With little or no snow covering the ground, the woods this winter felt like a foreign land. The underbrush was completely exposed, and fallen logs, normally deep beneath a covering of white, were there for any passerby to see–and trip over.
Frost-rimed holes edged in green moss revealed the winter home of a red squirrel, and I realized I have seen the crystals formed by warm beaver breath on their den openings, but not that of a small underground mammal. This was foreign territory, and I was intrigued.
With warm weather alternating with freezes, but no long, hard cold, the streams had wafer-thing, fragile ice. It formed patterns with undulating curves reminiscent of a topographic map, and I think if I touched it, it would have melted at my finger’s warmth.
I am not an avid birder, but since I was not following animal tracks, I spent more time listening. On a guided walk, park of Acadia Winter Festival, I heard and saw Golden-crowned kinglets for the first time. They had saucy orange crowns, not gold in the least, but the flashes of this insanely bright, not-normal-Maine winter color has me thinking I need to spend more time checking out our winter birds.
And then the polypores I know a few by name, but not many. Something else I need to spend some time one. There were plump, creamy ivory polypores with a russet edge, young and fresh, and dark silver-gray and black ones (older, dead?) along a white birch trunk lying on a thin crust of snow. I want to know their names.
This year’s winter woods did not offer all the things I am comfortable with—rabbit chasing, snowshoeing, introducing friends to tracking—but it reminded me winter has many faces, and meeting this year’s winter has stretched me. No snow? I’ll stop whining, Maine is still a winter wonderland.