I headed out this morning on the Sucker Brook trail to see what was happening. This was the first time I've been out without snowshoes, and while it is passable, about 50% of the time I was walking on the ridge of snow packed by a winter's worth of snowshoeing. It was kind of like traversing a lumpy and potentially slick balance beam.
Vole tunnels are apparent all over the trails, no doubt the end result of a very high rodent summer! (Sadly, the photo came out too dark to use.)
I found a couple spots where ruffed grouse left their calling cards. We don't often get animal scats on our trails here (why we don't is a mystery), so I get very excited when I do find scats. Most folks are turned off by scats, but they really are a great indicator of what animals are out there, and what they are eating!
Beavers have also been busy, leaving fresh chews really close to the trail and just a stone's throw from the water. I've been enjoying evenings of Beaver-Watching at the other end of town where we have our pump house (the water source for the suburbs of Newcomb). It's right on the Hudson River and the beavers have been very active the last few weeks.
And the water is high! We are not at our highest flood stage, but it is still impressive, especially seeing the massive rolls of water as Rich Lake rushes over boulders on its way into Belden Pond. The trail isn't underwater yet, but I would guess that with just a little more melting there are going to be areas where submersion is likely.
While I was checking out trail conditions, I was also looking and listening for wildlife. The only critters I saw were a red squirrel (no surprise there) and a tiny orange butterfly that flitted around constantly and refused to allow me to get a good look for ID purposes. Two pileated woodpeckers were doing their "dueling banjos" imitation. One found a great tree - it sounded like a jackhammer whacking away and it made quite an echo. I also heard a black-backed woodpecker tapping quietly on a tree. Winter wrens were singing away, as well as some mystery birds that I was unable to ID. Some wood ducks reported in, and I may have heard a belted kingfisher, but if it was, it must've had a sore throat because it didn't quite have the ratchety rattle down. And a lone broadwing hawk circled overhead.
Catkins are out on pussywillows, aspens and alders. Maples are turning red way up high - possibly blooming. Coltsfoot is in bloom, and in gardens Daphne, violas, daffodils, and crocus are blooming away. The leaf and flower buds on with hobble are tight, but if this warm weather keeps up, they will open up soon.