Has this been a month-long "April Fools' Day" joke, or is spring finally here? I was a little unsure of the answer to that question when I saw my daffodils covered in snow the other morning, but today all doubts are gone. Traveling along Route 394, I observed two Canada geese paired up by the new ponds on the Loomis Goose Creek Preserve. They looked like they were ready to start nesting, so I believe warmer weather should not be too far off.
Snow in April is not unheard of, but enough is enough, eh? I want to slip my kayak in the lake for a long paddle and take my walking sticks for a hike on the Overland Trail, but not when there is snow on my windshield. So, instead, I guess I'll spend some time constructing a list for my 2013 Outdoor Adventures.
Have you ever seen the book "Natural History Atlas to the Chautauqua-Allegheny Region" by Mark Baldwin with Jim Berry, Mike Lyons and Solon Morse? If not, I suggest you look for it at the local library. The book was copyrighted in 2001 by the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History and, according to the inside cover of the book, is designed to be "a community resource to promote appreciation and understanding of our natural treasures." It does all that and more. To me it's a collection of ultimate menu choices for the best "natural buffet" one could hope for.
Canada Geese looking like they are ready to nest at the CWC’s Loomis Goose Creek Preserve.
Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver
This year, I'll start by kayaking the Outlet while the river is still high so that I can explore some of the canals. Once the water lilies start to grow and the water level drops, many places there become inaccessible. Next, I'll hike the CWC's Outlet Wetlands Preserve before the grasses and underbrush get too thick. I've not had the best luck on those trails during the summer and fall. By mid-May, I'll be ready to tour the Bentley Sanctuary in Fluvanna to look for spring wildflowers and listen for pileated woodpeckers. After that, a tour of Dobbins Woods will be in order because the wildflowers are amazing there, too. I'll also make a couple of hikes through the pines and along the waterfront at Long Point State Park because it's so peaceful and beautiful there.
Thunder Bridge Ravine at Chautauqua Institution is a favorite spot of mine, and I'll be there this summer. I'm staying on the grounds to teach at a "Youth Writing Camp." I'm also hoping to do some swimming, sailing and kayaking on the lake at that time.
There are many places listed in the book that I haven't been to, and I'm hoping to explore a few this year. One spot is the Cheney Road Marsh, also known as the Open Meadows Marsh in the town of North Harmony along Ball Creek. This area is privately owned, but a public road crosses it so you can view the birds and other wildlife with spotting scopes and binoculars without violating the rights of the owners. From what I have read, the marsh was created by beavers along Ball Creek and is a haven for many types of birds, insects, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. I can't wait to check it out.
Another spot that interests me is the Elm Flats Wetlands Preserve, but I think I'll wait for a guided tour of the area before I go. From the description in the Atlas, there might not be marked trails and a map/compass are a must. I'd rather be safe than sorry.
Whew! Looks like I'll be busy until July. By then, it'll be time for picnics, power boating, paddle boarding and water-skiing. I sure lead a tough life! Hope to see you on the trails and on the water. Enjoy.
Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.