On these (not actually very cold) winter days, when I go for walks in the woods, I don't really expect to see much -- many creatures are sleeping or away, and most of the plants are dormant, and those are the things most likely to capture my attention in the warmer months. I enjoy moving through these quiet woods, and I'm always open to seeing things if I happen upon something new and unusual, but I don't set my expectations too high. For whatever reason, though, while I was walking in Naugatuck State Forest this past Wednesday, I seem to have noticed more things than I normally do in winter. Nothing especially earth-shattering happened while I was there, but I think I paid more attention to features along the trail that I often take for granted. And really, the normal winter woods can be exciting, too.
I watched some fun bird acrobatics among the trees. A pair of Brown Creepers (I've never seen two in the same place before) were vacuuming up bugs on the tree trunks near a stream. They're such tiny birds, just little brown-and-white dots working the big trunks, and I think they're awesome (there's just one bird in this picture):
This male Downy Woodpecker was showing some serious skill, too, moving all along (and climbing under) this vine to test every possible spot with his beak -- and yes, this picture is right-side up:
These stark black fertile fronds from a Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) stood out so much in the overall brown landscape that I can't believe I never stopped to look at them before:
These strange beaded structures are actually a special type of frond (i.e. leaf) that stands through the winter and contains the fern's spores, which will be released into the air in the spring. An entire south-facing bank was covered with these fronds, like weird flags stuck into the ground:
(As a side note, I actually really love this particular bank. Last year, it was the first place in these woods where I found flowering Trout Lilies, and as the months progessed, its carpet of lilies was replaced with one of ferns, then milkweed and Joe-Pye weed, among other things; just a succession of beautiful plants and flowers all year, and all densely packed together. I'm looking forward to watching this spot grow and change again this year.)
There were some wonderful spots of color in the woods, like these tiny frills of what I think is Turkey Tail Fungus (Trametes versicolor) on a fallen branch:
And I love the color on these Black Raspberry canes -- it makes me think of the plant's berries, which I won't get to sample again until late July:
Really, these canes have the best colors ever:
I did see one unusual thing on my walk. One spot in the path was littered with tufts of hair -- I think some furry animal ran into some trouble here:
The fur was medium-length and fluffy -- I thought it was clumps of down feathers at first. Perhaps it once belonged to a rabbit?
And walks in the woods continue to be interesting, at any time of year!