Today, the thermometer passed 40 and we’re quickly saying goodbye to the snow that has covered the area for the last five days. I was lucky (determined) enough to get out to Calvert Cliffs State Park for a quick hike on the red trail before the white stuff waved goodbye. Here are my shots from the snowy trail:
Plenty of folks had gotten out to hike the trail before me; I only met two other hikers while I was out, but there were plenty of footprints and pawprints – and even one bicycle track! – in the snow.
The fishing pond was frozen solid . . . except where footprints lead out into the snow and onto the thin ice, where the end of the track was punctuated by a giant hole.
One of the great things about snow is that it outlines the shape of the land. Where in summer I might not even notice the hill beyond the trees, now it’s impossible to miss and has got me thinking about this trail as more of a stream-side hike.
Itty bitty hidey hole. The single digit temperatures we’ve had over the last week have got me thinking about how the wild animals survive the cold. They all must find places to crawl into to be safe and warm. Thank goodness for rotting logs and shallows made by the upturned roots of fallen trees.
A frozen stream emerges beneath the trail, heading down to join the main stream in the bottomlands between the hill I’m on and the one pictured above.
The red trail follows this stream closely for 100 yards or so as the water splashes down over a few mini-falls. The covering of ice over the moving water created the most wonderful gurgling sound. Check it out in this short video I took:
Just after the mini-falls, the stream becomes only partially iced, but what beautiful ice it is! Blow up the photo on your screen and see the beautiful wavy patterns.
The even horizontal lines of quarter-inch holes drilled in this pine tree are likely the work of a woodpecker called the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). Unlike most woodpeckers, which feed on insects and larvae found beneath the surface bark of a tree, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (say it five times fast and you’ll get the giggles) is drilling holes to tap the tree for sap, which it then licks up with its brush-like tongue.
The bottomland, with stream running on the far and near sides of the middle, has widened out in a classic floodplain pattern, the contour of the land revealed by snow and bare branches where for three seasons of the year it would be masked by leaves.
Gum ball polka dots. The sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) above my head has dropped a good portion of its mature fruits, making a nice polka-dotted pattern in the snow. I’ve always called the fruit “gum balls” (while simultaneously warning children not to chew them if they want their mouths uninjured) but, according to Wikipedia, the fruit are also called by a number of nicknames, including “burr balls”, “space bugs”, “monkey balls”, “bommyknockers”, and “goblin bombs”.
I am sending out cosmic thanks to whomever cleared off one butt’s-worth of space on this trailside bench. It gave me a chance to sit and listen to the forest for a minute. I’ve just started an excellent book, What the Robin Knows by Jon Young, and used this opportunity to further my studies in “deep bird language”.
The stream gets wider and wider until . . .
Wetland! This view is between mile markers 1.1 and 1.2. I had planned only to walk half way down the trail (0.9 miles), but I couldn’t bear the thought of turning back without seeing the frozen marsh. I was rewarded for my perseverance by a mixed flock of birds foraging in the grass tufts that break through the ice. I saw several white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) and at least two other types of LBB (Little Brown Bird).