Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring cleaning and other signs

By Beth Sullivan
Winter has officially ended, and as this is written the meteorologists are getting all excited about yet another “Snow Bomb”. However, it is more important to review the last week of good days and recognize that things are indeed changing around us.
Because the weather has been so nice for the last several days, we have been out beginning our spring cleaning on several preserves. It has been great to be out and working again and, while doing so, it is impossible to not notice those spring signs. Last year at this time, I dedicated several blogs to spring firsts: Osprey,  Skunk Cabbage, among others. Go back and review…we may need reminders this year since so much is late! However, the first osprey for me arrived today on the nest at Paffard Marsh Preserve on Route 1 in Stonington. Another was reported on the Downes Marsh on River Road in Mystic. I have only heard one Phoebe. As insect eaters, I surely hope they remain down south until the next blast of weather is done. A quick stroll around Paffard Woods and Knox Family Farm revealed Skunk cabbage populating the wetlands there.
The Osprey returned to Paffard Marsh this week.

Skunk cabbage start growing with snow all around.

There have been a few reports of amphibians also. The couple of warmer days melted the vernal pools and softened the earth so a little stirring began: a few tentative peeps from the Spring Peepers, one very cold Wood frog uncovered by an excited child in the woods, and a few brave Spotted Salamanders moving into breeding pools. All of these will need to seek shelter when the temperatures return to frigid or their lives will be in jeopardy.
A Spotted Salamander in its wetland habitat. 

The cold did not stop us from getting a lot done this week. Our collaboration with the Goodwin Niering Center for the Environment, at Connecticut College, provided us with willing hands: 50 students=100 hands! Their team leader will be guest writing this blog over the next weeks about their effort, so I will not go into details. All I can say is WOW! Please find some time to take a walk at Dodge Paddock in the Borough and notice the changes. Drive along North Main Street and the Paffard Woods Preserve and admire the gorgeous stone walls!
Students from Connecticut College work on clearing the stone walls at the edge of Dodge Paddock in Stonington Borough.

And while you are out, please notice that the fields at the Knox Preserve have been mowed, thanks to some wonderful volunteers with time, energy and the right machines! They uncovered mice and vole tunnels as well as discovering woodchuck burrows. The shortened grass will encourage the Woodcocks as they seek out the wet areas, and sparrows are enjoying gleaning the seeds now on the ground. Red-winged Blackbirds are singing at the little pond.


Red winged Black Bird.
Newly mowed Knox Preserve waiting for warmer temperatures.

I guess spring has arrived! Enjoy it.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, Rick Newton, and Roger Wolfe.

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