The first month of the year has passed and all eyes are looking toward the slow and steady warm-up leading into spring. Like it or not, there is still plenty of winter left, however, and the wildlife of Lake James State Park isn’t taking anything for granted. After feasting throughout the fall and early winter on an abundance of natural foods, the white-tailed deer are utilizing the grassy shoulders along the park road with greater frequency. Up until now, there wasn’t much reason for the deer to come out in the open thanks to all of the yummy acorns, green briar, honey-suckle and other fruits and leafy foods. Much of the natural buffet is getting hard to come by and the deer are drawn out to feast on green grass shoots and other early-successional vegetation. It’s a good reason for motorists to slow down as they drive through the park.
It has been an excellent season for viewing waterbirds out on the lake. Wintering common loons seem to be more abundant this year than they have been in the recent past and it’s not unusual to hear their haunting calls echoing across the water on quiet, windless mornings. In addition to the loons, waterfowl like lesser scaup, buffle heads, mallards and Canada geese are often seen flying in and out of Paddy’s Creek.
In spite of what you may think, winter is a great time to get out and practice your tree identification skills. Different tree types have different bark patterns and buds that make it relatively easy to figure out what is what with a good field guide or identification key.
Be sure to check out the schedule of ranger-led field trips and hikes this month. Our rangers at Lake James State Park have a wealth of knowledge about the plants and animals that live around the lake and they love to share it with visitors.
Hope to see you out on the trail.