Like clockwork in mid-March, the salamanders begin their annual evening migration to their breeding grounds. The site these spotted salamanders have selected for reproduction is ideal for them to lay their eggs in; the pools shallow and safe from predators. Temperature and weather conditions just perfect, Beekman Road in East Brunswick is closed to vehicle traffic as these tiny amphibians come out of hibernation from their habitat in the woods and cross the road en masse to the vernal pools. One of these years I will get to witness this wonderful miracle of nature so close to home, still, to my chagrin, it eludes me every spring. Note to self: ‘Set reminder on iPhone’.
Budding Saucer Magnolia Tree.
The weather remains quite chilly, but just one warm day is all that is needed to coax colorful buds to gradually emerge on Saucer Magnolia Trees.
Spring Flowers - New York City.
Walking the streets of New York City, taking in the sites and people-watching like every other tourist, is something to revel in. Having worked in New York City for over 30 years, one would think the excitement fades; conversely it is rekindled with every visit. In town to attend an art exhibit at the Salmagundi Club on Fifth Avenue, brightly colored Hyacinth, Tulips and Daffodils getting an early start on spring are contrasted in planters surrounding a plaza, albeit on this cold windy day I am bundled for winter. Meeting up with my friend Susan who lives in the city, we shop along the way to our lunch destination at a French restaurant frequented in the past, Di Fiore Marquet Cafe on 12th Street. Certainly the annual exhibit, delightful lunch and spending time with Susan catching up on life’s drama, culminates in a superb day on the town. Susan and I bid à bientôt as I go off in a different direction to begin my trek uptown to Port Authority for the bus trip back to New Jersey.
River Birch Tree.
On heightened alert looking for signs of spring on my early morning walks, any subtle hint can easily be missed if you are not listening as the wind blows. The River Birch tree with its attractive peeling bark, however, lays dormant, still in its deep winter sleep.
Stopping to watch the Princeton University crew as the sun rises over Carnegie Lake on my way to morning Mass during Lent, the scene is captivating. The weather remains brisk as dawn brakes, yet these determined oarsmen brave the wind and dewy mist off Carnegie Lake named after its benefactor, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919). The crew prepares for the Carnegie Cup, a historic rowing competition on Lake Carnegie dating back to 1870, where the Princeton, Yale and Cornell rowing teams battle against one another at the regatta in late April.
Yes, I adore the Slate-colored Juncos, tiny little snow birds with their dark eyes, white bellies and flashing white outer tail feathers that liven up the landscape in winter and keep me entertained, still I am happy to see them migrate north to the cool forests of Alaska and Canada in mid-April. Quite a large flock takes up residence at my bird feeder, hence their absence is noticeable. Their departure is a sure sign that spring is finally here, and so I rejoice!
Saucer Magnolia Tree.
Grape Hyacinth Flowers.
A few sunny days is all it takes for the magic of spring to get a jump-start, coming alive in all her splendor; flowers, birds, butterflies and insects suddenly appear out of nowhere – a welcome sight.
Eastern Gray Squirrel.
The welcome sign, however, excludes one critter - the ubiquitous Eastern Gray Squirrel. Since most times he cannot (although sometimes he does) access the birdfeeder, the squirrel buries seeds in my flowerpots on the deck and months later returns to retrieve his cache, destroying my plants in the process as he digs furiously with dirt flying everywhere, only to find that the seeds have germinated. Duh!
As though well-orchestrated, the year-round song birds start to serenade, scouting for a mate – the Carolina Chickadee with its distinctive fee-bee, fee-bay; Tufted Titmouse whistling peter, peter, peter; Northern Cardinal singing birdy, birdy, birdy and the agile White-breasted Nuthatch, who prefers an upside down position so that he can see things better, calling whi-whi-whi-whi-whi-whi. Seemingly prearranged, the House Wrens migrate to their summer breeding grounds, soon to be replaced by the arrival of the Carolina Wrens. Joyously, the males and females sing duets continuously throughout the day, tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea.
The birds start to pair off as nature sounds the alarm. Lending a helping hand, I hang nesting material for them on the deck railing, including cat fur, small pieces of twine, feathers and cotton, which they supplement with twigs and lichen.
First to move into the birdhouse, the chickadees rarely deviate from their annual ritual. When their chicks have taken their maiden flight, leaving the door wide open, the Carolina Wrens completely and thoroughly clean out the birdhouse, replace the nesting material with twigs, grass and pine needles, then move right in.
Simply observing the American Goldfinches daily as they shed their drab winter plumage and gradually sport their bright yellow spring colors proudly is awe-inspiring. The black patch on the forehead is further emphasized by the dramatic change in color for this perky imp.
Clearly an all-time favorite place of mine to walk is Duke Farms, one of Doris Duke's many estates, in Somerville. Doris Duke (1912-1933), a wealthy American woman, was adventurous, intelligent, and independent. She inherited her wealth from her father who founded the American Tobacco Company and the Duke Power Company. Duke Farms, which she so generously left for the public to enjoy, is a model of open space preservation and wildlife conservation, and home to her magnificent greenhouse display gardens complimenting the season. Quiet, peaceful, meditative - linked with fresh air and bright sunshine - it is an ideal setting to restore the mind and body while welcoming spring.
Budding Pear Tree.
Day by day flowering tree buds expand; trees grow fuller reaching towards the sky; then suddenly, revealing a breathtaking display, they explode into full bloom. Yes! Another spring has finally arrived.
Chinese Dogwood Tree.
Cherry Blossom Tree.
A deep-rooted passion of mine is to continually learn about the value of planting trees; whole-heartedly supporting the planting of trees in deforested areas through the Arbor Day Foundation. Members receive ten free trees a year to plant wherever they choose. What better way to purify the air, counteract pollution, provide shelter for wildlife and reduce energy costs by planting trees.
Chanticleer Pear Trees.
Aha! If only spring would last; it would be so lovely to savor the beauty just a little bit longer.
"If spring came but once a century instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all the hearts to behold the miraculous change."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882).