Monday, April 15, 2019

Spring Cleaning can be a pleasure

By Beth Sullivan
We all hope that we have truly seen the last of the snow. The weather remains fickle, but it doesn’t stop us from getting out and ramping up stewardship efforts. It is a good time of year to work outside. It is a time to notice things. Whether you are hiking or doing yard work or helping with a stewardship project, the tasks are always more enjoyable because of the new sights and sounds that pop up around us every day now. As you get out to hike on the preserves, enjoy these wonderful sensory treats.
A red winged blackbird stakes a claim at Paffard Marsh. Photograph by Dan Hall.

Ticking off my firsts

Red-winged blackbirds are fully vocal now and setting up territories near wetlands. They also will show up at birdfeeders and if you watch them, you will witness the flaring of their red shoulder patches when confronted by rival males, or an attractive female.
The nights are still filled with the chorus of peepers but the wood frogs are slowing down. Mission accomplished.
The Phoebes are looking for nest sites and calling their name. There are plenty of flying insects around now to sustain them, at least as long as the weather stays warm enough for insects.
In just the last days, I have reports of the first purple martins showing up at local colonies where the housing has been set up in peoples’ home yards. Because ours is out on Knox Preserve, and I can’t keep a close eye on it every day, I will hold off setting it up for a while to wait for a bigger wave of martins as they arrive and hope to dissuade the invasive house sparrows. The next month will bring the flood of migrants here for nesting or resting on their way further north.
Some of the spring ephemeral wildflowers are blooming, if you know where to look. Please do not pick them.
The warmer weather has also brought out ticks. After the wet winter and spring, we are being told to beware. Please take precautions while you are out in the woods and grassy areas.
The spring woodlands are still open and becoming delicately colored now.

To protect ground-nesting birds and small mammals, please refrain from walking into fields.

Some things to think about

As we get into late April, many species of birds and mammals will begin nesting in fields and shrubs. It will be time to exert good judgment and to refrain from walking through our field preserves. Please use only the trails that allow easier and better travel - better for you and for wildlife. This is especially the time to keep dogs on leash and under control. Loose dogs will frighten, threaten, and even kill vulnerable young animals and birds. They can cause adults to abandon their young or nest. Loose dogs in vernal ponds and in streams can destroy egg masses of Amphibians.
We have also our stewardship efforts: maintenance, clean up on trails, and walks to check for winter damage. If you spot a problem, please call the office. If you can help with a work party or want to work on your own, contact the office or sign up on line. You will be directed to a steward in your town or the trails team leader for advice and guidance. There are other things to be done as well, for example, our many signs can be freshened up with new coats of paint. If you have time, grab a garbage bag, don some gloves, and pick up some roadside eyesores to help anywhere you can.
Every little bit helps, whether it is an active act of stewardship or just walking the preserves with an open eye and understanding why they are preserves.
Enjoy the coming spring!
Loose dogs can disturb nesting creatures in brush piles, fields, and vernal pools.

Well camouflaged, the wood frog in this vernal pool was one of many chorusing earlier this spring.

Roadside litter along our preserve frontages is a never-ending issue.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.


  1. One block, one bag of roadside litte each day. This has been consistent over three years, albeit in New London. I do not demean New London’s unfortunate reputation further, but the casual disposal of car garbage is hard to observe as I roam our beautiful natural areas...

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