This has been an interesting “spring.” We think we’ve had more snow in March and April than we had all winter. Granted we were only here in winter during December and the first two weeks of January, but still. Not that it has accumulated to any degree this spring, it just feels as though it has been snowing a little bit, a LOT. Well, some snow, but more often “frozen mix.” (Which is a polite term for slush falling from the sky.)
The pond has thawed, partially thawed, and frozen over again, at least a half dozen times since we arrived back at the Clearing on March 11. Yesterday it finally completely thawed (keep in mind temps remained below freezing most of last week, so it had frozen over pretty thoroughly once again) and we saw, for the first time this year, newts and pollywogs flipping and wiggling about in the barely-above-freezing water, as if they were taking a sunny dip in the temperate surf off the coast of Cancun. Although it was sunny, the temps yesterday never rose above 37, so we couldn’t figure out why the pond life suddenly came out to play. We decided they must know something we don’t know. Temps are supposed to rise to close to 60 by the end of this week, and stay up in the 50s and 60s for the next few weeks. Maybe something in the way the sun warmed the water yesterday and the day before telegraphed a message. Maybe that message was: “Spring has finally sprung!” Or at least that was what we thought last evening, as we sat out by the bonfire, in what felt like a much more civilized climate, even if the thermometer still read 35. But this morning we woke to a light dusting of snow, and steady snowfall until about 10:00 a.m. Snow? Again? Temps were above freezing, though, and soon the snow turned to rain, so the pond stayed thawed and dark, and there was a pair of ducks swimming about and diving under the cold water in search of breakfast, when Eric arose. At first we thought they were mallards, but upon closer examination with the binoculars and some handy Googling, we discovered they were mergansers, also known in Europe as goosanders. I kind of like the latter name better. A male and a female. The male is very pretty, with a pure white belly and chest, dark feathers down his back and on his wings, his neck and head colored with glimmering, smoothly-groomed, emerald green feathers. The female is pretty too, with a softer pallette of grays and browns, with burnt-orange, feathery down covering her neck and head. The couple seemed quite simpatico as they paddled around the pond in tandem. It appeared they loved our little Clearing. I named them Eric and Patti. They took to the sky after an hour or so of foraging. We are hoping to see them again.
A few moments ago, as I sat here typing away in the Writer’s Cabin, Eric texted me from the master bedroom where he is writing until he gets sleepy enough to have a lazy, rainy afternoon nap. A great blue heron had just landed by the pond. I looked through my cabin window, and sure enough, there she was, on the other side of the shore, looking for lunch, I suppose. She didn’t stay long. There are no fish in our pond, and she probably has no interest in feeding on newts or tadpoles. Soon she rose and circled the pond to gain enough altitude to clear the trees, heading in the direction of the reservoir, which is also thawed, and I am sure, brimming with perch and other “good eats” for her.
In just two days, ducks, tadpoles, newts, a heron. A playful, little striped chipmunk just flittered across the sill of my cabin’s picture window, less than three feet from where I sit, stopping to look at me for an instant, then flicking his tiny red tail at me, as if teasing me to come out and play, too. There seems to be an invitation in the air, a scent, a vibration, seducing the wildlife to rouse from hibernation, or fly back from more southerly climes. The pond is waking and so is the life that has been borrowed into the mud on the bottom since sometime late last fall. Time to celebrate! We are sure to see our snappers sunning themselves on the rock in the middle of the pond before long. And I am still waiting for a moose! Last summer we happened upon only one moose on the property, as we drove around the last bend of our driveway, from an errand in town. She rose from the pond and galloped majestically into the woods.
Mary, one of the former owners of the Clearing, and now a friend, told us she once saw a catamount (she called it a “tiger” but you get the idea) come out of the woods to take a drink from the pond. Can you imagine such a sight? Mary was sitting on the corner window seat in the house at the time, so there was no danger. Just the breath-taking beauty of the woods, the land, the pond, the flora, the fauna – all the gifts this special place has to offer to our senses as we behold nature’s expertly crafted, award winning, real-life picture show.
“Eric” & “Patti” enjoying the pond. (I am ever the romantic! I just asked Eric if it was silly that I named the ducks after us. He said, “No, Sweetie-sweets.” What a nice husband. )
On the brink of spring, a newt basks in the “temperate” waters of the pond.
A thousand feet through our back woods, the reservoir comes to life.