The Ripple: Missing Winter

I Like Winter

Wintertime is a great season to look for tracks and for kids to discover their outdoor neighbors. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

I was supposed to write about ice.

I wanted to take you away from the CT river, up into the higher elevations, where the crystal trickles are, and where on steep slopes ice fountains rise below dripping cliff edge. When things really get icy, remaining springs of fresh water attract forest creatures. I wanted to help you find one, and urge you to look for tracks and poops.

Wintertime is a great season to learn who your neighbors are. Last year I found out that an otter lived right down the creek. It had been fishing a creek near Hampshire Regional, dragging itself up and over snow-covered boulders. The photo barely captures the thick, beautifully drawn line (finger through vanilla frosting) that linked the pools upstream. Uniform. Not a blemish or rupture in the smooth.

I wanted to tell you, too, about how winter time—ice 3 inches thick—is the best time to explore wetlands. When else can you safety enter the inner realms of white cedar, black mud and sphagnum?  Where else can you skate through snake labyrinths, around raccoon and tick islands, all secret but to the bladed voyager, who sweeps over beaver ponds, scaring the crows?

With maple sugaring already underway, I guess I’ll tell you that stuff next year. I will. I promise.

Weird winter: yes, I know the idea is a cliché at this point. But…

The hibernators never really went to sleep, the full several month cold shutdown they need and depend on.  Right now they’re hungry and we have about two months before new forage will be available. Unless spring has begun, that is. Expect to see plenty of black bears and deer. Look for hemlock trees bared near their bases of bark—porcupine. Perhaps there will be more predators—mink, fox, coyote—afoot. May you be lucky enough to see or hear the young girl’s crying sound of a bobcat.

Stoneflies are hatching. Ideally, they’d hatch when lots of hungry birds and fish are around. Are they hatching too soon? We’ll know by the end of the summer, when I’ll return to this issue.

Next up—thaw! At least that’s what I had planned to write about—but I’ve seen honeybees looking for blossoms already.

Sooooooo….anyway, it’s snowing right now.


Kurt Heidinger, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Biocitizen, non-profit school of field environmental philosophy, based in the Western MA Hilltown of Westhampton, MA where he lives with his family.  Biocitizen gives participants an opportunity to “think outside” and cultivate a joyous and empowering biocultural awareness of where we live and who we are. Check out Kurt’s monthly column, The Ripple, here on Hilltown Families on the 4th Monday of every month to hear his stories about rivers in our region. Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!

[Photo credit: (ccl) Bob Gaffney]

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