18 April, 2021
Slow down to see the signs of spring

Slow down to see the signs of spring

Nature, especially in spring, can fill us with happiness, joy and a spark of renewal. Don’t be consumed by distractions during this spring break. Take some time to explore the great outdoors Virginia State Parks.

For some, it is possible to go outside and enjoy the warm weather or hike a trail that we haven’t walked since last fall. For others, it’s seeing a familiar bird, finding a re-emerging wildflower, or spotting your first turtle. From fishing trips to fun family picnics, spring brings us alive for many different reasons. Grab some friends and head out to your favorite trail.

Hike with friends during the spring break

Spring break is a great time to explore a park with friends.

I love hiking trails in the spring and finding a comfortable place to sit and watch. Sometimes leaning against a tree with a good view, sometimes by a river or a water source. After a few moments of thinking, nothing happens around you, nature happens.

As soon as we stop and sit, we blend in more with our surroundings. Soon the birds will start singing again. These songs communicate beyond the birds, like security systems that tell other animals that the environment is safe. Living things appear and you never know what you will see. Sometimes the hardest part is taking a break and being patient. Animals are very aware of their environment (their survival depends on it). Breaking sticks, speaking loudly, just walking is enough to bring many animals under cover and hide until they believe that the coast is clear again.

Broad-headed skink in Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Virginia

A broad-headed skink reveals itself to the sun on a warm rock.

I practiced the art of disappearing from several people around me Smith Mountain Lake State Park Locations and had some great results. Depending on the weather, time of day and season, coincidence and chance, you never know what you will see – it’s fun!

Flowering dogwood tree at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Virginia

Flowering dogwoods along paths mark the beginning of spring.

Success in viewing wildlife will always vary, and you will be better able to find the best habitats along the forest and field edges next to the water or food sources. Sometimes you see little, sometimes so much, but I always learn something, usually see cool creatures, and come away refreshed and in a better mood after spending time outdoors. It is always helpful to be open without expecting too much. That way, everything that happens is a pleasant surprise, and in the worst case scenario, you get that much-needed serenity in nature.

Binoculars help enormously because we often only see wild animals from a distance.

Bird watching in Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Virginia

If you find some birds, bring your binoculars for a better view.

Bird watching is a popular pastime in India Virginia State Parkswhich offer many great opportunities for wildlife viewing in a wide variety of habitats.

Sometimes you don’t even have to go far. I heard and saw a pair of giant woodpeckers foraging and interacting from the deck of my cabin. Anyone who has wandered the Virginia forests has undoubtedly heard this bird in the distance, either drumming or laughing loudly and proudly, the call of North America’s greatest woodpecker.

I also noticed from the deck that two squirrels were scurrying into a small hole in a tree.

Eye spy on a family of squirrels in Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Virginia

Eye is spying on three little eyes in a squirrel cave

Soon four squirrels appeared and their protection was discovered. If you ever find a shelter, cave or nest, there is an easy way to see an animal from afar.

Piece of a mammalian jaw at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Virginia

The more deeply rooted canine is the only tooth left on this skull fragment.

After inspecting it for a moment, I took a step and barely caught a glimpse of a black rat snake shot under a derelict tree trunk – my first snake sighting of the year. I waited a moment to see if it would reappear (it didn’t) and saw a flicker to the north, the only member of the woodpecker family in Virginia with an entirely different coat of paint than the typical mix of black, white, and red .

The flicker of the north peeks out of its cave in Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Virginia

A black mustache next to the beak easily distinguishes the male northern flicker.

With my head out of its cave looking at me suspiciously, I looked for a marker, an unusual rock or tree to remind me of the area, and left.

When I came back the next day, I sat quietly nearby until it flew home on the way. I watched it search for food and peck precisely like a skilled carpenter shaping wood.

A Flicker to the north looms over its den in Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Virginia

The flicker in the north uses dead trees as both hunting grounds and homes.

Occasionally he would stop and poop his body, clean his feathers, lubricate them, and close them for efficient flight. I also watched and listened to him dig his cavity, prepare and “clean” his house so he could impress a woman and maybe start a family in the next month. I can return and hope to watch him or his mate feed their potential young.

A pair of geese paddle in Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Virginia

A pair of geese swim on the lake.

After looking at the habits of a flicker, I was also able to see a pair of geese land and drive past on the water, as well as an assortment of other birds. All because I paused to look at a bone.

Bumblebees and other pollinators are a welcome sight and a sign of warmer weather - in Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Virginia

Pollinators are a welcome sight and a sign of warmer weather.

Spring is the time of year to go outside and let nature remind you that we all find contentment with the little things, and perhaps even childlike awe of the return of the color and life of our Commonwealth’s biodiversity can have. We have to pull the plug, reconnect and let these little moments present themselves.

Click here to learn more about Smith Mountain Lake State Park. Go here To find out more about camping and cabins, or call 800-933-7275 during business hours.

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The post Slowing Down To See The Signs of Spring first appeared on Virginia’s travel blog.

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