Schmitz Park, January 18th, 2011
No rain yet today so took off towards Schmitz Park after lunch. Reached the path into the park as various gulls, crows, Northern Flickers and a Stellar’s Jay cried their alarm – a raucous cacophony of sound. Never spotted the source of their unrest, a hidden bird of prey, most likely. With a high pitched flight note a Brown Creeper flew onto the truck of a tree I was standing near. I watched it creep its way up the mossy trunk and branches before it let out the high note again and flew to another tree. Black-capped chickadees dangled from the bare branches of maples, feeding on tiny insects hidden from my sight. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet chattered as it hopped among the briers and shrubs, a brief flash of its bright red crown patch before moving deeper into the undergrowth. Male Anna’s Hummingbirds singing here and there. A single Winter Wren scolds me as I walk past it. Hopping from branch to branch close to the ground, with each harsh scolding note, its tale pops up, as if it has to pump the sound of itself. It quiets down as I move on. Not too much further and I stop and squat down, amazed to see small nettle plants beginning to emerge already.
A little further on I see the bright green tips of the new growth of Skunk Cabbage popping out of the mud. In another spot the Spring Beauty has begun to grow.
Signs of the Pileated Woodpecker’s recent activity are everywhere. Yet the bird is still no where to be seen.
I check the Salmon Berry branches for signs of buds starting, but don’t see any yet. Not much new growth or buds forming on any of the trees or shrubs, but the mosses and ferns glow with their vibrant greens.
I hear the first few raindrops hitting the plants around me before I feel them. Rain or not I can’t bring myself to leave the forest yet. Tucking my camera into my jacket, I take a deep breath of the cool fresh air and head off to walk another loop of trails. A Northern Flicker calls from some where high in the tree canopy. The chattering of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Chestnut-backed Chickadees come from the deep green of the Cedars and Douglas Firs, unseen but envisioned easily as they move in the dense foliage looking for little bits of food. They add their music to that of the flowing creek that cuts through the park and I notice a few Oxalis near the steps before I cross the creek on large rock stepping stones.
I make my way through another muddy section of trail as the rain begins to come down more steadily. It’s coming down hard as I leave the park, the cold drops hitting my nose and cheeks, one drop finds a way onto the back of my neck and a shiver runs through me. There may be plenty of signs of life in the forest, even a few signs of the coming spring, but it is most definitely still winter. That thought is emphasized by the rain turning to ice pellets before I reach the warmth of my home once more.