Blooming Trees, Running Fish, Climate Fools

The Japanese maples have burst into their spring crimson splendor, complemented by nearby cherry trees blooming pink to add their colorful tint to my home’s frontage for the arrival of in-laws Judy from Guatemala, Buzz from Maine and Jan from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. In between the red and pink is yellow forsythia and the soon-to-be magenta flowers of an old, budding heirloom apple planted long before my arrival to Greenfield’s Upper Meadows.

Yesterday, my lawn tractor serviced and purring like a kitten, I completed my first mowing and a little trimming, passing several bushes I know I must eventually trim after they blossom — mock orange, bridal wreath, multiflora rose and burning bush, all of them attractors of pretty songbirds who eat their berries and spread them throughout the neighborhood. Nature’s way. Nothing works better.

Since last week, I’ve noticed the forest understory sprouting leaves to obstruct the sight lines of spring turkey hunters in the woods for this, the second week of the four-week season. I know from experience that hunting gets tougher in some ways and better in others once the browse buds sprout into tender, soft-green leaves. This furry underbrush muffles the gobbles of an oncoming tom vociferously responding to your calls, making it all the more difficult to detect faraway movement and get set up before it’s too late. Although that can present problems, on the other hand the gobbler’s view of the hunter is also obstructed, possibly to a hunter’s advantage once the bird gets in close. I’ve experienced both scenarios with my own eyes and ears, will never forget them, and maybe, just maybe will live it again in retirement leisure, if there is such a thing. We can only hope.

As the air warms and landscape oozes pastel yellows and greens, there’s very little to report on the anadromous-fish front. Yes, the West Springfield Fishway has opened and passed an insignificant number of shad, and the Holyoke Fishlift opened Monday. But with the Connecticut River main stem still running high and cold, stuck below 50 Fahrenheit, the season of migrating herring, shad, lamprey eel, striped bass and the occasional Atlantic salmon is still in front of us. Yes, a little late on average but, as they say, it’ll all come out in the wash. In fact, from a fishing perspective, this year’s conditions may indeed produce a recreational boon, with eager, roadblocked shad coming like gangbusters for a few weeks once the water warms into the 60s they love. It may happen fast. All depends on the weather. Then, by early June it’ll all be over when migrating fish  begin to spawn, establishing stony lairs  and producing progeny who’ll  soon leave their   freshwater birthplace to grow to maturity in saltwater and return to spawn as mostly  3- to- 5-year-old adults.

Now, of course we must be aware that there is such a thing as anomalies when it comes to anadromous fish runs. That too I have witnessed. Back in 1984, the section of Route 5 & 10 between Woolman Hill and the northernmost Old Deerfield entrance was underwater on my way home from work after midnight on Saturday, June 2. It’s the only time in my lifetime that I recall that road being underwater. That year, on my June 30 birthday, I remember catching frisky, pugnacious shad hand-over-fist, wading, with black Lab Sugarloaf Saro Jane sitting on a rock to my left below the South River’s outflow into the Deerfield River. Never since has that been possible at that site or anywhere else in Franklin County on such a late date. In fact, I can’t recall another year when shad fishing would have been worthwhile after June 15th, and that may even be stretching it.

Still, it could happen. Especially in these days of increasing New England flooding disaster brought on by — dare I say it? — climate change. Uh-oh. Now I’m opening myself up to throaty, frothing criticism from the folks drinking Trump Kool-Aid stirred and chilled on Fox-News. You know the Scott Pruitt/Sen. Jim Inhofe Oklamoma disclaimer: “More research is needed before we can attribute our warming planet to fossil-fuel use by humans.

Give me a freakin’ break! Talk about burying your head in the sand for the “glory” of petroleum riches.

Count me among the growing Bill McKibbon school. You know, the advocacy group straight out of progressive Middlebury, Vt., committed to reducing our carbon footprint … the faster the better.  McKibbon gets it and isn’t afraid to deliver his urgent message to a chorus of GOP boos and catcalls. Everyone should start thinking like McKibben before it’s too late.

So, consider me on the record, for posterity, as a believer, not a misguided, knee-jerk denier parroting Fox-Fake News spin.

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