Spring is Near!

Despite last week’s significant snowstorm reminding us all that it was still winter, the vernal equinox will indeed occur early this week.

With longer days to come, the new season will begin heralding the emergence of a myriad of wildflowers and the unfurling of tree leaves throughout our area.

Common Shadbush – downy underside of emerging leaves

Emerging False Hellebore leaves

Consider these activities as part of your adventures this spring –

I have compiled five new wildflower field guides; you can view or download them here.  I hope they help you learn about wildflowers that can be viewed at some of our local nature preserves, parks and trails.

Lastly, I have scheduled several wildflower walks this year, including those listed above.  Please join me.

Happy trails!

 

 

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A Ski Tour of History Through Nature

Given this week’s bountiful snowstorm and today’s cloudless sky, I was obliged to go ski touring.  I chose the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park.

I skied directly south of the Whipple Bridge toward the Mohawk River.

Historical marker – Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve

The trail turns westerly at a vantage point from where the Mohawk River can be easily viewed.

Woodland loop trail near site of Forts Ferry (Mohawk River appears in distant background left of center of this image)

That trail proceeds through a floodplain forest and connects with the West Pond Trail.

Floodplain forest

Several years ago while I was conducting my wildflower inventory along the trails of this preserve, the entire floodplain forest looked much like the above photo.  Today, there is a swath near the center of this woodland where many trees have been blown over or otherwise severely damaged by high winds as shown here.  The sum of these natural disturbances to this woodland has no doubt resulted in more sunlight reaching the ground surface during the growing season in this area.  Almost assuredly, there will likely be more species of plants growing along this portion of the trail now than when I conducted that inventory.

Floodplain forest – note many downed trees due to strong winds over the past several years

This trail then ends at its connection with West Towpath.  I turned left to continue heading westerly past Old Lock 19 to the towpath’s intersection with a service road for the dredge spoils area along the river.

View from atop Old Lock 19 looking easterly

Historic Marker – Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve

I then simply retraced my route back to the parking lot at the Whipple Bridge.

I saw/heard:  ducks, Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, a pileated woodpecker, hairy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, a white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadees, cardinals, American robins, American crows, and a tufted titmouse.

I also saw tracks from deer, mice, fisher, fox, gray squirrel, and rabbit.

In all, a pleasant ski tour of about four miles.

And, speaking of nature and history – PLEASE HOLD THESE DATES!  The Town of Clifton Park will be celebrating the history and nature of this preserve on May 12-13.  Stay tuned – more info to come.Happy trails!

First Blooms of the Season!

Following our string of 70-degree sunny days, many plants starting exhibiting spring-like behavior.  The forecasted deep freeze for the next two nights will likely dramatically slow everything back to an early-March pace.  We’ll see.

Nevertheless, those warm days (and a few nights as well!) contributed to the following blooms observed this morning along the Stillwater Multi-Use Trail:

Beaked Hazelnut - female flower

Beaked Hazelnut – female flower

American Hazelnut - male (left) and female (right) flowers

American Hazelnut – male (left) and female (right) flowers

Think spring!  Happy trails!