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Wild Observations

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By Nancy Oakes

These February days outside are full of movement, a visual dance of changes. Have you noticed the amount of dry leaves falling from live, laurel and other evergreen oaks? Buds on these trees begin the unfolding of new fresh leaves to replace the old fallen ones. The pine trees release pollen that moves through the air, resting in yellow powder on receiving surfaces. Only the turkey oak leaves, jagged-edged and brown, remain on their branches longer into spring. The movement of wind causes these dry leaves to rustle insistently.

Around the cabin I see flocks of palm warblers flying up and landing again as they restlessly hunt for food. Along the Waccasassa River, moving flocks of yellow-rumped warblers concentrate in wax myrtle bushes that still contain beads of berries along their limbs. Robins, in noisy flocks, rattle stiff cabbage palm fronds as they fly in and out of these trees. Male cardinals and bluebirds sing loud and sweet melodies as they woo females, who move from one male's territory to another. Even already paired male birds seem to make an extra effort to show off in song their desirability.

While kayaking on the Waccasassa River, I observed the movement of the tide. It had turned about seven hours earlier, and the riverbanks looked quite different from my previous times on the water. River mud, sometimes graybrown, other times greenbrown, coated rocks, tree limbs, vegetation and tangles of roots. Trickles of water traveled from unknown sources to quietly drip and splash over muddy banks and into the river.

Early in the day, fish coming to the water's surface caused ripples of movement. A blue heron flew along the banks, always ahead of me until it stopped on the end of an island and stood still under some tree branches. At last it let me pass without moving away from me. My own movement in the kayak, the wake of the boat's bottom and the muffled dipping of paddles in water, joined the stream of floating leaves and other debris.

Scuttling crabs hurried up the banks of mud as I passed. A pair of red-shouldered hawks flew and cried over the treetops, moving away and back to a huge half-dead cypress tree where they might build a nest. The moving breezes carried the dank smell of an environment mixed with salt and fresh water aromas. The piercing call of an osprey rode the waves of sound to my ears. I heard and saw this bird of waterways as I paddled through its habitat.

Plants that were dormant now begin the process of new growth, the movement of seasonal change. Wild plum and vibernum, both small trees, now show off white blossoms.

The plum tree's flowers are whiter than the ivory hues of vibernum blooms. Other plants such as wild cherry and sparkleberry now contain tender new leaves as the buds break open. From the flowers will come fruit. Lyre-leaved sage growing in sunny areas now have violetblue flowers that glow among the green foliage. The weeds along roadsides and in yards join the movement of the spring season as their stems grow longer, their leaves freshen and buds produce blooms.

I join this movement of nature as I walk, paddle or horseback ride through the landscape.

Until next time, good observing.