March 1, 2019
A Late-Winter Walk through Middle Woods
Posted by: Cohen Carpenter
The word “winter” conveys a seasonal mood contrary to the reality of the stroll we took earlier this week. Three guests, a couple from Virginia and a returning guest and friend from Orlando, and I took a hike through Middle Woods, and just like that, it was spring again. I know, the calendar says March 20th, but the weather, the critters, and the flowers had a different story to tell.
As we approached the Airstrip Road dike, a young gator lay ahead, soaking in the rays on a high-60’s, sunny morning, allowing his or her metabolism to speed back up in time for a spring feast. On the other side, several wood storks stood along the creek bank still as statues, perhaps digesting some of the mullet minnows that had been schooling through. The gator left its post, slinking off into the creek, allowing us to pass, and we continued to the woods. At the forest edge, the yellow-throated warblers, which had been singing to us since we left the front yard of the Lodge, were joined by the monotonic trill of several pine warblers.
Walking from west to east through Middle Woods, one moves through time from older to younger forest, and everywhere along this timeline there were floral signs confirming that Punxsutawney Phil, indeed, did not see his shadow this year. Yellow lines of Carolina jessamine climbed up the pines. Violets had emerged from low, boggy areas, the dark lines on their lower flower petals guiding pollinators to their nectar stores. Both male and female pine cones were easy to find, many of the males already producing pollen. At the end of the road, where forest meets marsh, pioneering thistles were still low to the ground, but already flowering. Soon they’ll be towering at heights of over 6 feet tall, providing important food resources for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
As we made our way to the truck for a ride home, to the east a great egret, in full breeding plumage, took flight toward Norm’s Pond and the rookery where impressing a potential mate through flashy dance is the first step toward a successful breeding season.
Our hike, I know, was only foreshadowing of the colors, melodies, and not to mention the fragrances that will increasingly fill the air and landscape here this spring.
^*Young male pine cones on a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
^*Young female pine cones on a slash pine (P. ellioti)
^*Dewberry (Rubus sp.), close relative of the blackberry, and also delicious
^*Violet (Viola sp.)
^*Thistle (Cirsium sp.)