Spring, 2021 – Fiddleheads, Redbuds, and Kestrels, Oh My!

After a seemingly endless winter compounded by the current pandemic and more snow than our area has seen in many years, I would like to invite everyone to walk through the woodlands in High School Park as a way to rejuvenate your body, if not your soul.

Consider starting your walk on the wood chip path into the woodlands from the High School Road parking lot.  If you pay close attention it is possible that you will witness spring in the making, and you might be amazed by what you will find.

You might want to scan the areas next to your path for fiddleheads, the tightly coiled beginnings of the many varieties of ferns that are native to this area.  The nautilus shape of the new fronds is a central theme in nature and represents continuation, growth, and strength in many spiritual practices.  The nautilus appears everywhere in nature if you look for it.  Our community chefs will know that some fiddleheads are a prized delicacy in the spring, but please don’t harvest them in the park – not all fiddleheads are edible so you would be wise to purchase yours from a local farm stand.

You may see a few bees or wasps circling around near mud or the bottoms of trees.  These are ground varieties and most pose no harm to humans or dogs.  In fact, most of our native bee species are ground nesting and are our super pollinators!  They are docile unless threatened, so walk on by and leave them to continue their work.

Although more menacing, even yellow jackets and paper wasps have their rightful place in the park.  Both feed on pest insects such as ticks and can be avoided by simply walking by when you see one or more.   If you see a swarm of yellow jackets, please let our Park Manager, Cynthia, know where you saw it so that she can mark the area and determine how to manage the hive.

This is also the time of year that mosquitos emerge from small puddles left from snow melt, so you may find yourself in the middle of a mosquito or gnat swarm.  These swarms are important to both migratory and native bird species as a source of protein as they travel and begin building nests for their young.  The bats living in the park benefit as well, so please just brush them away as you continue your journey.

Some of the migrators that you may see or hear over the next few weeks are wood thrush, scarlet tanager, blue birds, even a kestrel if you are lucky!  Their songs enrich the park every spring and fall, as they trek back and forth in this time-honored ritual.  They need resting places like High School Park on their journeys.  We are lucky to benefit from their beauty and hearty appetites.

Deciduous trees are also waking up in the woodlands.  Look closely and you will notice that lovely grey-green color that represents the beginnings of leaves on most branches.  Our native redbuds will soon be covered with fuchsias and reds, encouraging pollinators to partake of their sustaining nectar.

If you breathe deeply you might get a heady aroma of moist earth and decaying leaves.  The promise of spring is that of rejuvenation and even the soil rises joyfully from the long dormant winter months.  Microorganisms within our soil, as well as worms and beetles, begin stirring and digesting the leaves, enriching the earth as they tunnel their way around.

I hope you decide to take this journey of discovery through the woodlands.  I hope you are rejuvenated from all the sensory seductions you will find.   I hope, too that your spring and summer are as full of life and possibility as our park is in the spring.

 – Cathy