through the lazy breeze to replicate.
Certainly, all the ferns of the forest and meadow are literally “jumping up” as I’ve never seen before. Every time I turn around I see Hay-scented Ferns spreading across the valley with authority and earnestness in the forest. Specifically, the Sensitive Ferns are rapidly growing in all the wet meadows. The warmth and rain have also encouraged many trees to fully leaf out down here in the valley. Still, the hilltops are losing their dry brown Witch’s broom texture as they wait for the glorious green line to inch its way up the mountainside creating a lush neon green mossy cover soft enough to tickle a giant’s toes!
Where there is flora; be sure to notice the FAUNA – all the animals that live in a particular area, time period, or environment.
The exception that I see to the wildly-burgeoning growth I mention above is in the insect realm. There is definitely a dearth of small INVERTEBRATES (animals without a backbone) such as; spiders, worms, snails, crawfish, and insects like butterflies flying or slithering about. Moreover, it seems like there are plenty of ants to satisfy the Northern Flicker Woodpeckers and Sparrows. However, normally there should be more.
There are some Midges and Mosquitoes, but not as many as there should be (no “windshield effect”). I saw my first Dragonfly and Craneflies along the streams, yet still not in the numbers there should be by now. Low food sources and hospitable habitats yield low birth rates. This all explains the seemingly lower numbers of birds, which mostly rely on insects to feed on. Something to observe and be mindful of in your neighborhood.
We have had plenty of AMPHIBIANS, probably because of the warmth and rains.
Red Efts will probably be out soon (they also are seen more often in the Autumn) as the Spotted Newt goes through its terrestrial stage. Wood frog tadpoles are wildly proliferating and providing food for Blue Herons and Raccoons. Various turtles are out of the mud now and seen sunning on logs. Most noticeable of the local turtles are our Snapping Turtles, living vestiges of dinosaurs. Be extra careful if you have to move one off the road. Most turtles you can simply pick up by the shell, but snappers have extra-long necks to reach back and SNAP! This is probably why the shovel was originally invented. And please remember – when moving any turtle off the road – to move it only in the direction it was originally going. Otherwise, it will just try crossing the highway again. It is not uncommon to see snakes now, most commonly various garden variety Black Snakes and Garter Snakes. The best tip for the average person is to give all snakes a wide berth.
Our furry MAMMALS are busy making and feeding their babies.
White-tail Deer will be having their too-cute little fawns any day now and you may encounter an incredible evolutionary trait of theirs. Since the doe will be ravenously hungry after delivering Bambi, she will leave the little one hidden in tall grass while she grazes nearby. She can do this because of that incredible trait– newborn fawns have no scent. This is so that a predator will not know it is there. So if you find a fawn seemingly alone. its mother is near–DO NOT TOUCH IT! It is not abandoned. If you touch it, you will imbue it with your scent and it WILL be abandoned as the mother doe would probably reject the fawn, dooming it. So, leave a fawn be.
Another cautionary note: if a Black Bear cub approaches you… shoo it away! It will return to its big, and potentially very dangerous mother, who also is probably not far away. Enough said.
Please enjoy the wonders of this season, but do so carefully and safely with respect for all FLORA & FAUNA creatures that we share this gorgeous ecology with – including each other. Thank you! See you out there in the wild!
Take Care, “Ranger” Dave Holden
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“Ranger” Dave Holden
Dave Holden is a New York State DEC Licensed Hiking Guide with many years of experience on Woodstock trails, old and new. We are thrilled to share Dave’s local expertise as he showcases the beautiful places in the area that regular trail hikers miss. He is also available for hire to lead guided nature hikes.
Email: [email protected]
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