HIKING NJ THE HEAT-WEEKS: An Essay on Shade

Marilyn as Lookout Sourlands 08 08

My sister, Marilyn Weitzel, Janet Black and Betty Lies Bird the Sourland Mountain Preserve Trail off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell

While every newspaper and television and Internet Weather Source has been warning absolutely everyone to stay inside, “Stay Safe”, [which smarmy phrase makes my flesh crawl], I’ve discovered something experientially that I’ve probably always known:  It’s a whole lot hotter in any parking lot, getting into or out of a vehicle, than it is in any of our nearby New Jersey forests!  I’ve decided, it’s dangerous to stay at home.  For, there, life can turn into a spectator sport.

Abide With Me   Pole Farm

Pole Farm: “Abide With Me”: Shade in the Height of Summer

A Sunday ago, I hiked the Pole Farm at 8 a.m., actually about an hour too late to start, during these so-called Heat Emergencies.  Much beauty, great tranquillity, shade 9/10 of the way.  For a couple of hours, I was given gifts beyond measure.  There’s nothing on a screen, or in a newspaper or magazine to equal the elusive scent of fox, still apparent from morning trail-marking.  The cascade of field sparrows, the mew of catbird.  The pleasure of picking two wildflowers for Elaine Katz’s stone and bench – the woman who almost single-handedly insisted that this Lawrenceville (now-) Preserve was not to be a golf course or a series of intrusively spotlighted playing fields.

Sourlands Rocks 08 08

Sourland Rocks Exhale Lenape Presence

A day or two later, and again a week later, starting at 5:15, I entered the Sourland Mountain Preserve off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell.  Not a man-made sound, not even a plane, did I hear in those couple of deeply shaded hours.  Not a man-made anything did I see, except some essential drainage pipes and the entry road, then densely wooded trails I explored.  One distant frog’s thrumming was heartening.  Dragonflies popped about whatever flowers could bloom in sunlit groves.  For a long time, I sat on basalt boulders leftover from creation, surrounded by mixed forest and essence of Lenapes of long ago.  There’d been rain by the second excursion, so various streamlets were caroling as I crossed them.

Bowman's Spring 2014 014

Intensities of Shade at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

The next night, when her work and mine were over for the day, Intrepid Jeanette Hooban picked me up in Lawrenceville, to glide over hill and down dale to the Delaware River, –silver in late light, purling below the Lambertville / New Hope Bridge.  Moments later, we were deep in Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.  We decided to take four favorite trails:  Violet Trail off the access road; the old pond trail onto Fern Trail, alongside a flower-erupting former pond; and the ever-enticing Medicinal Trail, crossing the tough new bridges constructed or reconstructed after Hurricane Sandy.  Each of us has many demands made upon us in the so-called real world.  Each was a little jagged as we started out.  But, again, silence, flowers, dragonflies, hidden birds, and the murmur of Pidcock Creek gave us timeless gifts of memory.  Jeanette discovered a flaming spurt of cardinal flower, favorite of ruby-throated hummingbirds.  I could show her where to elusive snow trillium can emerge, yes, in snow, in March; where, in May, opulent yellow ladyslippers peek through heavy leaf cover to the left of the Fern Trail.  We examined the rocky edge of that Creek, for I’d found the Louisiana Waterthrush, first by song, then by habitat and behavior, a month ago with another friend.  There in the cucumber magnolia, I’d seen my first ever phoebe sing out his name over and over, while waters burbled busily below early one spring.  In heat-strafed July, shade was our gift at Bowman’s, enhanced by occasional water-cooled air.

Marsh First Willows 2013

Abbott Marshlands: Spring Lake: First Willow Buds

A few days later, key birding buddy, Anne Zeman, picked me up at 7:30 a.m., so we could go to the Abbott Marshlands (in Trenton!), in quest of images for her entries for an upcoming fine-art juried exhibition: Voices for the Marsh.  New to us was the fact that Hurricane Sandy had taken down a quantity of the Marsh’s most majestic trees.  Youngsters that survived have burgeoned in the meantime, creating dense shade everywhere — 90-some percent of our walk was tree-cool, and much alongside water.  New patterns of light and shade have amplified the richesse of its fern groves, until we ran out of species names.  Not only tiny blue dragonflies, –half the size of needles–, but equally minuscule lipstick-red ones, zinged about on all sides.  Pickerel weed’s remarkable purple (hyacinth-like, but slimmer) stems rose here and there in Spring Lake and other wet areas.

fox face close-up Brenda Jones

Fox Face, Close-Up, by Fine Art Photographer Brenda Jones

Again, we remembered where  Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger had shown us the five-entried fox den.  On both sides of the trail, majestic yews revealed a former dwelling in that wilderness.  Not far from there, Clyde and Warren knew to look for owls in daytime.  There’s not so much silence in the Marsh, because horrific highways are all too near, spinning out a ceaseless drone of ‘the real world’.  But after awhile, one absorbed that sound, until lapping water or locusts warming up or the sacred luffing of swans wings topped every other impression.

Marsh Sandy Damage 2013

Marsh: Hurricane Sandy Damage to Iconic Beech, Spring Scene

Each walk, alone and with others, proved that Heat Emergency consciousness can be overdone.  People can turn into couch potatoes out of fear.

beaver close-up Brenda Jones

Beaver Close-Up by Fine Art Photographer, Brenda Jones

Beauteous preserves, rich in wildlife, await on all sides of Princeton.  There’s the thickly treed Community Park North off 206.  There’s Herrontown Woods, off Snowden Lane, and the nearby Autumn Hill.  Plainsboro Preserve beckons on the other side of Route 1, with its monoculture forest of beeches — guaranteed 12 to 15 degrees cooler in summer, warmer in winter.

Beckoning Path Pl Prsrv

Beckoning Path, Plainsboro Preserve

Turn off the screens.  Grab a hat and water and natural insect repellant (a wonderful rosemary-based one is available at the Hopewell Pharmacy) and get out there.  Don’t be someone Richard Louv will have to describe as The Last (Child) in the Woods.

Beechwood Forest Stream Pl Prsrv

Microclimate Beechwood Forest, Plainsboro Preserve

 

 

 

 

 

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HOW GREEN WAS OUR VALLEY, — The Delaware Valley

When I reflect on the spring nearly past, all I see is grey  — in skies and clouds, in ceaseless chill rains, in blinding fogs, and in my own imprisoned mood.  However, there were excursions, stolen between the raindrops, which reveal the incredible bounty of the Delaware Valley.

Thanks to courageous women, this preserve was saved for all time, to showcase the rarest wildflowers which belong in all the woods and all along the banks of our beloved Delaware River.

BOWMAN’S HILL WILDFLOWER PRESERVE

below New Hope, PA

Toad Trillim

Toad Trillium Among the Bluebells, Bowman’s, April 2016

Celandine and Bluebells by the Creek

Celandine and Bluebells line trail along PIdcock Creek

Stroll with me on the well-tended trails, beautifully restored after Hurricane Sandy’s depredations — so very far from the sea of its birth.  Open all your senses, as the work week, this techno-century rarely permit.  Inhale the very fecundity of the good earth, celebrated so brilliantly by Pennsylvania’s Pearl S. Buck.  Let your ears learn your first phoebe!, phoebe!; the purrrrrr of red-bellied woodpeckers in healthily aged trees; the scree! of a single red-tailed hawk high above the almost leafed-out canopy.  Absorb quintessential tranquillity, where the creek’s murmurs and whispers call you ever more deeply into the sacred woods.Bluebell Sea

Bluebell Sea, Where I Usually Begin my Bowman’s Explorations

It’s worth doing Bowman’s for the Medicinal Trail alone.  There I first heard and almost saw the pileated woodpecker dive from tree to tree.  There a young boy, –thrilled as I to watch spring’s first garter snakes unwind from winter’s tangle–, splashed into the creek to save a snake who’d tumbled in.  Along the creek, forest monarchs rest, Sandy-felled, roots taller than two or three humans standing on one another’s shoulders.  I always thank their majesties for their time here.

On the Medicinal Trail’s Bridge, a man and woman told me they’d just seen the (can it be?!) Louisiana Waterthrush.  All three of us watched a slender dark furry being curl and curve above the rocks, along the bank.  It was so at home, so sure in its hunting.  And we remained unsure whether it was mink or marten.  Above all, Medicinal Trail holds trillium of many hues and funny names.  No one can ever explain the name of the tight red one above (which never opens farther), somehow christened “Toad”.

First White Trilliujm

Virginal White Trillium

I’m always so pleased with the wondrous work of Staff and energetic, consummately generous Bowman’s volunteers.  Most invasives have been mastered.  Trails are well marked, well tended, pretty and inviting.  Boardwalks lead over (increasingly) wet spots.  Their gift shop is tasteful, gift-wise, and irresistible book-wise.  Whoever’s at the desk, usually a volunteer, is always happy to see each visitor and eager to serve.

White Trillium Close-Up

Shy Trillium

My only quarrel is that there is no sign on the Medicinal Trail, instructing the un-knowing, such as I, in what each rarity was used to treat — most likely discovered by local Lenapes, long before the concept of fenced preservation came into being.

Take yourself to Bowman’s in all seasons.  Ideal habitat for birds, for plants from anemone and twinleaf and bloodroot to prickly pear; and for voyagers, seeking an idyllic world – such as all of America was before we arrived, carrying with us the Anthropocene and all its losses and perils.

Become a Bowman’s member.  Join their invasive-pulling volunteers.  Attend their black tie and muck boots spring gala.  And murmur thanks to those wise early women who knew that saving beauty of this magnitude is essential to the human spirit.

NEW PHOTOS SENT FOR BLOG FROM BRENDA JONES, Fine Art Photographer

My dear friend and superb photographer, Brenda Jones, sends these images of a mink and a waterthrush, found nearby (to Princeton), and therefore likely at Bowman’s.  Enjoy her unique artistry!

Waterthrush with larvae by Brenda Jones

Waterthrush with Larvae by Brenda Jones

 

MinkMillstoneAqueduct by Brenda Jones

Mink, Millstone Aqueduct, by Brenda Jones

Sunlight in Spring’s First Ephemerals

Ephemerals are the frail, rare wildflowers of spring, which can bloom only until the forest canopy leafs out.  The finest collection I know is at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, over below New Hope.  Always realize, everyone, we would not have this bounty without PRESERVATION.  Support your local land trust, wherever you are, keeping wild lands, wild creatures and wild plants nearby and healthy.

April showers kept me from today’s planned nature quest.  But, tomorrow, a friend and I will head to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, where spring should be awaiting us.  Here’s a collection of other early trips to Bowman’s, in more cooperative weather.

I have a number of very dear friends, who are dealing with serious health issues in people near and dear to them.  I wish I could take each of you to Bowman’s with me tomorrow.  I send you apring light in leaves of yesteryear.  With love.

Large-Flowered Trillium Bowman's April

Bowman/s Trillium

 

Trillium Bluebell Apotheosis Bowman's April 30

Red Trillium, Early Bluebells, Bowman’s

Being an amateur naturalist (never forget that the root of that adjective is love), I think the accurate name of this one is toad trillium.  Do you think that does it justice?

Second Cardinal Flower Bowman's Spring 2014

Cardinal Flower, Rock-Lover, Bowman’s, Spring

May Apple in April Bowman's 2015

May Apple in April, last year at Bowman’s

Bowman's Spring 2014 006

Wild Azalea, Early Spring, Bowman’s

I think it’s real name is pinxter, and the wonder is that it is native to that site!

Mysterious Mushroom Bowman's Spring 2014

Mysterious Mushroom of Bowman’s in Spring

 

False Hellebore Exultant

False Hellebore (the Pleated Ones) among the Skunk Cabbage

Bowman's Spring 2014 005

Very Early Trumpet Vine, Bowman’s in Spring

 

Snow Trillium Bowman's mid-April 2015

Rare Snow Trillium of Bowman’s last year in very early spring

One of the most irresistible sights for my friend, fine art photographer Tasha O’Neill, and myself, is the fiddlehead form of ferns:

Fiddlehead Family

Newborn Fiddleheads, Dwarfed by Young Skunk Cabbage

 

We have no idea what we will discover on the Violet Trail, the Medicinal Trail, Azalea Trail, Audubon Trail, Marsh Marigold Trail, tomorrow.  What we know, as NJWILDBEAUTY readers know from other blogs, there is BEAUTY to behold at Bowman’s in all seasons, even winter.

Jack Frost Art Nouveau Bowman's

Winter at Bowman’s, Before the Snow Trillium

 

 

 

WINTER ARTISTRY: BOWMAN’S HILL WILDFLOWER PRESERVE

Even though we call this NJWILDBEAUTY, readers know my steps frequently stray to nearby states, in quest of the Nature I MUST have!  This series reveals the wildflower preserve below New Hope, on a December morning walk.  Stroll with me.

And yes, I’m going to mention our era’s most critical challenge — catastrophic climate change.  These greens do not belong at Bowman’s in December!

Jack Frost Art Nouveau Bowman's

Winter’s Artistry Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Autumn Turns to Winter at Bowman's

Between Two Seasons, Bowman’s, above Pidcock Creek

 

Cezanne Palette at Bowman's

Cezanne Palette, Bowman’s in December

 

Fresh Greenery and Oak Leaves Bowman's

Fresh-sprung Greenery and Just-fallen Oak Leaves, Bowman’s, December

 

Squirrel Feast Bowman's

Squirrel’s Place-Setting, Bowman’s, near Pidcock Creek

 

New Ferns of Winter

New Ferns of December

 

Leaf Fall and Ice Bowman's

New Leaf Fall, New Ice, Bowman’s

 

Green Prickly Pear in Winter at Bowman's

Prickly Pear, Bright Green in December, Bowman’s — a native species in PA and NJ

 

Fungus Thrives on Sandy Relic at Bowman's

Turkey Tail Fungus Lives Up to its Name

 

Turkey Tail Fungus Earns its name at Bowman's

Turkey Tail Claims Sandy Victim

NJWILDBEAUTY readers are used to my proclaiming that Nature doesn’t close her doors with the advent of Labor Day.  Great beauty awaits, on all trails, outdoors, — with particularly special effects in winter.

Once again, though, none of this could we see, and perhaps much of it would not exist, were it not preserved through Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.  A team of volunteers recently created a human chain to walk the last deer, allowed in by Sandy-destruction of fences, out to the wild beyond, where they belong.  Now all the glorious flowers can erupt in safety, once again.  Support your local non-profit; preserve your nearby open lands.

 

 

 

STILL SEEKING SPRING — AVIAN SURPRISE

Spring 2015 defeats me.  I have stopped looking for its arrival in natural settings.  When an entire week goes by without wearing my ski jacket. the new season will have arrived.

Here is a photo essay of a recent bi-state excursion to find the vernal:

View from Footebridge from NJ to PA at Bull's Island below Frenchtown

View from Footbridge from NJ to PA at Bull’s Island below Frenchtown

Last week, in quest of spring, I spent more than three [but fewer than four] hours at Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve, below New Hope, Pennsylvania.  You know from my recent post that most of the world in that exquisite refuge was brown, with some courageous and welcome exceptions.

That Delaware view was taken mid-river that same day.  I walked west from Bull’s Island over the Delaware, because interstate walking is a rare past-time for someone from Michigan.

As you can see, on the New Jersey and the Pennsylvania sides, most trees remain bare.

Beautiful Bridge Structure, Empty Trees

Beautiful Bridge Structure, Empty Trees

Spring on the Delaware River Footbridge at Bull's Island

Spring on the Delaware River Footbridge at Bull’s Island

Ultimately, on the footbridge, the winds were so fierce, I did not set Foote in Pennsylvania.  My mother would say, “You turned tail and ran!”

However, NJWILDBEAUTY readers who know me in person remember that I tend to ask, perhaps too often for some, “Where is the Gift?”

Come with me on the Bull’s Island Towpath and answer this question in mid-April in New Jersey/Pennsylvania.

Emptiness of Spring -- Bull's Island Towpath mid-April 2015

Emptiness of Spring — Bull’s Island Towpath mid-April 2015

Alluvial Plain near Bull's Island Towpath Trail

Alluvial Plain near Bull’s Island Towpath Trail

Mile Marker 21 - Bull's Island Towpath Trail

Mile Marker 21 – Bull’s Island Towpath Trail

House in Empty Woods Bull's Island mid-April 2015

Farmhouse Opposite Bull’s Island Towpath Trail

Alluvial Plain Adjacent to Bull's Island -- When the Delaware Floods, This is Where She Goes, What She Nourishes

Alluvial Plain Adjacent to Bull’s Island — When the Delaware Floods, This is Where She Goes, What She Nourishes

Endangered Species Ahead

Endangered Species Ahead

Eagle on Nest Bull's Island Towpath Hike 2015 Spring

American Bald Eagle on Nest, in sycamore – a first for me:

6/10 Mile Below Bull’s Island Sign

That tiny head is pure white, in person.  See for yourselves!

If any of you still wonder, why preserve?  The above hint of an eagle sighting is our answer.

This parent is strong, serene, vivid.  She faces our benevolent yet powerful, and yes, fish-ful Delaware River.   This eagle pair is likely to raise healthy young, so there will be more eagles on more nests in our riverine future.

Never forget that, in the 1970’s, there was but one eagle nest, at Bear Swamp, near the Delaware Bay, and it was unsuccessful.  DDT thinned their eggs, which therefore cracked and could not hatch.  Brilliant and committed people, beginning with Rachel Carson in her seminal, earth-changing “Silent Spring”, turned this around.  Naturalists in New Jersey went to the Chesapeake for healthy eggs.  They gingerly carried these treasures to the Bear Swamp nest.  Those unknowingly surrogate parents raised and fledged young, who returned to the area.  So the eagle Renaissance of New Jersey began.

This day, of Bowman’s followed by Bull’s Island followed by Lambertville, [through the spotting scope set up at Homestead  Farm Market (across from the CVS and Rago)], then to ‘our’ Princeton Mapleton eagle’s nest, brought me three eagles on three nests in three towns in three hours. 

The Lambertville eagle nest is on a power tower in the River, visible from the toll bridge when driving to PA from NJ.   The other two are in preserves.

I suddenly realize, if those Bull’s Island trees had been leafed out for this person longing for spring, I might never have spotted the nest, for the warning sign came south of the impressive  nest…

WHY PRESERVE!

Princeton's Eagle Nest, Mapleton Avenue, Above the D&R Canal State Park

Princeton’s Eagle Nest, Mapleton Avenue, Above the D&R Canal State Park

WHEN SPRING TIPTOES – Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in Mid-April

“Spring Green” — right?    Wrong.

In the year 2015, spring has been mostly brown.  Here is a photo essay of last Friday’s trip to my beloved Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve below New Hope, Pennsylvania.  I’ve written elsewhere, as in the Time of Trenton, that Bowman’s is Spring Central.  And it is.  Except the palette this year is that of an unexpected artist — Paul Cezanne!  Stroll with me.

Autumn and Spring, Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve

Autumn and Spring, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Spring Herald

Spring Herald

Newcomers on the Civilian Conservation Corps Bridge

Newcomers on the Civilian Conservation Corps Bridge

Spring Shadows

Spring Shadows

Between Fall and Spring, Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve

Between Fall and Spring, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Spring Beauty, Autumn Background

Spring Beauty, Autumn Background

First Canada Mayflower Leaf

First Canada Mayflower Leaf

You really have to be determined to find spring.

Overhead vistas were stunning.

Evergreen Canopy

Evergreen Canopy

Deciduous Canopy

Deciduous Canopy

Straight ahead was stunning – a favorite scene for me always is the shadow of beech leaves on beech bark.

Beech Shadow

Beech Shadows

Azalea Sign, No Azalea Blossoms

Azalea Sign, No Azalea Blossoms

Fungus Flower

Fungus Flower

Skunk Cabbage Apotheosis by the Old Pond

Skunk Cabbage Apotheosis by the Old Pond

Downed Tree Returning to Earth

Downed Tree Returning to Earth

Tiptoe Through the Bluebells, Parry Trail

Tiptoe Through the Bluebells, Parry Trail

Spring's First Flower, Up by the Twinleaf Shop at Bowman's

Spring’s First Flower, Up by the Twinleaf Shop at Bowman’s

And Bowman’s greatest gift, a flower I have not seen in at least five years there, and one that should by no means be around in April – the Snow Trillium.  A bad picture, because of high winds, but worth studying, nonetheless.

Snow Trillium off the Fern Trail

Snow Trillium off the Fern Trail

To get to Bowman’s, take the old green bridge from Lambertville over my beloved Delaware River.  Turn left at the first light in New Hope, and drive along through woods and past spring wildflowers on the banks and steeps on either side.  Bowman’s is on the right, before an old stone bridge.  There is a small admission fee — a pittance compared to the treasures that await you there.

Afterwards, eat at Bowman’s Tavern.  Superb food, quite avant-garde for a post-hike treat, and gracious welcome.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve members earn a 10% discount at the Tavern, but you must remind hostess and waitress.

“Emerging Signs of Spring” — recent Times of Trenton Article

Brave Skunk Cabbage in March, Bowman's

Brave Skunk Cabbage in March, Bowman’s

My NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I am always avid for signs of the coming season, no matter what it may be — including winter.

Rich Rein of US 1 (Business) Newspaper, published my account of being impatient for the spare beauties, –especially the true sculptural form of trees–, of that approaching season.

At the same time, The Times of Trenton kindly accepted my article on the importance of prolonged cold for the full health of wild creatures.

Last week, The Times presented the story I’d titled “Where is Spring?”  They honored me with the title of Guest Columnist, and again blessed my story with a handsome photograph by fine artist Michael Mancuso, who is masquerading as a journalist.

Salamander in hand, early April 2015, by Michael Mancuso of the Times of Trenton

Salamander in hand, early April 2015, by Michael Mancuso of the Times of Trenton

“Emerging Signs of Spring”, Guest Columnist, Carolyn Foote Edelmann

 

This year, not even naturalists can find spring.

We have been taught that the season arrives with the vernal equinox, when day and night are virtually equal; and that equinox leads to lengthening sunlight. Longer days, we have. But where is spring?

Each naturalist has his or her own proof of spring.

For one, it is the blooming of witch hazel. Good, because last night I saw a witch hazel tree in Lawrence in full, brassy bloom. They can blossom in December and January. Does blooming witch hazel make a spring? .

For many home gardeners, spring means snowdrops, which can pop through January drifts. Last week’s snowdrops at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton were up, but they looked frail and drained, as though their journey through snow and ice had sapped them of all energy.

For many, spring means the bird-like chirping of tiny frogs called peepers. A colleague at work heard both peepers and wood frogs in Hopewell a week ago Friday. Although I know well where to look and listen, I have not heard a single trill. Peepers do not begin their incessant chorus until it’s been above freezing for at least three nights. Which it hasn’t.

March 27, Jenn Rogers, our merry Mercer County naturalist, led a troupe of brave souls out into dusk and darkness at Hopewell’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve. Rogers and confreres had set out on an “Owl Prowl.” Not an owl was heard nor seen. But the group was treated to the full dance and aural phenomena of woodcocks, over and over, until full dark. When woodcocks rise, it’s spring.

These fortunate explorers, under Rogers’ tutelage, were then able to see and hold female and male salamanders, moving from winter quarters to their spring egg-laying waters. The group also encountered a number of frogs, still, yet ready for action, visible beneath skim ice on the vernal ponds. If salamanders have made their historic night-time journeys, it’s spring.

Near Greenwich, where New Jersey’s legendary tea burning taught the British we would no longer submit to the crown’s dictates, we could not leave a female American kestrel flitting in and out of a long line of bare trees. Nearby, a spurt or two of crocus, some dark purple mini-iris and one effusion of daffodils seemed to certify spring.

A flutter of vivid bluebirds under the leafless shrubs of Stow Creek, eagle central, seemed more important, dare I say it, than that site’s legendary eagles.

Last Sunday, I spent significant time in Salem and Cumberland counties, where America’s avian symbol is everywhere right now. We studied eagles on nests, incubating eggs, performing nest exchanges and feeding hatchlings down near the Delaware Bay. Eagle spring comes earlier than that of other species. However, regional naturalists are concerned that many Delaware Valley eagles are not yet on the nest. Timing is everything with the eagle family. Much more delay and it will become too hot for the young with all those insulating feathers. Hard to believe in “hot” right now.

Our incontrovertible spring proof may have been the osprey on its unlikely nest alongside Route 55 near Millville. Ospreys winter separately, returning to the same nest on the same day. When ospreys are reunited, spring is here.

If you need to certify spring, go straight over to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, below New Hope, Pa. Return every weekend, until the forest canopy leafs out. Spring’s ephemerals, irrefutable proof of the new season, will be blanketing the ground. In the woods, spicebush shrubs sport tiny chartreuse flowers, almost the color of fireflies. Their twigs, scraped with a fingernail, give off the healing aroma of benzoin, part of this spring herald’s Latin name.

Signage, flower maps and informed volunteers in their Twinleaf shop will lead you to hepatica, twinleaf, bloodroot, spring beauty, trout lily and early saxifrage (rock-breaker). Bowman’s grounds will soon resemble a studio floor, continuously spattered by some errant artist.

In wettest places, an unmistakable spring herald rises — skunk cabbage. This waxy plant emerges like a monk in a cowl, colors swirling from burgundy to bright green. Skunk cabbage can melt ice, as its flower generates 60 degrees of heat. Its rotting meat scent is purportedly irresistible to pollinators. Which, frankly, are what spring is all about.

Above all, remember: Spring is inevitable. Even when trees remain black and brown. Even under skies that Henry David Thoreau described as “stern” back in his laggard spring in the 1800s. For him, as for us, this season must emerge.

Use all your senses. Watch for pollinators, even houseflies. Listen for wood frogs and peepers. Try to scent spicebush and the loamy perfume of awakening earth. Touch the soft green tips of emergent daffodil or narcissus leaves. Even when everything seems brown and grey and black and taupe, know that spring is being born.

Carolyn Foote Edelmann, a poet, naturalist and community relations associate for the Delaware and Raritan Greenway Land Trust, writes and photographs for NJWildBeauty nature blog (njwildbeauty.wordpress.com).