Mud season

Mud season is upon us, just one of the many signs of early spring that are beginning to pop up all over. 

My favorite new March quotation is by Clarence Fanto in the March 1 edition of The Berkshire Eagle, "Around here, at least until May, spring is more of an aspiration than a reality — a guest who pops in for a day or two, then beats a hasty retreat as winter refuses to hit the exits."

It is mud time for friends living along gravel roads — and potholes for the rest of us.

Soon, it once again will be time to get out the rake, although, its work will be far less than the other side of winter.

Some winter birds begin leaving, while others refuse for more favorable winds that will help them on their way. The predominately gray and white juncos keep an eye on Mount Greylock, while others aim for more distant elevations.

My Burgess Seed and Plant order wait for month's end and a stamp.

And I eagerly await for the snow to leave us in the valley. There will always be another winter.

Spring will come at some point, and with it, an increase of "Who do I call?" questions for baby animals out or regarding injured wild animals, or a little later, "I found a baby bird that fell out of its nest." Just know that mom or dad is nearby to care for them. This is true as long as there are no cats around. In that case, place the youngster in a shrub where it may have a better chance and leave the rest to the parents.

Ninety percent of questions and comments to Naturewatch come from the states below. Cut and paste or copy to search the state you are interested in finding the closest rehabilitator(s) to you:



New Hampshire

New York


The remaining readers come from Arizona, California, Dublin (Ireland), Florida, London (England), North Carolina, Rhode Island, and others through the years I have misplaced.


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Q: I saw a woodchuck 20 feet up a tree in Pownal, Vt., this (past) summer. It was a young one and lean, but it was a woodchuck in a tree. You call them ground squirrels as correct.

— Wes P., Stamford, Vt.

A: I got that it is a ground squirrel from an authority, Alford J. Godin. Whoever cares to read his volume, "Wild Mammals of New England," (out of print), should visit their local library or a used book shop.

Not only is the woodchuck a ground squirrel, but it is also the largest New England squirrel.

They are considered not very intelligent in a lot of thigs, but not when it comes to paying attention to what is going on around them. They are not dullards!

Now to seeing one 20 feet up in a tree ... That is high, but in range. The only reference I have found giving the height a chuck can climb the above volume in which Godin writes 15 feet or more.

Q: Enough snow has melted for me to begin seeing the trails left behind by the moles, some just under the surface with domed trails and others between the snow and the lawn. It is time to get out and stamp on the ground to let them know their winter free for all is over.

— Marie L.


When I was a teenager, I worked at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. Back then, most just called it the Bird Sanctuary. It was always more than that. And it has come a long way since my days carrying pails of water down to the Trailside Museum for the animals on display, cutting trees and splitting them for footbridges. I recall helping out with day camp and educational programs (mostly snake talks). Mostly, I remember cleaning the antiquated restrooms that somehow had replenished spider webs every morning. The last “adventure” I had was painting the red barn with my father's 42-foot ladder.

What brought me to ramble on about my days working there is the new addition to the barn now under construction and especially the new enhancements including:

 A new lobby area where visitors can view interpretive maps of Pleasant Valley, take in educational displays, and gather for programs.

 Extensive decking that will create an accessible outdoor space for programs and activities.

 A small, accessible kitchen that will enable refreshments to be served at rental functions, programs, community gatherings and fundraisers.

 And yes, modern restrooms on the same level as the barn, including those that are gender-neutral, fully accessible and family-friendly.

It is within $50,000 dollars of their $1,125,000 goal, adding all of the above to its 18th-century red barn.

Even if you haven’t been there since a child, help out if you can. Call Stephanie Bergman, 413-728-4858, or go to