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The Road Less Trammeled
by Steven T. Rider

Winter Legacy    March 04, 2004

By now the queen bees in the honeybee hives out back are beginning to lay eggs once again. Why so soon? The colonies need sufficient time to build up a large population of foraging worker bees for the nectar and pollen bonanza that will be arriving in the months to come.

As humans, we have been able to separate ourselves from the cycles of the planet sufficiently to alienate these processes from our routines to the point that we no longer view winter as a season of preparation and renewal. This honor is mistakenly given to spring for the simple reason that the results become evident in spring.

Mating season is well under way or over for most mammalians, and females are preparing to give birth timed with the spring season of plenty.

The owls and hawks are beginning to nest by the beginning of March. The northward migration of the neotropical songbirds has begun in earnest, but it will take some time before they arrive this far north. Get into the deep woods and you'll hear the unmistakable change in the song of the Chickadee; all winter long they speak their name at the feeder, but now they begin to utter the trill, almost mournful 'pheee-beee'. You can spot these tiny fellows almost anywhere, but they like to stay near a seed source, which could be a feeding station or coniferous trees bulging with cones.

About mid-March the road to Sunrise Mountain in Stokes State Forest will reopen for the season and the CCC Pavilion at the top of the ridge affords a commanding view of migrating raptors. A late season snow can amplify the effect by allowing you to break out the skis one more time to glide to these places in some sunlight that actually warms as well as illuminates the day.

Want to see another occasionally dramatic indicator of spring? A trip along the Delaware through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, or the Upper Delaware Scenic River, will show ice floes breaking out and jostling their way to Delaware Bay. Bald Eagles will be on patrol for unwary fish, eagerly awaiting the shad run. They may be more elusive, as the nesting season is in full swing.

Maple sugaring season is at its peak when the sap begins to stir in the roots of the big maples. The season progresses northward from the Sugar Maple’s southernmost range beginning the first of March. The sugar that we take for granted on our waffles has been stored all winter in the roots of the tree and is intended to nourish the buds into leaves, flowers, and seeds. Anywhere there is some old growth Sugar Maple you can run across a sugaring operation, although the biggest industry is in New England, where the winters are cold enough to insure a reliable sap flow in the spring and where there is an abundance of maples. You could always tap your own if you have some in the yard. It is a lot of effort, but very rewarding.

There are many things to do besides pour through the seed catalogs and tune up the mower this time of year. Get outside to watch the earth begin to shrug off the chill of winter and prepare to greet the spring.

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