Winter Walk

Thursday afternoon was so lovely that we three naturalists decided to head out on the trails and see how the invasive species removal is coming along in the Bug Field.  Plenty of skiers have been out, taking advantage of the little bit of snow we have had this winter, we we had to walk along the sides of the trails so as not to ruin their tracks.

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It was good to see water in the stream once more.  The abundance of animal tracks to and from the water tell me that the animals are glad there is water here once more, too.

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Squirrels have been digging for rogue acorns right along the sides of the trail.  Did they not get enough squirreled away before winter?  Or were they lulled into a false sense of security by all the lack of snow?

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As we approached the field, large piles of brush become evident.  The determined Cut-n-Dab Society have been busily removing buckthorn and Asian bittersweet just in the edge of the woods here.  What a difference it makes!  Getting to that stand of spruces to the right of the photo usually meant beating one’s way thru a wall of shrubbery.  No more!

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The big difference is when you leave the woods and arrive in the field.  Last year the group did a lot of clearing to the right side of the trail, but this winter they have been concentrating on the left side.  Just look at those brush piles!  And this is all thanks to a handful of volunteers (3-8 perhaps, depending on the day) who come out for three hours a week!

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A couple of these piles are taller than I…that’s a lot of invasive vegetation!

Gary was telling us that they will eventually burn these piles, but not in the winter because there is the possibility that box turtles might be hibernating under them.  No box turtles have been seen here, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Many a box turtle lost its life to burning brush piles before biologists realized that was where they spent the winter.  Now organizations like the Nature Conservancy chip their brush piles instead.

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Robins galore were feeding in the tangles and flitting through the trees.  Tree buds are apparently a favorite this time of year.

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Here are some lovely little pink mushrooms…or are they?  A quick look through my mushroom book suggests these might actually be the fruiting bodies of a slime mold, Lycogala epidendrum.  Common and widespread, this slime mold colonizes well-rotted wood, which describes the log upon which we found them.

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As cold and shriveled as many things looked, we did find some pending signs of spring, like the swollen buds of this red elder.

red elder Don’t let winter fool you into a) staying indoors because b) you think there isn’t much to see out there.  Right now, as we approach the cusp of the seasons, change is happening.  It may be harder to find when the weather fluctuates towards winter, but when it swings the other way with a rash of warm, spring-like temps, you are bound to find some early signs of spring.  Get out there and explore!

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About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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