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A Small Special Place

Eastern Spadefoot Toads Frogs, toads and earthworms were in the roadway, the roadside ditches and the adjacent farm fields. It was a warm, rainy spring night and I was driving home from a Harford Land Trust Board meeting. I slowed down as much as possible and swerved to try to avoid running over the creatures, but to no avail. There were too many sitting, crawling and hopping to avoid.

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Wild Action in the Dead of Winter

The expression “dead of winter” doesn’t describe what is happening in the fields, forests and waters of Harford County. The first wild flowers of the year, skunk cabbage blossoms, emerge from wet soils in February. The blossoms even generate enough heat to melt any snow around them.

Gray squirrels begin their courtship even before the dead of winter. Starting in late December, female gray squirrels lead one or more male squirrels in a courtship chase from tree to tree. She chooses the most persistent pursuer as her mate.

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Wetland Functions and Values

In 1993, Harford Land Trust protected its’ first parcel, 103 acres of lake and stream bordered by marsh, shrub swamp and bottomland hardwood forest. The water from this wetland complex flows into the Bush River and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay. Additional wetlands have been protected by the Trust since then, but why would a land trust work to protect “swamps”? Until the 1950’s, wetlands were generally regarded as wasteland, vile and treacherous places harboring dangerous people and haunted by evil spirits. Even words describing wetlands are homonyms with unpleasant meanings: bog, quagmire, swamp, muck and mire. Fortunately, scientific research over the past 60 years has clearly shown that wetlands and their ecological functions have great value to all of us.

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