This weekend in Denton, Maryland is the annual Spring Gala, on Saturday evening. If you haven't attended in the past, you have missed some great food, good music, lots of great artwork, and all of the best that Caroline County has to offer.
I'll be there with my artwork, although I confess that the real reason that I go is the food. Restaurants that have served their best have included, in the past, Harry's from Greensboro, The Lily Pad, The Public House, The Emerson House, and lots of other great restaurants from Caroline County.
At least a dozen artists will display their artwork, too. If you've never seen the diversity of style among the artists of the county, this is a great venue to get a feel for the array of artwork
Over the past weekend, my son and I took our first canoe trip of the spring down the Choptank. The water was high, and we glided down the river with very little effort. The water was cool the air was warm, and small birds were flitting among the budding-out branches. best birds of the trip included Ospreys, three bright yellow and blue-gray Prothonotary Warblers, a Yellow Warbler, some Blue-gray gnatcatchers, a female Mallard with a brand-new brood, and a Green Heron. The canoe let us slip right up on these, without making a sound. Overhead, there was the constant refrain of Laughing Gulls, reminding us that this was a river close to the bay.
As we cruised downstream, we also saw our first Jack-in-the Pulpits of the year, as well as some almost-open Indian Cucumber Root. Ferns were unfurling fiddleheads all along the bank, and the sound of turtles plopping into the water was almost constant.
We put-in at Red Bridges, and took our canoe out of the water in Greensboro at the Carnival Grounds. The river above Greensboro is unspoiled for three-fourths of the way, and we only saw a couple of other people the entire trip.
Early one morning over the Easter weekend, I walked down towards the Choptank. The woods was wet from rain, and a mist rose among the sweet gums and maples near the creek. With the fog and tall tree trunks, the scene was almost primordial as I headed downhill towards the distant sound of rushing water.
As I slowly moved towards the river, I began to hear the chirping of hundreds of Spring Peepers, those small frogs that announce the coming of warmer weather evry year. With their calls echoing in my ears, I saw fresh turkey tracks coming out of the sandy uplands and heading down the dirt road towards the water. I followed the tracks for a while before they veered left and off the track. As I came level with the spot where the tracks left the road, an explosion of noise silenced the peepers, and made me jump. A huge tom turkey had been crouched in the tall weeds at the side of the road and had burst from the brush to fly away. We were about six feet apart when he took off, his huge wings beating rapidly until he cleared the tops of the tall trees in the wet woods. I watched in awe as he flew out of sight through the leafless early spring trees.
I continued to walk towards the water, until the leaf litter was covered with a thick layer of spring beauties, those small delicate spring flowers that dot the lowlands on the eastern shore. Individually, these little five-petaled flowers are barely noticeable. Taken in mass, however, thousands and thousands of blooms seem like a natural carpet on the forest floor. A stood for a while to appreciate the way that these early spring plants can change the entire way the woods are viewed.
Right at the water's edge, A heard the scolding, buzzing calls of several blue-gray gnat-catchers over my head. I finally saw one of the little birds, acting like brightly colored wrens, twitching their tails as they flitted from branch to branch.
All of these scenes reminded me that winter was gone, and that we would soon have a mantel of green over our heads when all of the trees erupted with millions of leaves. Soon, mosquitoes will fill the air, and the fly catchers will feast, as will the bats as they zig from one meal and zag to the next.
Of course, the turkeys are here year-round, but it seems the only time I every get a chance to really see them is in the spring, as they loose their caution and have less places to hide.
I can't say that I'll miss the Winter, with it's cold blasts of air and all of that wood to cut and haul. I will miss Spring, though, as it quickly gives way to Summer. I love the early spring sights and sounds, the cool mornings and the chance to again see things that I have missed since the previous year.
I was wandering towards the river this morning, following the old Red Bridges Road as it cuts across the wooded swamp behind my studio. The Choptank River runs along my property, and at this time of year, a number of fish species make their annual run up the river from the Chesapeake Bay to spawn. Right now, White Crappies, Herring, Shad and White Perch are in the river, heading towards their traditional spawning spots.
As I walked closer to the river, I could hear the call of several Ospreys. The wind was blowing, and bud-swollen branches clacked together around the old dirt road as I walked towards the loud calls of the Ospreys. Shortly, I could see them... a pair of fish hawks, wheeling above the river.
Suddenly, one of the pair folded it's wings and splashed into the shallow water of the Choptank. It quickly was airborne again, with a big silvery herring in it's grasp. Both of the birds headed downriver, towards their nest on a power line support. Soon they would be raising their brood in the big nest among the metal bars and wires. All spring and summer, these Ospreys will frequent the Choptank, taking fish from the shallow waters to feed themselves and their young.
The fish, however, will come and go. Perch are the most numerous, both Yellow Perch and White Perch. I catch a few, as do others. But the king of the fishermen is the Osprey, hovering and chattering over the river. It is always a pleasure to see them each spring, wondering what they will catch, and how their families will make out as Spring becomes Summer along the Choptank River.