Stride: Spring is in the air
Spring is a remarkable time to be outside and in the many natural settings that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
Right now in western Oregon, the leaves are coming back onto the trees and plants and the birds, animals and fisheries are becoming more active.
In the spirit of exploration and meditation upon nature, I walk the trails of Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. I look for animal tracks, animals and migratory birds. From week to week, I examine the trees and plants and watch the greenery return to the bare winter landscape.
The astronomers know that the Earth warms as the days get longer and the Sun is higher in the sky. When the Sun is higher in the sky, its rays pass through less atmosphere and thus more heat reaches the Earth's surface.
The days continue to get longer from winter solstice on Dec. 21 until June 21, when summer solstice occurs.
In the middle of March (Sunday, March 17), I took a walk around the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, which lies just outside Hillsboro. All the trees were bare except for small buds that had not opened yet. About the only plant that had leaves on it was the Oregon grape. Its berries are not poisonous but are so sour that they are basically inedible.
As I walked the trail, I came to a spot that overlooked the Tualatin River. It was running high with a lot of silt in it. Pintail Pond had a lot more water than during the summer but it was only about half full. The pond north of Pintail also had an ample water level to support migratory birds.
I counted only two geese in Pintail Pond. There was an open field to the east and there were about 200 geese sunning themselves. I could not understand why they were not in the water.
The following Sunday, one week later, I hiked Jackson Bottom again. Upon examining the buds on the trees, I found that they had grown slightly, and some even had green slivers sticking out of the ends. The time for the return of the greenery on Jackson Bottom was quickly approaching.
On Pintail Pond, I was surprised to find probably 300 geese standing in the water. They were very still and not calling out. I found this lack of activity curious. I walked past them as I walked the dirt road which goes 'round the pond.
Suddenly I heard the thunderous roar of many flapping wings. I looked to my left and behind to see all of the geese taking to flight. They flew across the pond and turned and came back towards me and flew directly over me real low. I felt as if I was a goose flying with them. Immediately I saw a second flock of geese flying from the pond to the north and they flew over me too, and then they joined up with the first flock south of the preserve. Then they formed about eight or 10 smaller flocks and all headed south out of sight.
Seeing those geese fly over me was a sight I will never forget.
Back in town, a few days later, as I was getting my mail out of the mailbox, a flock of geese flew right over me real low. They were lower than any flock of geese I have ever seen in town.
I made my third visit to Jackson Bottom on Monday, April 1. On that walk, I saw green on 90% of the trees and plants, and that had happened all in one week. I was happy that I saw the green return to Jackson Bottom — it really does happen quickly.
Jackson Bottom will be greening up for the next few weeks, and that is fun to watch.
No walk around Jackson Bottom would be complete without spotting coyote and deer tracks on the shoulders of the trails and dirt roads. I looked for them and saw them on the road around Pintail Pond.
William Stride is a volunteer naturalist at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve in Hillsboro and an avid outdoorsman. His views do not represent the City of Hillsboro.