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Eshkie Miriam Zachai
Great blue herons, above, surrounded by wood storks. Foreground: great egrets in breeding plumage.

NATURE’S TURN: Praise Berkshire winter – and south Florida oases for wildlife, human spirit

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By Monday, Mar 11, 2019 Learning

March 11 – 24, 2019

Mount Washington — Clear azure to cerulean skies surround sunlit, snow-blanketed forests, meadows, gardens and frozen ponds on Berkshire hilltops as I write during the first week of March. Dark, starlit skies draw us outdoors to look up to mythic animals and timeless characters particular to the heavens of late winter and early spring. Day and night, we laugh in response to brisk and bracing weather. Snow squalls, snow showers, a blizzard, roaring winds, freezing rain and subzero temperatures have kept us alert and responsive to the beauty and challenges of the season.

Hemlock trees dressed as wood storks at edge of Berkshire wetland. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Predictions are that the familiar alternation of freezing nights and daytime thaw will prevail for the rest of the month. That’s sap-run weather! Tapped maple trees, buckets hanging, and lines of piping strung through woodlands and along roadsides are hallmarks of the season.

Atlantic Dunes Park, Delray Beach, Fla., March 5, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

At about the time I began to compose my Turtle Tree Seed order and checked with Ward’s Nursery and Garden Center to confirm availability of organic seed potatoes for April planting, my focus was diverted: Dear friends and former Berkshire neighbors invited me to south Florida where they, now in their 90s, have made their home. I knew Delray Beach as the city where a rare beach, Atlantic Dunes Park, is located. As described on the municipality’s website: “This Park suits those who want more of a serene beach experience. The park is nestled in an elevated wooded area …” It is a tiny remnant of “the real Florida,” a green spot on the map of suburban sprawl.

Purple gallinule, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Fla., March 3, 2019. Photo: Eshkie Miriam Zachai

A few miles inland, birds, plants and people find refuge from traffic, shopping malls, endless concrete and cookie-cutter rows of houses at two other oases. Wakodahatchee Wetlands supports alligators and anhingas, purple gallinules and wood storks observed foraging, hunting and nesting from an extensive boardwalk. I was welcomed to Green Cay by the approach of a low flying roseate spoonbill. Both of these natural areas are constructed wetlands. Both serve as functioning ecosystems that provide habitat for flowering wetland plants and animals. Along with Atlantic Dunes Park, they offer educational programs and places where the human spirit is revived.

Wood storks with nestlings. Wakodahatchee Wetlands, March 3, 2019. Photo: Eshkie Miriam Zachai

Resources

Wakodahatchee Wetlands – https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/hotspots/210-wakodahatchee-wetlands-delray-beach-florida/

Green Cay – http://discover.pbcgov.org/parks/Pages/GreenCay.aspx

Atlantic Dunes Park – https://www.downtowndelraybeach.com/listings/atlantic-dunes-park 

Opportunities to participate

March 14 deadline for June 25 – 27 educators retreat – https://vtfeed.org/farm-school-institute
The Northeast Farm to School Institute is a unique year-long professional learning opportunity for 12 school teams from New England and New York.

March 15 – April 12 weekly one-hour webinar, Brassica Pest Collaborative         http://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/resources/brassica-pest-collaborative

Save the date: April 6 – Berkshire Earth Expo, Pittsfield http://coolerberkshires.org/berkshire-earth-expo-2019/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/516758168835250/


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