Last week I watched a mallard duck splash down into Cheshire Lake and another walk along the edge of the last skin of ice. Standing under a young white pine tree I could look out along a line where the wind, kicking up waves along the water's surface, had splintered the ice into fragments.

On Sunday in Springside Park, in an afternoon out of June, I heard frogs singing.

Do you ever keep a record of things like this -- send a photograph of the first winter aconite in bloom and the Lenten rose, like my dad coming in from an afternoon in the back yard muddy and excited because the bloodroot have come back?

He and I have company. The Berkshire Co-op and Berkshire South Regional Community Center will lead a hike at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 22, Earth Day, on the study of seasonal change in nature, as part of a weeklong series of free children's programs, and follow it with a community hike at 4 p.m.

They call them phenology hikes. I looked it up, and phenology is the study of cycles in plant and animal life. It often means the first appearance each year -- the first sighting of pussy willow buds or redwing blackbirds, the first sound of peepers.

I like this: the science of keeping an eye out for things. If I kept it up for a year, I might know whether the ice on Cheshire Lake is melting early or late and when the maple season ends, how long the vernal pools last in the woods, and when the tadpoles hatch. Springside Park has just posted a photograph of bloodroot blooming in our woods.


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Maybe I'll go look for it.

Hands to earth

For more Earth Day activities, hikes, cleanups, vernal pools, see berkshiresweek.com.