Week of April 23, 2023 – April 29, 2023
by Bridget Jones, Environmental Educator
Warm spring weather has finally come to Central New York, and with it, life in the forest has burst into full visibility. Emerging wildflowers transform the world with their vibrant colors, while animals returning from migration or hibernation bring sound and motion to the woods. It seems like every day brings an encounter with a new form of spring life.
Last week, another educator and I had the opportunity to witness one fascinating spring phenomenon. During a hike, we spotted a garter snake by the side of the trail and stopped to watch it pass. Small, greenish gray, with characteristic light stripes running down their backs, garter snakes are some of the most common snakes in our region. However, we quickly realized the snake wasn’t alone: six or seven others moved through the leaves nearby! In mesmerizing motion, the snakes slid around trees, under leaves, and into holes in the hillside.
Since snakes are mostly solitary, it may seem strange to find so many of them in one place. Like many cold-blooded animals, snakes spend the winter in a state similar to hibernation. Each winter, garter snakes return to the same hibernaculum, typically an underground burrow. Garter snakes hibernate together to preserve body heat, sometimes gathering in groups of hundreds or thousands of snakes! In spring, they emerge from their hibernaculum together to mate, then return to their solitary summer habits.
From snakes to flowers, singing birds to spring peepers, the first warm days of spring have set an incredible variety of life in motion. If you can, take some time to appreciate the emergence of life that’s occurred over the past week. Go for a hike, walk around your neighborhood, or look out the window: what signs of spring are emerging in your area?