Sunday, March 15, 2015

No snow, More sunshine

Last week, I wrote about hiking in all different kinds of snow at Sky Meadows State Park, but spring came this week!  I was actually home from work when I wrote last week's post, and we got about 10 inches of super wet and heavy snow.  However, the snow did not stick around long with warm night-time temperatures and rain dissolving it quickly.  As the snow melted, we saw and are seeing more and more signs of spring.

Hooded Mergansers on Turner Pond at Sky Meadows State Park, March 11th, 2015 by Anna Malcom.
Males were arching their necks to display their beautiful crest feathers for females.

The moss responded quickly to the warm
damp rain with lots of sporophytes
reaching up to disperse the spores.
This week, I have found little ferns poking their fronds up out of the soil, fresh shelf fungus on a dead tree, and pollen cones on the juniper trees.  The creek and ponds are full of snow melt, and the ground is squishy mud.  Ducks are arriving as the ponds thaw.  A few of us from Sky Meadows went on a 30 minute adventure during lunch to see about 10 Hooded Mergansers.  They were so pretty and flashy. The males were arching their necks to show off for some females.  I also saw a Ring-necked Duck, a English House Sparrow with nesting material, and flocks of Canada Geese circling.  Jacob and I saw Wood Ducks in some trees. Wood Ducks nest in tree cavities, and were probably scouting out some nesting locations!  Jacob and I also saw 4 salamander egg masses on our walk this morning at Shenandoah River State Park, and an Eastern Meadowlark and a Ground Hog at Sky Meadows on Saturday.  It seems that spring sprung, and it feels good to be outside soaking in the sunshine, doodling, and playing in the garden.

The new shelf fungus are deep purple brown.  

The little creek is full of snow melt.
I've been looking for salamanders but haven't spotted one yet.

The melting snow was creating a fog! 

Little bits of green emerge.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

One hundred words for snow

On Monday my boss at Sky Meadows State Park gave me and Michelle, another new employee, the day to hit as many trails as possible.  The day wasn't ideal weather for hiking, but we still enjoyed our day outdoors exploring the park.  The going was often slow and I better understand the reason that Inuit people have so many names for snow.  On our hike we walked through powdery snow, snow with a crust of ice on top and powder underneath, snow hard enough to support my weight, snow compacted into ice by people walking there, snow melted and refrozen into super slippery ice, snow blown by the wind, snow drifts, snow on top frozen puddles, slushy snow, snow that had melted but left a thin glass like layer of ice on top, and there were even a few spots where the snow was completely gone.  We returned worn out, a bit chilled, and with damp toes.  But the beauty of Sky Meadows rewarded us and we were both happy to have braved the cold.

Winter gets a bad rep, and it seems that winter came a bit late in Virginia and is now extending it's stay (I am having a snow day at home as I write this blog).  I will also be happy to welcome warmer temperatures and spring blooms, but I find things about the winter that I are beautiful and enjoyable.  The views, colors, stark structures of trees, and the snow provide so much to admire.  Our hike was overcast some would call it gloomy, but look at the purple mountains, grey, light blue, and green tinged sky, look at the contrasting shadowy mountains and white fields.  It's beautiful!  We saw silhouetted skeleton trees and brooks the color of black ink.  One of the joys of going out in nature is that it is different everyday, and the bad weather days can still be beautiful.

Looking down at the historic area from Piemont trail.


Thin glass like ice is left floating on the grass as the snow melts away underneath
Ice sounded like glass too as I walked up the hill.