Nature Strollers

The mission of the Nature Strollers is to support parents and grandparents in their role as primary interpreters of nature for their families; to provide opportunities for families to enjoy unstructured time outdoors; to familiarize families with local trails, refuges, sanctuaries and preserves; and to develop networks among families with a common interest in nature.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Goose Pond Mountain Created Wetlands, 03 February 2007

Laurel reflects on her outing at Goose Pond...
Finally a respite from the wind and a sign of spring! With the temperature close to forty degrees and no bitter gusts to freeze us, I knew this would be a day to take advantage of. I bundled Acadia and myself up for a mid-winter walk at Goose Pond, threw the camera in my bag and we rushed off before the weather had a chance to change its mind.
The three ponds are frozen; human and dog tracks crisscross the ice. There are a lot of seed pods and seed heads still standing atop their stems; snow has not come to crush them down with its weight. I photographed some black-eyed Susan cones and the burst cattail puffs as well as the usual seed heads of several rushes and sedges.
With the ground frozen and the masses of green vegetation out of the way, I could range well off the path. We found a praying mantis egg case attached to some raspberry canes in the field. Acadia threw rocks onto the ice, which for some reason she thinks is as fun as throwing rocks into the water.
But the best surprise of all was waiting for us in the swamp. Because the wooded wetland is completely frozen, I was able to walk amongst sedge hummocks that will be surrounded by depths of sloppy mud in just a few months. This is the home of the spotted turtle and the breeding grounds for spring peeper, wood frogs, and chorus frogs. This time of year all is quiet (except for Route 17) but between the icy patches and the sedge hummocks that rise above the ice like hairy muppets is the first bloom of spring.
Fleshy, mottled leaves and flowers have been hard at work pushing up through the frozen soil. The tightly curled spikes of the skunk cabbage leaves ranged between two and seven inches tall above the frozen ground. All were swirled with color, some were green with a blush of purple. The flowers were shorter, dark reddish-black and splattered with spots of color. These were not yet fully open.
The first flower of the year is a winter bloomer, and these skunk cabbages must have burst forth in January. Known for a scent resembling that of their namesake, the skunk cabbage belongs to a family of plants that uses carrion smell to attract pollinating flies. It is also believed that the skunk cabbage has some method of generating heat, thus their early arrival each year.
Acadia and I wandered through the swamp; she delighted in making footprints, and I marveled at the greens of the mosses and lichen that grew over the surface of each fallen log we encountered. We said goodbye to heartening sight of flowers in the ice and ended our swampwalking by following the trail of a fox, its tracks delicate impressions in the snow, that led us back along the frozen stream that in spring flows through the center of the swamp.