Signs of spring – at last!

May at last and it seems the last snow has just melted.  Somehow it feels as if the seasons and the climate are not in sync.  The trees, birds and flowers all want to start growing while the wind still blows cold and damp.  The height of the sun in the sky will hopefully re-connect the two and everything can get on with another year of starting over.

It’s the time to be quick as a photographer.  One day there’s a great composition and the next it’s gone as flowers pass their peak and babies grow rapidly.  Much like chasing fall colors it feels like the best way to handle this season is to go into the woods and stay for a month or so, patiently keeping an eye on all the goings-on and being there when the best view manifests itself.  Tough to do as an amateur.

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Early spring walk

We’re working through a book on local hikes, a way to see places we didn’t know about or may have ignored.  The hikes are mostly through state or county parks, none of which are a wilderness area, but rather sculpted paths through areas someone felt was important for the public to see.  These are leisurely strolls, looking for photography materials that call attention to the small details rather than the grand scenes.  A return to searching for Porter’s “intimate landscape.”

Walked the perimeter trail at Cam-Roc park in south central Wisconsin.  In the late 19th and early 20th century a local creek was dammed to make a millpond.  After the dam was removed the land was a marsh and now a wetland.  People got together and made it and the surrounding hills into a county park, complete with camp sites, playgrounds, prairie and picnic tables.  The trail is only a little more than 2 miles and meanders through the woods and along the wetland, making a complete circuit of the park.

Spring is launching full force right now; just about every plant is showing signs of waking up and getting ready for summer.  The early forest flowers are out in bloom and the tree buds are spreading gradually into new leaves.  Even the mushrooms are sprouting wherever they live.

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More than plant life is starting to become visible.  Birds of all types are staking out territories and loudly alerting all passers-by of this fact.  And with the sun higher in the sky warming the ground longer each day, the reptiles are coming out to search for food.

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I think this is a DeKay’s brown snake, ubiquitous to Wisconsin’s fields and prairies.  It’s the only one I could find in the guide that comes close to matching the markings – possibly a young one as it was only about 8-10 inches long.  It was warming up on the trail as we walked by and didn’t seem to concerned with us looking it over.  My policy is if the animal isn’t concerned, get closer (I check this policy when the animal is bigger than i am!).  So I laid down in a spot with good lighting behind me and eased up closer to get this shot.  It’s tonguing the air trying to figure me out, and right after this it slid into the taller grass.

Another county park makes available a limestone/sandstone bluff that has been exposed over the centuries.  From the top there is a great vista showing the local fields and forests.  It is a wonderfully rural park – even on this great weather day we only saw a dozen or so people.

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