I missed out on the recent lunar eclipse, but I did manage to venture out this week to photograph the full moon in it’s eerie forest glory. I was mesmerized by the glow of the moon and the stark silhouettes of the pines and oakes and beeches. It was a relatively quiet night. Just a few peepers were calling from across the pond and in vernal pools nearby.
Then, on Tuesday night, we wandered through the dark and the rain on a search for salamanders and frogs on what turned out to be a pretty exciting night. I didn’t get to see the migrating salamanders, but I did sneak up on a vernal pool and record the raucous sounds of wood frogs and the rain. We still have a few more cool nights ahead, but the spring forest is coming alive!
i only took these photos 5 days ago, but in that brief time spring has truly begun in this part of new hampshire. the ice is almost entirely off the ponds, our snow is nearly gone, and more birds are arriving everyday. saturday morning i was awake at 5:45AM and heard the sweet sound of a hermit thrush. i didn’t become interested in identifying birds by sound until mid summer last year and by then i was overwhelmed by the amount of songs and calls! i also lacked any easy way to access sound bites while wandering the woods. now, spring has arrived and i’m doing my best to learn songs as i hear them. one tool that’s been helping me out this year is the Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Lab. it’s completely FREE, unlike so many other tempting Bird-ID apps, AND i can listen to the sound bites while hiking in the woods! the only challenge that i’m working on is trying to differentiate between types of bird calls and being able to form an educated guess as to what kind of bird MIGHT be making a particular sound. otherwise, i find myself listening to too many different sound bites and forgetting what the original song sounded like! this page on birding basics has been pretty helpful for me. happy spring listening! what are your favorite resources for learning bird calls?
wow, did i ever avoid hiking in March. what happened? in early March I was still tromping around in my snowshoes and then all of a sudden the thawing and freezing and thawing and freezing of ice-y mud puddles just got to me. i lost all motivation to explore outside. well, all that’s finally starting to change.
we still have so much snow and ice, but that’s no matter because the eastern phoebes are back! i’ve been hearing their calls all week and it makes me so happy! last year we had a phoebe build a nest on an old light fixture right next to our front door. i used to spy on the nest by holding my phone up above it and snapping a photo. i watched two, then three, then FIVE eggs appear over the course of a few days. i was away in Alaska when the little ones hatched, but Darin grabbed a photo of all the chicks for me. how cute are they?? he reported that all the babies successfully fledged the nest. now i wonder if they or their parents are back this year looking for a similar nest spot. we took the old fixture down, but i hope they find a spot close and stay nearby.
i also love the evenings this time of year. there’s just enough daylight to head out for sunset walks after dinner. there’s still enough snow cover that the blue hue of dusk lights up the forest and the evenings are still cool enough that the stars still twinkle brightly beyond the bare branches of the trees. the crescent moon looks down on us and barred owl caterwauling wakes us up in the middle of the night. until the crescendo of spring peepers and other critters fill the night, i’m going to enjoy what’s left of our quiet winter nights with the owls.
March is actually a pretty great month. for some reason i’m appreciating it more than i have in past years. thus, i’m dedicating this post to all the good things about March in the woods. first, to the nuthatches that hang around the cabin looking for grub. and to the chickadees that chirped so quietly all through the winter who are now singing their songs.
to the barred owls that wake me up at night with their ascending hoots. how i’ve missed the sound of barred owls!
to the hemlocks. whose deep green needles provide a luscious hue of color and shimmer in the late winter light (which March brings so much more of!).
to the woodpeckers who seem to be pecking even more vigorously now that winter is waning. this pine had been recently pillaged of all it’s deep-dwelling bugs recently. the ground around the trunk was showered with the fresh wood chips.
i even appreciate the first (and hopefully last) winter head cold. if you can, make the late winter sneezes an excuse to cozy up inside while the weather might still be foul. i really should read books when i’m sick, but instead i fully embrace the tv-show marathon as a delightful coping mechanism. we’ve been watching battlestar galactica the past few nights and already made it to season 2.0. not too shabby!
to dreaming of the buds that will soon be burgeoning with blooms. just a few more weeks…
March is wonderful because i still get to use my late-winter purchase of (on sale!) snowshoes! now is the time of year to snatch up winter recreation gear on clearance. while so many people are dreaming of warm weather and summer, you can snatch up a deal and find a new way to love the snow that lingers on.
to the beech leaves because they just persist and persist! i love the way even the hardiest of leaves start to look winter worn. they get all curled up and shaken by the cold winds. if the beech leaves can hang on for this long, so can i!
even the squirrels and their snow holes still make me happy.
to finding a snow-free rock or two on a warm and sunny day. now is the time to soak in the quiet of a late winter afternoon. soon the world will be full of sounds, which is exciting, but this peace is precious while it lasts.
lastly, i love the smell of woodsmoke on a March afternoon. soon our woodstove won’t be needed, and the inside of our cabin will feel a little less cozy and a lot more cool and damp. i watch the smoke wandering through the trees in the bright afternoon light. snow still drips from the roof and mud puddles are starting to form all over. the late winter snow storm is on it’s way with a lot of rain and maybe a lot of snow, too. sure, things may still look like winter, but it’s changing ever so slightly every day.
“When I listen to the hemlock’s sad rain, play it over in my head, I feel thicker, like a hemlock, more worn. I feel the still-cool air of the hemlock woods, and I imagine the ground, the cool ground of a forest that will once again undergo a change, a shift, a dynamic transformation that is like so many it has undergone over thousands of years of different lives—a high or a low tide, depending on how you look at it.” – Robert Sullivan
Just a brief post today. I wanted to share a few hemlock photos from February that I’ve been keeping to myself and also link to this fantastic article by Robert Sullivan in Orion Magazine. It’s called “Forest Farewell: An ode to an iconic tree,” and reads like part eulogy, part history, part imagining of a future of a tree that’s actually quite undervalued. “Like traffic, hemlock is not sexy. It is not a celebrity tree, one of the reasons I admire it and often think of what it said. It is an uncelebrated tree in the not-so-celebrated forests of the Northeast—i.e., the non-West.” Check it out!