Author's Note: The tone of the book vacillates between naturalist and philosopher, mostly leaning towards the naturalist. Here is a rough excerpt from the naturalist perspective.
MAY 28, 2008 • EARLY JUNE
EAST BRANCH AUSABLE RIVER NEAR MARCY FIELD, KEENE VALLEY
GPS: 44°13'12"N 73°47'10"W
Elevation: 989 feet
Along the slopes and ridges surrounding Keene Valley, fresh leaves on deciduous trees are bright light green set against the darker, almost black green of pines & spruce.
Stellate clusters of yellow-green flowers of Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias) dot the fields and open lowland areas and sandy, well-drained roadsides. This introduced species (naturalized from Europe as a garden escape) blooms from May 29 to June 16, presenting its flowers in umbels, an umbrella-like flower cluster with all flower stalks radiating from a central point. Queen Anne's Lace is familiar example of an umbellate flowering plant. What at quick glance appear to be yellowish greenish flower petals are actually bracts, modified leaves associated with the flower. The actual flowers are small and inconspicuous, with three or more within each pair of bracts.
Grey foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and Red Foxes (Vulpes fulva), among the smaller members of the Canidae (dog, wolf, fox family) can be seen at night in the fields and forests, marking territory, seeking a meal of small mammals, perhaps collecting food for young born in April or May.
At night, the strident call of Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), the ducklike clacking of Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica), and the short trill of Grey Tree Frogs (Hyla versicolor), fill the air around every bog and wet place. Later in the summer, these tiny amphibians are sometimes found while walking in the woods and fields, mistakenly called baby frogs by the young children who can’t resist picking them up to show to their parents. At maturity, the tiny, brown Spring Peeper is just 3/4 - 1 1/4 inches in size. The nocturnal Spring Peeper is found in wooded areas in or near permanent or temporarily flooded ponds and swamps and hibernates under logs and loose bark. The Grey Tree Frog is 1 1/4 - 2 inches. The nocturnal Grey Tree Frog lives high in trees and descend only at night, usually just to chorus and to breed. The Wood Frog, brown with a bandit's mask of black behind its eyes, is only slightly larger at 1 3/8 - 2 3/4 inches. In the colder parts of its range, the Wood Frog is an explosive breeder. Swarms of pairs lay fertilized eggs within 1 or 2 days, then disappear into the surrounding country. It may venture far from water during summer, and hibernates in forest debris during winter. The Spring Peeper, a Chorus Frog, and Grey Tree Frogs are members of the Tree Frog Family (Hylidae), while the Wood Frog is a member of the True Frog Family (Ranidae) and closely related to the familiar Leopard Frog.