Are You Tuned In? February 1999

Are You Tuned In To Nature?

Have you ever sat on a fallen log and thought about all the things that were happening to turn it back into soil? Or have you stood by a stream and listened to its symphony while water striders skimmed on the surface as if dancing to the music?

The best things in life really are free if you are tuned in to nature and have practiced using all your senses to find out about the world around you. Once you get started and learn to recognize a few things, such as the song of the chipping sparrow or the smooth bark of the American elm tree, you’ll hear and see things just because you’re tuned in.

A fringe benefit of being tuned in to nature is that you will feel more at ease if you are the victim of some calamity caused by natural forces. When you are aware of the world around you, small changes in the air, bird alarm calls, animal movements and tree gestures will help sharpen your observations.

I would like to take you on a preview of spring in Bird Park. Learning to know trees, birds, flowers and insects is like learning to recognize new friends. Each spring as I walk on the dampened ground, I look for signs of plants and animals which adorn the paths in the park. Fall’s old leaves have softened and made a warm cover for many small creatures. Carefully lifting up a section of leaves may uncover pill bugs, spiders, worms, millipedes and centipedes – even salamanders, which are preparing to make their springtime exit from cover. Be sure to recover the area that you have examined. In early spring the nights still remain too cold for these creatures.

Small whitish yellow stems can be seen protruding from the leaf mulch. They will turn green as the air, water and soil nutrients strengthen the chlorophyll in the green plant. Common plants along the paths in Bird Park in spring are Mayapple (looks like an unopened umbrella), Toothwort (has a tiny pink flower and ragged leaves) and Spring Beauty. White, purple and yellow Violets crest along many of the paths. An imported weed is the Garlic Mustard, very prolific in the park. When the leaves are rubbed between your fingers, you will smell a garlic odor. This plant flowers in early summer and then seeds in late summer and into fall. Mosses and lichens can be found on trees and rotting logs.

The birds of the park are changing in early spring. You will find some migratory birds stopping to munch on buds and fruit left over from winter. The park’s Serviceberry, Elderberry, Buckthorn, Sumac, Dogwood, Mountain Ash and Crab Apple make for a great stopping place.

During January and February, nesting owls, such as Screech Owl, and Great Homed Owl appear. In March and April they will emerge from their nests.

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