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Spring is Around the Corner and Nature is Waking Up

By Cheryl Frederick and Tom Aversa

Common Raven - Gregg Thompson-2.jpg

As winter progresses, the days lengthen which cues the natural world that spring will soon arrive.  Mainers are generally extremely happy to put the winter solstice behind us because it means more daylight and warmer days will soon arrive.

Common Raven, photo by Gregg Thompson.

Nature is even more in tune with the seasonal progression so once the days lengthen significantly in mid-February, animals and plants begin to revive themselves from their low activity winter periods.  Plant buds begin to swell in preparation for the increased solar radiation which will allow their emergence later in the season. Hearing a ruckus up above you? Some birds like Great Horned Owls and ravens begin to pair and find nesting sites.  Other species like Tufted Titmouse, chickadee and Purple Finch start to sing and mark out territories in earnest.  Have you cleaned out last year’s nest boxes yet?  It might be a good idea because some birds are already prospecting for this season’s nest site… but don’t be surprised if you disturb a flying squirrel or family of white-footed mice! We counted eight as they dropped lightly to the leaves below after peaking out the hole to see what was going on.

One of the most exciting events is witnessing increased activities among central Maine’s mammal populations.  Skunks and raccoons venture forth from their winter dormancy lairs and members of the weasel family (Mustelidae) can be seen along our partly frozen waterways like Sandy Stream which wends its way through several SRLT conserved properties.  If you aren’t lucky enough to bump into a mink on one of your hikes, you can still see their tracks which sometimes lead this semi-aquatic weasel far from the water’s edge.  While skunks are not always welcome visitors for dog owners, we did enjoy watching an interested male skunk following a female on Valentine’s Day.  Continuing the theme that February is a romantic month, at least for some mammals, a day or two later we watched a male mink swimming after a less than enthusiastic female, who should be a bit more interested later this month.    

Mink on Sandy Stream in Unity, photo by Tom Aversa.

It won’t be long before the spring ephemeral wildflowers and amphibians join this vernal progression.  Don’t be stuck inside due to less-than-optimal weather.  Thankfully there are still plenty of sunny days and nice afternoons. Get out there and enjoy an SRLT property on foot, on skis or on snowshoes – whatever works for you!

Common Raven, photo by Gregg Thompson.

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