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1. Brickyard Brook Falls

We had about two inches of rain last week and almost all the snow has now melted, so I set off to find out how our streams and rivers were handling all of the extra water. Brickyard Brook in Richmond (above) didn’t look any different than it would in high summer. The small gorge this little brook cuts through is a favorite spot of mine. It’s always shaded and cool and is a great place to just sit and enjoy the sounds of falling water.

2. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

Bailey Brook in Nelson drops considerably more than Brickyard Brook and has two waterfalls along its length. This photo shows the lower falls, which were roaring. This is not the place to come if you’re looking for a quiet day beside a gentle stream.

3. False Hellebores

I was very surprised to see false hellebore (Veratrum viride) shoots about four inches high. Nelson is supposed to be one of the coldest towns in the county but many plants are further along there than they are in the warmer southern towns.

4. False Hellebores Eaten

I was also surprised to see that something had eaten a couple of the false hellebore shoots. This plant is among the most toxic in the forest but I’ve read that deer have a “toxicity threshold” and can eat as many as they like as long as they don’t go above that threshold. This lets them also eat skunk cabbage, another toxic plant. False hellebore can sicken sheep, goats and cattle, and can kill people who sometimes mistake it for wild leeks at this time of year.

5. Bailey Brook Upper Falls

The upper falls on Bailey Brook didn’t have anywhere near the amount of water falling over them as I thought they would. Again, not much more than they would in summer.  I wanted to get closer for a better photo without the tree in the way but I took a fall here last year and almost ended up in the brook, so I decided that I could live with the tree in the shot.

6. Beaver Brook

Further south in Keene Beaver Brook was different. There was a lot of water there, filling the banks.

7. Tree Over Beaver Brook

Even thought it was high, you could see by how the water stripped the bark from the lower part of this tree that it has been much higher in the past. The exposed part of the log had been bleached silver-gray.

8. Eddy

White foam swirled in eddies in the sheltered areas along its banks.

9. Ice in the Woods

There is still a lot of ice left to melt in shaded areas of the forest.  Maybe this was why Beaver Brook was running faster than the others.

10. Disappearing Hillside Waterfall

The disappearing waterfall on the far hillside was there, just as I thought it would be. It runs for a day or two after a good rain and then disappears, so it can literally be here one day and gone the next. There was still snow in the shaded areas on that side of the brook.

11. Beaver Brook Falls

Beaver brook falls roared over its 30 to 40 foot height. It wasn’t deafening but it was plenty loud. The surface of the brook was made much choppier than it usually is by the force of so much falling water. Since the ice was gone in this spot I was able to climb / slide down the steep embankment to the canyon for an unobstructed view. I’ve wasted many a climb down to the brook only to find the falls in deep shade, but on this day the lighting was perfect.

12. Ashuelot on 4-20

Regular readers of this blog know that this story will end at the Ashuelot River as it must, since all streams, brooks, and rivers in the region drain into it before it drains into the much larger Connecticut River. Its banks are full at the moment. The clouds above it formed an arrow pointing upriver and as I look at the photo I wonder if I should have followed the sign.

For those new to this blog, the name Ashuelot is pronounced ash-wil-ot or ash-wee-lot. I was raised to say ash-wil-ot. In Native American Penacook or Natick language the word means “the place between.” I assume they must have meant “between hills” because we have plenty of those and the river does run between them.

13. Ashuelot Flooding

Downriver in Swanzey the Ashuelot had jumped its banks and turned these hayfields into a temporary marsh. The normal course of the river is off in the distance, just in front of the trees to the left, and it would be hard to see from this spot in summer. This land has probably been flooding since the glaciers that helped form it melted.

14. Canada Geese

The Canada geese seemed very happy with the flooding.

Sit by a river. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth.  ~Anonymous

Thanks for stopping in.

1. Snowy April Scene

After reaching nearly 80 degrees last Monday, on Wednesday we woke up to this. Who says Mother Nature doesn’t have a sense of humor?

2. Daffodil

I saw some daffodils blooming before the snow fell.

3. Iris Reticulata

I also saw some beautiful reticulated iris (Iris reticulata). These miniature irises are early bloomers and an excellent choice for rock gardens, especially when planted with a miniature daffodil like Tete-a-Tete. The reticulated part of the name comes from the net-like pattern on the dry bulbs.

4. Forsythia Blossoms

The Forsythia has just started blooming. Soon we’ll see it on every street in town. Such an uncommon display by a common, often ignored shrub.

5. Striped Sqill  aka Puschkinia scilloides, variety libanotica

One of my favorite cultivated spring flowers is striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides, var. libanotica), which is a spring flowering bulb planted in the fall. It seems amazing that an ordinary white flower could become so extraordinarily beautiful just by wearing a simple blue stripe on each of its petals.

6.. Cornelian Cherry Buds

The Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) had an ice cap on its buds. Soon these buds will turn into small yellow flowers that resemble those of dogwoods, and that’s because this shrub is in the dogwood family. The flowers will produce fruit that resembles a red olive and which will mature in the fall. It is very sour but high in vitamin C, and has been eaten throughout recorded history. The Persians, ancient Greeks and Early Romans all knew this plant. It is a living glimpse into ancient times.

7. Icy Lilac Buds

There was also ice on the lilac buds, but it won’t hurt them any.

8. Ice on Red Maple Flowers

More ice dripped from the female red maple (Acer rubrum) blossoms. It looks like the cold might have burned them a little. Red maples are prolific enough to have many consider them a weed tree, so fewer seeds might be seen as a welcome change.

9. Snowy April Scene

It just didn’t seem right to see snow under such a bright, warm sun but it was beautiful, right or not.

10. American Elm Flowers

A little snow and cold didn’t hurt the American elm (Ulmus americana) flowers any. It seems a shame that such beauty goes unnoticed by so many.

 11.Willow Flowers

The willows (Salix) have just started blossoming. The snow and cold won’t hurt them either. They were looking a little damp, but beautiful nonetheless. I find them near ponds and swamps, and on river banks.

12. Willow Flower Closeup

Male willow anthers rely on the wind to carry away their millions of pollen grains.

To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty . . . it beholds every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Easter, everyone. Thanks for coming by.

1. Muddy Logging Road

I took a muddy walk up an old logging road through Warner forest to the High Blue trail head in Walpole, New Hampshire recently. It is a walk I’ve taken a few times.

2. High Blue Sign

Before you know it you’re through the mud and at the trail head. I came here not just to see the view but also in the hopes of seeing some coltsfoot in bloom, but the plants that grew here appear to have been destroyed by logging. It’s too bad because it was a beautiful display-the most coltsfoot plants I’ve seen in one place.

3. Coltsfoot Flowers

This photo is of the coltsfoot colonies from last year. They extended off to the right well out of the photo. I’m hoping some of them survived being plowed up by a logging skidder.

4. Hobblebush Bud

Hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) line the roadside up to the trailhead, and their flower buds are just starting to unfold. Their common name comes from the way the stems grow so close to the ground. Unseen under the leaves they can tangle the feet of or “hobble” horses. I got firsthand experience in how they work last year when I was trying to examine a bush. My feet became entangled in the stems and I went down fast and hard. Ever since then I’ve been more careful around them. Soon theses bushes will be covered by large white flowers that are among the most beautiful in the forest.

5. Fan Club Moss

I’ve always called this plant fan clubmoss (Lycopodium digitatum) but some call it southern ground cedar or running ground pine, even though it isn’t related to either pine or cedar. The name fan clubmoss comes from its distinctive shape. This plant was once harvested to near extinction for use in making Christmas wreaths and flash powder, and is still rarely seen. This is one of the few places I know of to find it. It can grow undisturbed here because the plants are off the trail in the woods, so anyone who goes looking for them has a good chance of ending up lost. Every now and then I receive emails from people saying they’ll buy all I can find or asking where they can find it. I’m usually pretty good about answering people’s questions, but those emails go unanswered.

6. Meadow

The meadows are still quite brown but it won’t be long before they green up. There are three or four large meadows in the area, still used for hay cutting as they have been since the 1800s. Since there was no water power for mills in the town, Walpole was dependent on agriculture in its early history.

 7. Pileated Woodpecker Chips

I saw a huge pile of wood chips at the base of a dead beech tree and that was my signal to look up.

8. Pileated Woodpecker Hole

This is the biggest pileated woodpecker excavation I’ve ever seen. It must have been 9 or 10 inches long and at least half as wide. It looked more like a nesting hole than a feeding station.

9. High Blue Sign

I always take a photo of the sign that tells you that you are at the overlook, just for the record.

10. High Blue View

The view across the Connecticut River valley was beautiful as usual, and also very blue. It is this “blueness” that gives this place its name.  The winds were light and the air warm, so I sat for a while admiring the view and the puffy clouds.

11. Stratton Mountain from High Blue Lookout

They’re still skiing on Stratton Mountain over in Vermont, but if we have many more days as warm as this one was it won’t last long.

12. Stone Ruins

As I sit and admire the view from this place my mind always wanders to the people who used to live here. They left pieces of themselves behind in things like this old stone ruin. Some say it’s a chimney and others a foundation, but whatever it is it is clearly very old and is a sign that people once lived here. I was reading a town history a while back that described the many dangers of living in places like this in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Chief among them were mountain lions (catamounts), wolves, and bears, and women and children never went into these woods alone.

13. Stone Wall

I’ve built a few stone walls in my time so I know how much work went into these walls. Add to that cutting all the trees with an axe and pulling stumps and plowing the forest floor with a team of horses and it just boggles the mind. I suppose, when your very existence depends on it, you can do just about anything.

14. Elderberry Buds

There are elderberry bushes growing here and I wonder if they were planted, because this hill top is an odd place to find them. Maybe the farmer and his wife sat sipping a little elderberry wine at the end of the day, watching the sunset behind the Vermont hills.

15. Mount Monadnock

As you re-enter the meadow after coming back down the hill, in spring, fall, and winter you are greeted by a view of Mount Monadnock, the largest mountain in the region. It won’t be long before this view is almost completely hidden by tree foliage, and it will stay that way until next fall.

There may be more to learn from climbing the same mountain a hundred times than by climbing a hundred different mountains. ~Richard Nelson

Thanks for stopping in.

 

1. Purple Crocus

Sometimes you can lose yourself in a flower’s beauty, especially when it’s the first crocus of the season.

2. Deep Purple Crocus

How can you not have a spring in your step and a smile on your face after seeing something like this?

3. Alder Catkins

The male (staminate) flowers of speckled alder (Alnus incana) have just started opening, making the forest edges look as if someone has hung jewels from the bushes.  Soon they will release their pollen and start a new generation of alders.

4. Alder Catkin Closeup

Male speckled alder catkins viewed up close reveal brown and purple scales. These scales are on short stalks and surround a central axis. There are three flowers beneath each scale, each with a lobed calyx cup and three to five stamens with anthers covered in yellow pollen.

5. Female Specked Alder Catkins

The tiny female (pistillate) catkins of speckled alder consist of scales that cover two flowers, each having a pistil and a scarlet style. Since speckled alders are wind pollinated the flowers have no petals because petals would hinder the process and keep male pollen grains from landing on the female flowers. These female catkins will eventually become the cone-like, seed bearing structures (strobiles) that are so noticeable on alders.

 6. Female Hazel Flowers

I’ve known for a long time that the female flowers of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana) were among the smallest I’d seen, but I wondered exactly how small. To find out I measured the tiny bud that the hair-like, scarlet pistils protrude from with the same vernier calipers I use to measure precision machine parts. I found that the bud diameter is almost the same as a single strand of spaghetti, or about 4 thousandths of an inch (.004).

7. Hazel Catkins

The catkins full of male (staminate) American hazelnut (Corylus americana) flowers don’t have the brown and purple scales that speckled alder catkins do. They are longer and more golden in color, but they work the same way as the alder catkins described previously. They seem to glow in the late afternoon sun.

 8. Forsythia Buds

Forsythia buds are showing some color. It’s a very common shrub and it won’t be long before nearly every street in town shouts spring, thanks to its cheery yellow blooms.

9. Witch Hazel

The witch hazels at a local park have finally completely unfurled their strap-like petals. I’ve shown these flowers at various stages of development over the last month and have been calling the shrub “Vernal” witch hazel, which isn’t correct. Our native vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) only grows in the southern and central United States. I’m guessing that the shrub pictured, even though it does bloom in spring, is most likely a Japanese witch hazel (Hamamelis japonica), because it is extremely fragrant.

 10. Skunk Cabbage Spathes

If you don’t mind getting down on your stomach in the kind of swampy ground that they like to grow in you can sometimes get a peek inside the spathe of a skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) to see its flowers. A spathe is just a modified leaf or bract which kind of wraps around itself and protects the flower bud. As the plant matures a gap opens in the spathe to let in the insects which will pollinate the flowers. The one on the right has a good sized hole that the lens of my Panasonic Lumix might just fit into.

11. Skunk Cabbage Flowers

Well, the lens fit the hole in the skunk cabbage spathe but the flash didn’t but luckily there was a broken one nearby that allowed a peek at the spadix with all of its flowers-something very few people ever get to see. Each flower on the spadix has four yellowish sepals. The male stamens grow up through the sepals and release their pollen before the female style and pistil grow out of the flower’s center to catch any pollen that visiting insects might carry from other plants.

12. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

The scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) isn’t a flower but it has both the name and beauty of one, so I let it have a place here. This lichen keeps its pale orange fruiting bodies (apothecia) year round, so seeing it in winter is like finding a flower in the snow.

13. Female Red Maple Flowers

When the female flowers of red maples (Acer rubrum) just start to poke out of their protective bud scales they remind me of female American hazelnut flowers, though they are bigger and much easier to see.

 14..Robin

As I was admiring the red color of the female red maple flowers a robin flew down just a few feet away and began kicking up dead leaves as if he wanted to show me what the color red was really all about. Finally satisfied that he had been admired too, off he flew. My color finding software actually sees more brown than red on his breast in this photo, but he doesn’t have to know that. Let him strut.

The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

1. Ashuelot Wave

The Ashuelot River is roaring from snow melt and has some great waves right now. I like trying to see if I can get a shot of the waves just as they crest. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. Rivers have their own rhythm, and the trick is in trying to tune in to that rhythm by just sitting and watching for a while.

 2. Ashuelot Wave 2

 This one was big enough for a beaver to surf on.

3. Rose Moss

There is only one spot that I know of where rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) grows and I’ve trudged through the snow several times over the last couple of months hoping to see it. Each time though, it and the rock it grows on were covered by deep snow. Finally, just the other day I tried again and found that all the snow had melted. This moss, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful. It’s easy to see how it got its common name.

4. Lone Tree

I paid a visit to my favorite lone tree a while ago. I’d love to be able to sit under it and listen to the stream that flows along beside it but it’s in the middle of a pasture. It’s as if someone has put it in a museum so it can be seen but not touched. I’ve decided that I’m going to look at its leaves through some binoculars later on, so at least then I’ll know what kind of tree it is.

5. Hair on Barbed Wire

The pasture that the lone tree in the previous photo stands in is surrounded by barbed wire fencing put there to keep the cows from wandering. It looked like one of the cows caught her tail on the fence.

6. Foamflower Leaf

Many plants, though “evergreen,” have leaves that turn purple when it gets cold. Native foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) does the same, so I was surprised to find nothing but green leaves when I visited the hillside where it grows.  Last fall just before it snowed these leaves were a deep maroon color.

7. Young Foamflower Leaf

I’ve never noticed just how hairy young foamflower leaves are.  I think they must be the hairiest leaves I’ve seen.

8. Turkey Tail

On my way to see the foamflowers I saw some beautiful turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor). They can also be very hairy.

9. Nanny Berry Bud

I stumbled onto a nannyberry shrub (Viburnum lentago) recently. It’s long, beaked buds reminded me of a great blue heron. This native shrub is also called sweet viburnum. I can’t say that they are rare but I don’t see them very often here. I think this is the first one I’ve seen in at least 3 years.

10. Nanny Berry Fruit

Another name for nannyberry is wild raisin but to me this example of last year’s fruit looked more like a grape than a raisin. It even had a face. Nannyberry fruits, which have a single large seed and botanically speaking are drupes, are edible and were a favorite of Native Americans. They are low in fat so they are often passed over by birds looking for food with higher fat content.

11. Red Maple Flowers

Trees are the first to whisper the rumors of spring’s arrival but, as the red maple flowers (Acer rubrum) in the above photo show, the whisper is becoming a shout.

Listen to nature’s voice—it contains treasures for you. ~Huron Tribe proverb

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

1. Flooded Forest

We’ve finally seen some warm weather here and there is a lot of melting going on.

2. Skunk Cabbage Opening

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) spathes have opened to allow insects access to its flowers that line the spadix. The spadix lies deep inside their spathes so the flies and other insects that visit the plant have to enter through the gap to visit the flowers. Through a process known as thermogenesis the plants generate their own heat and experiments have shown that the temperature inside the spathe is much warmer than that of the surrounding air. One theory says that this warmth benefits the plants by enticing insects inside to pollinate the flowers.

 3. Skunk Cabbage With Leaf

The greenish yellow growth on the right side of this skunk cabbage plant is a leaf that hasn’t unfurled yet. I was surprised to see a leaf this early. They don’t usually appear until two or three weeks after the flowers.

 4. Water Spider

I think this is a six spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) but I can’t see any spots on its abdomen. It could be because of the light, which was coming from behind him, or maybe he was a juvenile. According to what I’ve read these spiders will dive under water and grab onto a plant when frightened, and that’s exactly what this one did. They can dive up to 7 inches deep to catch prey, which could be a tadpole, fish, or another spider.

 5. Candleflame Lichen aka Candelaria concolor

It looked as if someone had painted this tree bright yellow around its old wounds, but it was covered with candle flame Lichen (Candelaria concolor).

6. Candleflame Lichen aka Candelaria concolor

Candle flame lichens are so very small that I can’t think of anything to compare them to, but fortunately they grow in large colonies and that makes them easier to see. They remind me of scrambled eggs.

7. Spruce Gum

If you gently heat the resin, called spruce gum, of the black spruce tree (Picea mariana), it will melt down into a liquid which can then be strained and poured into a shallow pan or other container to cool. After about a half hour it will be hardened and very brittle. When broken into bite sized pieces it can be chewed like any other gum. Spruce gum is very antiseptic and good for the teeth. It has been chewed by Native Americans for centuries and was the first chewing gum sold in the United States. You can see how one person makes the gum by clicking here.

8. Elm Buds 2

American elm (Ulmus Americana) buds look like they’re swelling a bit. Elm flowers are small but beautiful and I’m looking forward to seeing them again.

9. Red Maple Buds

Red maple buds are also getting bigger and look like they might break earlier than last year’s date of April 13th. That’s hard to believe after the winter that we’ve had.  I was talking to a syrup maker the other day who said that he had gotten about a fifth of the sap he boiled last year, so the prices will most likely be going up.

10. Blackberry Bud Break

Blackberry buds have broken and leaves will be appearing any day now if it stays warm. That’s my signal to start looking for striped maple and beech buds, which are among the most beautiful things in the forest when they have just opened.

In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.  ~John Milton

Thanks for coming by.

 

1. Grape Tendril

I thought I saw a beautiful Hindu dancer in this grape tendril.

2. Feather

I see a lot of feathers in the woods. This white one had landed on a hemlock twig.

 3. Stream Ice

Red wing blackbirds have returned and there are buds on the daffodils but after the third coldest March in 140 years, there is still a lot of ice left to melt in the woods.

4. Ashuelot Ice

Where the river sees sunshine the ice is melting at a faster pace.

5. Orange Crust Fungus aka Stereum complicatum

This orange crust fungus (Stereum complicatum) was so bright on a rainy day that I could see it from quite far away, like a beacon guiding me into the forest.

 6. Slender Rosette Lichen aka Physcia subtilis

Gray rosette lichens are common enough so we often pass them by without a nod but some, like this slender rosette lichen (Physcia subtilis), are worth stopping to admire.

7. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen 3

I don’t know what it is with smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) this year but the wax coatings on their fruiting discs are bluer than I’ve ever seen them. It’s like someone sprinkled candy over the stones.

8. Beard Lichen

Beard lichens (Usnea sp.) always remind me of ancient, sun bleached bones. This one grew on a gray birch limb.

 9. Alder Catkins

Soon these alder (Alnus) catkins will to turn yellow-green and start to release pollen. If you look closely at the catkin on the far right you can see it just beginning to happen.

 10. Stair Step Moss

I’ve been looking for stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens) and I think I might have found it. This moss gets its common name from the way the new branches step up from the backs of the old.

11. Stairstep Moss

Stair step moss is feathery and delicate and quite beautiful.

At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough. ~ Toni Morrison

Thanks for stopping in.

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