February 2018

Photo of a larg number of Canada geese gathered on in an open area on the shore of a pond
“We get together here most mornings to share the news and plan the day.” Photo: Jeanette Rodriguez

2/1     The light was beautiful today! Honestly, I find every day brings some type of beauty. I took this on my morning walk before the snow shower and titled it… “A Morning Gathering”.  — Jeanette Rodriguez

2/1     This guy was staring as me like I was carrion.  — George Baum

Photo of a hawk on a low branch in a back yard looking at the photographer
I see you. Photo: George Baum

2/2     Snow fell overnight. It was only a few inches, but the morning sun amped the sparkle. Where best to enjoy the magical scenery? Mount Nimham State Forest at Nichols Road offered a silent, dark walk under towering Norway Spruce which framed a brilliant scene of icy branches beyond the evergreens. The brief walk felt like a stroll through a cathedral to a heavenly view. How lucky we are to have this beautiful land at the center of our town available to all.

Early morning photo of a plantation of Norway spruce after a snowfall
Jim Baker remembers when these were saplings. Photo: Beth Herr

2/3     Bedlam in the garage. The contents of every other shelf were knocked off. I forgot to close the garage door until later last night but must have inadvertently locked something in when I did. I could not locate it but it did leave a calling card. I’m not an expert scatologist, but can you make a connection here? Judging by the size of the objects knocked over, perhaps a raccoon? Never a dull moment.  — Tore Heskestead

Photo of scat, probably racoon, of an animal that had eaten lots of bittersweet berries
A calling card can tell you a lot about a visitor. Photo: Tore Heskestead

Ed. Note: Given the diet of bittersweet seeds, a raccoon is a good guess. It is definitely not a squirrel. But it could have been left by an opossum. They have been seen lately and are commonly active at night. I looked in my scat book (yes, there is a book for scatologists like us), and it looks similar. But the book also said opossum scat is highly variable, like their diet. So, we need more evidence to be definitive.

2/6     Birds behaving badly? Today when “our” red-bellied woodpecker arrived at the feeder for his daily breakfast, he found it already occupied by a woody. So, he dropped down to feed on the ground. Instantly, cowbirds surrounded him like schoolyard bullies, but he kept them off, lunging at them with his elegant beak.  — Whangtown Road

2/11     Rain, rain, rain, and fog, oh so dreary. The good news is that vernal pools will be filled to the brim, ice will melt in streams and ponds, and spring’s arrival will be hastened.

2/15     While we still have one foot in winter, the birds know it’s time to start courting. On this one day they all brought out their mating calls. A flock of red-wings arrived at the feeder, and then took their gurgly calls into the marshes.  — The Balant-Campbells

2/17     Broken twigs spattered the walks and driveway with sugar maple sap, a reminder that syrup-making season had arrived. Out came the brace and bit, the bucket of spiles, and by noon a few days ago, a good run of sap was plinking and plunking into the old-time three-gallon buckets. By the next morning, all were overflowing, and I was firing up the backyard evaporator, a homemade rig consisting of two repurposed steel oil drums. I couldn’t keep up – the sap run continued for 90 hours straight, one for the record books. Today’s cooler weather finally ended the run giving me a chance to catch up with the abundance of sap, and to savor the vernal perfume of mingled maple-scented steam and wood smoke.  — Christopher Letts

2/18     A clipper snow storm blew through last night and this morning’s scene was so beautiful. The crisp blue skies, brilliant white snow and clouds lit by the sun provided the light show and sparkle.

Photo looking across Dean Pond at the forest lit by sunlight and transformed by a fresh snowfall.
The storm’s transformation of the landscape is just breathtaking. Photo: Beth Herr

2/9     Look at the view from my kitchen window – it’s almost spring and the male turkeys are displaying for the females. What a show.  — Tore Heskestead

Photo of a tom turkey in a mating display
“Is it any wonder Ben Franklin wanted us to be the national bird, not those stupid eagles? Just look at me!” Photo: Tore Heskestead

2/20     The air temperature reached 67° today, establishing a new record high for the date.  — National Weather Service

2/21     The air temperature reached 76° today, establishing a new record high for the date.  — National Weather Service

2/21     There were sights and sounds of a spring day in February: Tufted titmice were calling, a cardinal was singing its spring song, and a flock of red-winged blackbirds came through. We heard them before we saw them. A half-dozen turkey vultures were scattered across the sky, teetering on their silver-lined wings, and several skeins of Canada geese passed over, heading north.  — Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson

2/21     Today I had my earliest snowdrops ever!  — Carol Gracie

2/21     The wind is from the south and it somehow blew the fog to the west bank of the river. We had a lovely heavy snow over the weekend but at dawn today the temperature is already almost 60°; it may top out later at 70° and break records.  — David Burg

2/26     I took a walk in my backyard after lunch today and found that my crocuses are flowering! Twenty-three days until spring, but if feels like it is here already.  — Joanne McAuley

Photo of a crocus in full bloom
Tiny things remind us that spring is not so far away. Photo:&nbspJoanne McAuley

2/27     A chorus of spring peepers was heard in LaGrange.  — Doris Balant

Photo of four snodrop plants each with green leaves and a blossom bud
We know the snowdrops were there before the big storm and we trust they’ll be there when the snow melts. Photo: Doris Balant

2/28     We noticed bluebirds flying about in mid-February. They are such a delight to see and they often nest in one of our bird houses. Yet their lives are far from the tranquil existence we would like to attribute to such attractive creatures. Last year, a house wren invaded a bluebird nest by our deck and threw out the eggs. Today we spotted two male bluebirds wrestling on the ground while two females cheered them on from overhanging branches. I separated the combatants but rather than flying away they simply renewed their match out of my reach. It looked like a mortal pecking struggle. Why can’t they play nicely and be friends?  — George Baum

2/28     I spied my first skunk cabbage flower in the Great Swamp today!  — Diana Lee

Photo of early skunk cabbage flower in The Great Swamp
Spring can’t be far off. Photo: Diana Lee

In March

  • Listen for the sounds of spring peeper and wood tree frogs, bird song, buzzing insects, on warm days.
  • Watch for the full Grass (and Blue) Moon on the last day of the month, daylight savings time on March 11, the Normids meteor shower on March 13 and witness the arrival of spring equinox at 12:15pm on March 20.
  • Look for sunny-faced yellow flowers: dandelions, coltsfoot and spicebush; the pink blush on the hillsides from red maple blossoms and the greening of the land.
  • Enjoy the springtime parade with every day bringing new life.
  • Pay attention to the weather reports: After the return of the phoebe flycatchers, the next rain at night might mean the migration of yellow-spotted salamanders.
  • Attend the Woodcocks by Moonlight evening walk at the Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area on Cornwall Hill Road in Patterson at 7:30pm.