Nature Notes


Winter may not be completely finished with us, but the inevitable creep toward spring is undeniable. During warm, rainy nights, frogs, toads and salamanders ar frantic in their efforts to find a mate and lay their eggs. The wet, marshy areas near the Paddy’s Creek bridge host a chorus of spring peepers and other amphibians. Retention ponds at either end of the PCA day use parking lot are great places to look for egg masses and tadpoles.

The changing season brings a change in the bird population as the northbound migration picks up. Blue-gray gnatcatchers, northern parulas and Louisiana waterthrushes are among the earliest songbirds to arrive. Over the winter, the park staff erected a purple martin house at the bottom of the Paddy’s Creek Area road. With colonies of martins nesting within a mile of the park gate, we are hopeful to have some purplefeathered tenants to help control the growing fire ant population.

Spring is a great time to hike the park trails and catch the dogwoods and redbuds in bloom. Windless mornings are a good time to listen for the first gobbles of the season as wild turkeys are gearing up for the breeding cycle. Big, bearded male turkeys, called gobblers or Toms, are trying to impress the hens by puffing out their body feathers and spreading their tail fans in display.

For those who linger in the park near closing time, the whip-poor-wills start calling soon after the sun sets. These mysterious nocturnal birds are passing through just as the warblers, vireos and other songbirds are, dead set for the northern breeding grounds.

Don’t miss early spring in the park – it’s just the right prescription for the winter doldrums. See you out on the trail.