The park is beautiful right after a snowfall, before the wind knocks the snow off of the tree branches. This is the main road through Eagle Creek Park, starting from near the 56th St. Gatehouse and ending near the 71st St. Gatehouse at the other end. I was going at 20mph or less, and don't worry, I wasn't looking through the camera lens and driving at the same time! The video came out rather well, considering.
Driving along Eagle Creek Parkway through the park, starting near the 56th St. Gate and ending at the 71st St. Gate. Most trees are well-leafed out at this point, and you can see dogwood still blooming along the roadside, as well as a few intrepid joggers. The construction by the 71st St. gate is part of a Greenways bike and pedestrian trail that will connect Lafayette road to the park.
The Beech-Maple Trail is located just north of the Ornithology Center at Eagle Creek Park, and is a lovely example of mature, second-growth forest. Several large American Beech trees are found along the trail, easy to spot with their smooth bark that resembles the leg of an elephant (or a dinosaur...). In the understory the large leaves of the Paw Paw give the forest an almost tropical feel, and a Sycamore tree with a long hollow section in the trunk is a favorite discovery of hundreds of school children every year during their field trips to the park. In mid-May the forest is still full of migrating warblers and many other birds - you can hear several different species singing along the way. At the end of the trail you are treated to a gorgeous view of Eagle Creek Reservoir from the observation deck.
The deer in the park have browsed the spruce and hemlock trees as high as they can reach (a sign of overpopulation), but the recent heavy snows have caused many branches to droop down where the deer can easily get to them. Almost every morning and evening I've seen several deer enjoying the Norway Spruce branches along Eagle Creek Parkway where it runs up the hill past the Ornithology Center. The deer don't seem to mind when the cars stop to watch them, but the jogger coming up behind me made them a little nervous.
Raccoons are light hibernators in the winter; they will go dormant in very cold weather, but when it warms up they wake up and become active again, emerging from their dens to look for food. In late winter, very skinny, hungry raccoons like this one can be seen out in the daytime in the park, frantically searching for even the smallest bits of food. Raccoons are heavily overpopulated in Eagle Creek Park, so although it may be tempting to provide extra food for them, that just leads to more baby raccoons in the spring, and eventually disease outbreaks and damage to their habitat due overcrowding.
This video is from last year in Eagle Creek Park, but Chorus Frogs are again calling from most of the wet and marshy areas in the park. Although they are loud, they are very small and good at hiding, so it is rare to actually be able to see the frogs making all that noise! There is a spring pond just past the 56th St. Gatehouse where the male frogs have been singing for the last several days, and the Ice Skating Ponds are another good place to hear them. The colder weather predicted for this weekend may silence the frogs for awhile, but once temperatures are up above the 50's they should start singing again. If you are interested in learning more about the frogs in the park, check out the calendar and sign up for the next Friday Night Frogwatch!