I’m learning how seasons transition in my new home in Vermont.
The past couple of weeks, every time my dogs and I ventured outside, I heard new bird song. Nothing says spring more vociferously than the happy songs of migrating birds!
Over the deepest part of winter, I was lucky if I heard a crow’s caw. Even they, and the the jays, seemed to hide somewhere, waiting out the worst of the wind and frigid temperatures. Mostly, the over-wintering birds were silent. Recently, though, some black-capped chickadees fluttered around my deck for a few days, making me realize that prior occupants probably had an early-spring feeder out for them. I felt bad. I didn’t know!
Another sign that winter and spring are wrestling for domination is the wild variations in temperature. Within 24 or 48 hours the temperature can swing 50 degrees (Fahrenheit). Daytime temps might climb close to 50F, then drop to minus 4F overnight. Sometimes there’s snow, other times there’s sleet or rain, and when I’m lucky, there’s sunshine. The drastic changes give me weather whiplash.
Yesterday, it truly felt like spring was nigh. I was able to forego my snowshoes and simply walk on bare ground or the small layer of remaining snow in the nearby fields and woods. The wind – the seemingly constant wind – had pushed the snow off the knolls in the fields, exposing the frozen ground underneath. In the trees, the snow had consolidated with the warm temperatures. When temperatures dropped below freezing again, the snow provided a nice, firm surface for the boys and me to walk upon.
Watching the landscape and wildlife change with each season is a treat, a way to learn about my new home. I can’t help but compare Vermont’s seasons to those I experienced in Idaho’s mountains. Finn’s aging and waning endurance provide the perfect excuse for me to slow down, as well, to pay close attention to the finer details of seasonal changes.
It was a treat to venture into the fields and forest without snowshoes. While snowshoes are wonderful when the snow is deep, they’re noisy (especially on ice or if the snow has a layer of crust), throw my gait off, and require the use of poles. I prefer quiet, easy walking, without poles. I prefer my feet be as close to the ground as possible.
As Finn and I followed Conall’s meandering lead through an open field, I noticed some odd tracks in the distance. I told myself they must be the snowshoe tracks we’d left several days earlier.
As we got closer, I realized I was wrong.
They were clearly animal tracks, but left by what animal? With the recent wild temperature variations, lots of melting and freezing had occurred, making the tracks challenging to decipher. Rather than indentations in the snow, they were bulges, protrusions left atop the snow. I imagined a deer, or maybe a moose, walking through here, the snow sticking to the underside of their hooves, clumping and leaving behind condensed piles of snow. Those clumps then were sculpted by wind and melting.
There’s always something new and interesting to observe and hear.
As the boys and I made our way toward a path leading through another section of forest, I noticed some shrubs (saplings?) with buds just forming.
Another sure sign that spring is near.
The shrub/sapling just happened to be in an area I now call the Rabbit Runway because I always see rabbit tracks in the snow here. I’ve yet to see a rabbit, but that’s just as well, as I don’t want either of my dogs to chase one.
As we made our way through the trees, Conall suddenly stopped, cocking his head to listen to something under the snow, right in the middle of the trail.
I figured Conall’s interest in digging for a vole was a good excuse to give Finn a rest. Finn and I watched Conall listen, dig, smell, dig, listen, dig some more…. I’ve learned that Conall knows what he hears and often his digging results in success (in his mind, not necessarily in mine). I let Conall be Conall to the extent I can.
The critter Conall heard was not surrendering. Neither was Conall. Finn and I became bored, waiting.
Ultimately, I had to start walking away while saying, “Conall, treat!” to get him to give up.
My wistful dreams of an early spring, fostered on that walk, were harshly dashed a few hours later.
A new storm front moved in. Temperatures dropped. When I woke up this morning, it was snowing. Nice, light flakes – it was 10F outside – but falling thick and furious, quickly covering the ground and accumulating. But for the near-zero visibility, I would have joyfully taken the boys for another romp in the fields and woods. Even in snowshoes.
Instead, I hunkered inside. The boys kept trying to convince me I should join them outside, even if just in the yard.
At least six inches of new snow fell today. Temperatures will fall below zero tonight.
Spring, you’re a tease.
But I like you for that. You keep things interesting, while promising so much.