On Friday morning in Mayberry Park, I sat on a rocky beach of round river cobbles, the rushing sound of moving water creating a peaceful backdrop for a squawking flock of Steller’s Jays in a willow across the channel. Normally I bring my dogs to the river with me, but today I’d left them home; My dogs have a rowdy good time at the river, but I’ve yet to convince them that wildlife viewing is as much fun as racing up and down the banks and scaring everything away. Today I sat on the riverbank and breathed deep (another activity my dogs aren’t into), enjoying the morning. The sun was warm, the morning air was cool and fresh with the smell of spring. It was February 20th.
During the last month, air temperatures have climbed into the 70°F’s several times. The water level in the channel is flowing below what is average for this time of year, but still higher than in January before our last rainstorm. It’s hard to remember what is normal from year to year, but part of what I hope to do with this project is to create a record, in writing and in photographs, of what it’s like to be here this year.
Today the Thinleaf alder (Alnus incana ssp. tenuifolia) in Mayberry Park are in bloom, their pollen-covered catkins hanging from the tips of leafless twigs. Catkins are a type of hanging single-sex flower that you find on willows, cottonwoods and alders. On an alder, male catkins are soft and covered with yellow pollen; Female catkins look like tiny pine-cones. Further down the path, a few Woods rose (Rosa woodsii) have put out their first leaves. Most of the rest of the trees and shrubs appear dormant, seemingly waiting to find out if this warm weather is spring or just an interlude.
The catkins of a Thinleaf alder in Mayberry Park, Truckee River, Feb. 20, 2015.
Is it spring yet? A Woods rose (Rosa woodsii) in Mayberry Park thinks so. Feb 20, 2015.
Winter twigs of Coyote willow (Salix exigua) in Mayberry Park, Feb. 20, 2015.
Mayberry Park is a Washoe County Park with great riverfront access. In summer, people launch tubes and rafts here. In winter, it’s a great place for walking, biking and running. Across a bridge to the south (and up a big hill), you can connect with the Tom Cook Trail and the Steamboat Ditch Trail. There’s a paved path leading through the park, part of the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway, and also many unofficial fishing trails that lead through the bushes close to the river.
In the park, walkers and joggers travel the paved path, but picking my way along a fishing trail at the water’s edge, I have the river to myself. Occasional pairs of Mallards swim by, hugging the shoreline on the opposite bank. Near a quiet pool I sit again in the sun, watching a pair of mallards feeding on something below the surface, looking at things my dogs don’t like to look at, and enjoying the guilty pleasure of this balmy February morning.
The Truckee River channel at Mayberry Park on Feb. 20, 2015 was flowing below average for this time of year, but much higher than in January.
Skeleton of a Truckee River cottonwood leaf.
Dead thistles in Mayberry Park, Reno. Feb 20, 2015.
Red willow (Salix laevigata) and sunshine, Mayberry Park, Reno. Feb 20, 2015.
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