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A Spring Walk in the Woods

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A Spring Walk in the Woods

April 7, 2011

I walked the whole loop today, for the first time this spring. The snow is not all gone yet, but what is left is crusty enough that I could walk on it without sinking in much. The chickadees were singing their spring song as I set out today to collect more twigs for my spring twig drawings.

The animals are starting to be out and about. I saw the first chipmunk yesterday, hightailing it from the garage to the stone wall by the porch. And I saw raccoon tracks in the snow at the far end of the meadow.

I watched a nuthatch investigating a tree, and heard a fragment of wht sounded like a cardinal song in the distance once. I saw a small brown bird on the ground near the house, but it flew before I got a good look at it. It was sparrow sized, but without characteristic sparrow markings. I am not sure what it was. The turkey vultures have continued to be in evidence, soaring about the valley. Yesterday when I was out, a woodcock flew up from almost beneath my feet.

I am starting to recognize the difference between the gray birches and the white birches. I did not know that we even had gray birches on our property. But I was reading about birches in my tree book this week, and realized that a lot of the trees that I thought were white paper birches are actually gray birches. I walked the woods today, looking carefully and saying to myself, “white…gray…white…gray” as I spotted them.

They both have chalk-white bark, but the white birch bark peels in wide strips, revealing the orange inner bark, and the gray birch has close-fitting bark that does not peel except in tiny narrow strips. The black scars on the trunk where the branches come out are eye-shaped on the white birches and more sharply triangular on the gray birches. As they grow older, the gray birches take on a more decidedly gray color at the base of the tree. The image shown with this entry is of a white birch and a gray birch side by side. (Can you tell from my description which is which?)