Although it may not always seem like it, Spring is finally here and that means that life in the natural world is beginning is to reawaken.
All around us, subtle changes are taking place that signal the beginning of the season. Western NY, well known for dramatic swings in weather, is still displaying some striking contrasts. Portions of the region are snow free, while other areas are still laboring under winter's tyranny. The fickle weather, however doesn't fool the life around us. Plants and animals, living in tune with rhythms unseen to man, are slowly emerging from their long winters slumber. Mark Carra is the Naturalist In Residence at Beaver Meadow Audubon Center in North Java." Nature really does understand the whole process. We always assume that it has to be a specific day with a specific temperature, they feel the changes, they know the lighting changes and all that. You know, the trees and everything is in tune to it all."
Carra says that trees and plants are often the earliest indicator that we are entering the warm embrace of vernal renewal.
" I usually look for willows, because willows often the buds will pop open and you'll see the different male and female flowers in their case, and you see the bright color of the pollen come out there , and know that the wind is going to carry that and that spring is on it's way."
Spring also prompts the emergence of mammals that either hibernate fully or slumber deeply. A remarkable example of that are bears. Not true hibernators, bears spend the winter in a deep sleep, relying on their amazing physiology to keep them healthy as they sleep for up seven months ! They even give birth and nurse cubs while enduring the winter protected in dens. Carra explains." Their heart rate doesn't appreciably go down in comparison, their body temperature doesn't go down. Bears don't lose much muscle mass in the wintertime, the reason is, they have a process in their makeup that allows them to literally make protein out of their urates, since they're not urinating, they use it to keep their muscle mass up, so that they don't appreciably lose any of their muscle mass. If you went to sleep for even days, you'd end up being as weak as could be, but they continue to maintain that body mass."
Birds are also easy to spot signs of spring. Even if they can't be seen, their joyous songs strike a chord that lifts any winter weary soul,says Carra." Just the sounds around us, hearing the Cardinals start to get interested in their mates and territories and all that, Red Wing Blackbirds are back and making all their noise along the edge of the pond out there, that wakes you up and makes you realize your problems maybe aren't so important."
WNY has a bounty of beautiful places to experience spring's gifts,and one of the best is Beaver Meadow Audubon Center in North Java, just a short drive from Buffalo, and one of the region's true jewels. The Naturalist is fortunate to live there year round." This place is high up, it's isolated, but yet it's near enough to Buffalo , I think it's just a beautiful place to be, I love living out here, I live for it."
So take a little time to look around, and breathe in this annual time of renewal. It's one that not only enriches the planet, but the human spirit as well,concludes Carra." You can't stay away from this, you need to be closer to nature, it's what makes us feel more human, I know that sounds a little counter-intuitive, but really, it's what makes us human, is being connected to the natural world."
If you'd like to learn more about Beaver Meadow or the other nature centers run by the Buffalo Audubon Society, you can visit their website at www.buffaloaudubon.org