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Nature's Story - January 2016

A Mianus River Park Blog *

John E S Lawrence and Rich Coffey

* Blog in this case would mean a chronological commentary, i.e., a daily dairy of events. It is nature itself who is joining the blogosphere and providing the 'posts' in its own unique style through telltale signs on the ground and other woodsy signals... » John E S Lawrence

- The Onset of Winter -

As 'winter is acumen in' (to borrow from mediaeval English), our beloved Mianus River Park has lost its thick leafy cover, and where before, vision was cut to the nearest bush, you can now see hundreds of yards. On the eve of the first snow, a crisp edge is on the breath of the wind. Strewn fallen leaves stir uneasily across your feet, and trees groan at the gathering sky. But there is a lot going on. To those who read its signals, Nature blogs out a steady twitter-like stream of chatter.

It starts with the land itself. The wonderful thing about the greenery being gone is you can see so much more. You can pocket your GPS, and feel first-hand the land's physique, from the rolling rhythm of the river and its surrounds, to the echoing clefts as they rise to the rocky ridge above. You can actually hear the woodpecker pound his way through the dead wood to the grubs he needs, and see his demolition in 3D. These pictures are of the same trees taken from ninety degree angles!

- Woodpecker -

Tree Tree2

- Coyotes -

We don't find nearly the evidence of coyotes we used to when the Park was less visited. But the blog insists they are still there. Normally hidden behind layers of green, huge boulders providing shelter and security to these animals are revealed in wintertime. Characteristically in less traveled areas, these intricate overhangs are dotted throughout the middle of the park, away from the more civilized margins. They consist of rain-protecting roofs ensuring dry bedding, and usually some form of rear exit to allow an El Chapo retreat if necessary. They are also often close to water for the same reasons that humans choose their cave habitations or campsites. The clinching proof of ownership is found in the scat, typically prominent, for example on a flat stone or open space close to the lair.

Rocks Cave

Some of these recesses are large enough to shelter more than one human, and it seems obvious that early settlers, or even earlier indigenous inhabitants might have found comfort here. But now they are open to the coyotes, who mark their property in their own ways, by hanging out their sign:

Scat

- Deer -

The deer herds have their own way of blogging too. Their staggy leaders must show their manhood. Further across the other side of the trail, scarred saplings show the story, where stripped bark signifies the collective effort of many itchy males as they rub velvet off their antlers. These pictures are of sites less than three feet apart.

Scarred   Scarred2

This exercise serves multiple purposes in addition to the rebellious relief it must give to the younger bucks in getting at last rid of the trappings of youth. The forehead area contains several sweat glands, so that the rubbing process emits scent, thus not only advertising to the world the presence of new potential siredom, but also a traditional challenge to other males in the park. In a humorous twist, almost within sight, a SNL tree seems to mimic the macho deer in a mocking exaggeration of their show off exhibition!

Tree

- Shapes -

The shapes of the forest are more evident when there are no leaves, and suddenly you notice things that you've missed before. Vines climb up the trees with their curly tentacles, each taking water up several stories high. A four-foot length of one of these sinewy strands contains as much as a half cup of potable liquid, useful to know in emergencies. In the end however, the vines can choke the tree, in some cases strangling the trunk in a deathlike python grip, as the last picture shows, taken on the way up the road to the Merriebrook entrance.

Tree Vine Snake Tree

Tune In (Listen... Observe... Marvel...)

So, the Park blog continues its media messaging for all those tuned in to its special channel. We will be out in the snow soon for more stories.

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