Nature Watch: Spring Color in the Beaverkill

Contributed by Patricia Adams

This spring has been slow, with snow falling as late as May 15, but perhaps this has enhanced the colors that we’ve seen. Rather than spring bursting out in full color, the greens have slowly gotten richer while the yellows and whites deepened. Yellow primrose and blue violets blanketed the forest.

The fresh green grass provided a perfect background for new visitors in our back yard. For the first time we saw Scarlett Tanagers, who at first look like Cardinals but are much more orange and brilliant. Migs Wright and I were walking up by Beech Hill Road and a beautiful tanager hoped along beside us for at least a quarter of a mile. One afternoon we saw two Indigo Buntings sharing the yard with a couple of Robins and at lease six Goldfinches. They were all eating dandelion seeds. We’ve had one of the largest crops of dandelions as well.  Two Baltimore Oriels are back, fusing at one another.  We usually have two nests, at opposite ends of our lawn. We haven’t seen a bluebird, although others have seen them in the valley.

A beaver has been working hard in the stream that flows by Sally Shea’s. He/she has a series of dams that seem to grow almost daily. However, I’ve never see the beaver at work. But last week I did see a head moving through the water, so I crouched down to watch what was happening. This animal smoothly swam up past the dams holding green grass in its mouth. It dove down into a hole by the side of the stream and then surfaced. But it wasn’t a beaver, it was a Muskrat. I watched as she made three trips with grass to her den, so must have a brood there. We’ve also seen a muskrat in our pond. (Which unfortunately will have the invasive lilies blanketing the pond again this year. We do have a clear reflection pond from October to May, but the lilies return regularly.)

The peepers have left but we have a whole new crop of singing frogs along the banks of the river. We keep watching for newts but have only seen a few. Snakes have emerges but are moving slowly.
Above I’ve been watching the pair of Blue Heron’s we see each year and I’m trying to figure out where they have built their nest. Last year it was in the tall hemlocks on the West side of the river just down the river from the bridge. We also have a pair of eagles that fly up and down the river, but no idea where they have their nest.

On the ground and in some bare branches I saw hundreds of spider webs on Mother’s Day. I was amazed at how quickly they had appeared. But was even more amazed at how quickly they disappeared; they were all gone on Monday morning. We did have a heavy rain that night but how ephemeral those delicate looking but strong little webs are John Burroughs said, “To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday.”  I’ve found I learn a great deal by taking the same morning walk along the Beaverkill.