Not quite a week ago, when our mild spell had just started and we had a beautiful sunny day I headed into the woods on snowshoes. I was checking out a new nature reserve that the Bruce Trail Conservancy is purchasing, where there will be a small project to re-route a few hundred yards of trail this spring.
It is a beautiful deciduous woodlot, mostly Sugar Maple. There was still about a foot of snow on the ground, but it was getting soggy from the mild temperatures.
As I wandered through the woods, I found more and more big old Sugar Maples. It was actually a rather hard slog in places as even with snowshoes I was sinking into the slushy spring snow with every step.
There were 'tree wells' around all the trees, the bigger the tree, the bigger the 'well'. You can see on the left the snow is still about a foot deep beyond the bare space around the tree trunk. This is a common pattern in the woods in spring; the melt starts around the trees which seem to either be attracting or radiating the heat.
I walked all the way through the woods to the fields on the west, and found 3 of the survey stakes marking the boundary. Near the field where the sun could penetrate the woods there was less snow left.
Back toward the east side of the woods the snow is still deeper, and the woods appears a bit younger, with none of those really big old Sugar Maples.
At one point I came across some muddy tracks in the snow, and followed them to this den, with trails leading in three directions. Some animal had obviously been here regularly and recently, since the mild spell started.
I followed these tracks for some distance through the woods, and suspect they are porcupine tracks. They tend to become active in the spring and waddle across the snow in search of tender bark to eat.
Lots of melting water too, along tiny channels that will be totally dry by summer or earlier. But if you're planning a trail re-route, checking out the spots that are wet in the spring is an important step to avoid wet hiking later on.
It was my first good look at this future nature reserve, and I was really impressed. Not a large property, but a nice patch of deciduous forest. It will be a good place to look for spring wildflowers come May.