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Archive for February, 2014

Last weekend we had a beautiful warm, sunny Saturday so I decided to visit one of my favorite places, an old railroad cut in Westmoreland that in winter becomes a cold, hard world of ice and stone.

 1. Ice Canyon

There was so much snow that I wasn’t sure if I’d see any living thing other than trees. I was surprised to find the wind blowing here because the day was calm. It is always at least 10 degrees cooler here than the surrounding area, winter or summer, and now I’m beginning to wonder if the place doesn’t create its own wind as well because, as I think back to previous trips, it always seems to be blowing here.

 2. Ice Climbers

In the deepest, most shaded part of this man made canyon a group of ice climbers were training. I’ve recently learned that the New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club holds ice climbing clinics here and it looked like that was what was going on. I didn’t bother them and let them have the ice to themselves. Ice was not what I was here for. 

 3. Ice Formations

Still, it’s impossible to ignore the ice formations. With ice like this it’s no wonder that they come here to train. I saw some rotten ice but I’m sure they know enough about what they do to avoid it.

 4. Mosses

This is what I came for-to see something green and growing. Mosses, lichens, liverworts and an incredible assortment of ferns and other plants have grown undisturbed in this place for nearly 2 centuries. I think someone could easily spend a lifetime trying to identify them all.

 5. Mountain Haircap Moss

This is a very wet place, with groundwater constantly running down the rock faces, and the mosses love it. This mountain haircap moss (Polystrichastrum pallidisetum) still had a few closed spore capsules (sporophytes) meaning that it’s busy trying to cover even more stone ledges.

 6. Fallen Tree 

This tree that has fallen and spanned the gap is my signal to start looking for liverworts, but as I looked at the ice covered walls it was hard to imagine anything growing in such harsh conditions.

 7. Canyon Walls

Fortunately in places the sun warms the stone enough to keep the walls clear of ice and this is where many plants choose to grow.

8. Velvet Shank Mushroom aka Flammulina velutipes

I saw a few clusters of velvet shank mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) growing on a dying American elm. This is a true “winter mushroom” that fruits from September to March and can live through being frozen solid. When young velvet shanks are ivory colored but age to reddish brown. They are usually dark in the center of the cap and lighter colored toward the edges. These examples were no bigger in diameter than a nickel, but I’ve seen them reach 3 inches.

 9. Velvet Shank Mushroom Gills

Velvet shank gets its common name from the velvety feel of its stem, which is lighter near the cap. Jerry from the Quiet Solo Pursuits blog thought of the idea of using a telescoping mirror to see the underside of mushrooms instead of kneeling in the snow. I bought one and it works great but this one was high enough on the tree so I didn’t need to use it. The mirror idea might be good for those who have trouble kneeling.

 10. Narrow Mushroom Headed Liverwort

The first liverwort I saw was the narrow mushroom-headed liverwort (Preissia quadrata). This liverwort can be either male or female, or have can have both male and female reproductive structures on a single plant. Fruiting structures are short, umbrella shaped, spore producing growths that usually appear in March. The examples in the photo were just starting to grow fruiting bodies, which are the 5 or 6 little bumps that can be seen on the body (thallus) of the liverwort. I’ve circled one in white to make it easier to see. These will rise on short stalks before opening like an umbrella. Male reproductive structures will have flat tops and look like small mushrooms and females will look like tiny palm trees. I hope to be there to see them.

11. Snakeskin Liverwort

The snakeskin liverwort (Conocephalum conicum) reproduces in much the same way as the narrow mushroom-headed liverwort, but I didn’t find any getting ready to do so just yet. This is also called great scented liverwort and I remembered to smell it this time. I was astonished by its fresh, clean scent that immediately reminded me of air fresheners. It was kind of lemony, kind of spicy, but in the end impossible to accurately describe because I’ve never smelled anything exactly like it. It’s another interesting facet of an interesting and very unusual plant.

 12. Wild Strawberry 

Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) was a plant I didn’t expect to see growing on these rocks in February but there it was, still attached to its parent by its runner (stolon).

 13. Railroad Shack 

It looks like the old lineman’s shack is going to make it through another winter even though half of the roof, most of the floor, and most of the siding boards are gone. Many were taken to be used as bridges across the drainage ditches on either side of the rail bed and they can still be seen here and there along the trail.

14. Railroad Shack Graffiti

I don’t know when it was built but according to the graffiti on its back wall the shack will see at least its 90th anniversary next year. My father was born and grew up in this town and I can’t help but wonder if he ever saw the inside of this building. He was 18 in 1925.

15. Large Ice Farmation

It’s going to be a while before all of the ice has melted in this place but spring is happening, even here.

There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere. ~ Edward Abbey

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1. Frozen Ashuelot

For the first time in at least 3 years the Ashuelot River has frozen over in this spot. You know it has been cold when that happens. It freezes over regularly in other areas but usually not here.

 2. Snowy Bushes

We’ve had 57 inches of snow so far this year and it seems like snow covers everything. It’s getting close to impossible to get through it without snowshoes. Luckily we also have 7000 miles of snowmobile trails-more miles than highways-and they make the going a little easier. If you step off a well packed snowmobile trail though, you can suddenly find yourself knee deep in snow.

 3. Snowy Stream

In spite of all the snow and cold there are still quiet, open pools in the woods where birds and animals can drink.

 4. Magnolia Bud 

Magnolia buds are wearing their winter fur coats.

 5. Monadnock From Marlborough

Mount Monadnock is wearing its winter coat too, but not to keep warm. The latest trail report says that hikers should be prepared for ice and deep snow. I’ve been through waist deep snow up there and I hope to never have to do that again. People sometimes underestimate the mountain and end up having to be rescued. Doing so can be very dangerous in winter.

 6. Lemon Drops 

Winter is a good time to find jelly and sac fungi. Lemon drops (Bisporella citrina) are sac fungi that grow on rotting logs and form spherical bodies that then become tiny yellow, trumpet shaped cups that are so small they look like simple discs. The biggest one I’ve seen was no bigger than 1/8 inch and the smallest the size of a period made with a pencil. They are usually in large groups that make them easier to find.

 7. Script Lichen with Elongated Apothecia called Lirellae 

For those new to blogging; the way it works is, if you mention on your blog that you’ve never seen a certain thing you will suddenly start seeing it everywhere. That’s exactly what happened when I said that I had only seen 2 examples of script lichen (Graphis scripta) in my lifetime. Now it’s like they’re on every tree limb. I’m not sure how it would work if you said you had never seen a room full of money that was all yours, but it works well for fungi, lichens and slime molds. And birds.

 8. Beard Lichens

There were many fishbone beard lichens (Usnea fillipendula) on the trunk of this white pine (pinus strobus). This pine stands near a local lake and these lichens seem to prefer growing near water. They get their common name from their resemblance to a fish skeleton.

 9. Fishbone Beard Lichen aka Usnea fillipendula with Unknown Green Beard

Here is a closer look at a fishbone beard lichen on the right and an unknown, dark green beard lichen on the left. I thought the darker one was moose hair lichen (Bryoria trichodes) at one time but that lichen is brown.  Now I’m wondering if it might be witch’s hair (Alectoria sarmentosa). It could also be a common beard lichen covered with green algae. It never seems to change color due to weather conditions as many other lichens do.

 10. Whitewash Lichen

Whitewash lichen (Phlyctis argena) is a perfect name for this lichen that looks like someone painted it on tree trunks. It can be dull white or silvery and is a large crustose lichen that can cover quite a large area.  This lichen rarely fruits and, as lichens go, it isn’t very exciting.

 11. Black Locust Seed Pod

Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) seed pods were all over the snow one day so I brought one home to have a closer look. These pods are from 2-6 inches long-far smaller than honey locust pods (Gleditsia triacanthos). Sometimes they can be very dark colored and other times are not. The leaves and bark of black locust are toxic to both humans and animals and I’ve read that if the foliage is bruised and mixed with sugar it will attract and kill flies. The fragrant flowers are very beautiful and appear in May and June. And bees and hummingbirds love them. The rot resistant wood makes excellent fence posts that can last 100 years or more.

12. Black Locust Seed

The tiny (about 1/4 of an inch long) seeds are bean shaped. No surprise since black locust is a legume, related to peas and beans. This photo shows how they attach to the inside of the pod. These seeds have a highly impermeable coating and can stay viable for many years. The seed pods stay on the tree until winter when strong winds will usually scatter them. The dried papery pod acts as a sail to help to carry the seeds long distances.

 13. Maple Sugaring

Someone is very optimistic about sap flow. This new method isn’t quite as picturesque as the old tin bucket hanging from a tree but it must be far more sanitary, and the sap won’t be diluted by rain water.

 14. Sunset

We’ve had some beautiful sunsets here this winter and they make me wonder if this winter is different somehow, or if I just wasn’t paying attention in previous years.

I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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We had another warmish, sunny weekend day last week so I decided to see how climbing Pitcher Mountain in winter was.

1. Stoddard Church

Pitcher Mountain is in Stoddard New Hampshire, a small town north east of Keene. The town was named after Colonel Sampson Stoddard of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, the charter being granted to him and others on May 10, 1752. The population has fluctuated over the years, falling to as low as 100 people in 1900 to around 1000 today. According to the town’s website the Congregational Church was organized in 1787 but the building in the photo wasn’t built until 1836.

 2. Pitcher Mountain Sign 

Even though Pitcher Mountain is, at 2,152 feet (656 m), the second highest mountain in this area after Mount Monadnock, most of the elevation can be gained by driving so you only have to hike the last 300 feet. In fact, if the gate that the fire warden passes through was open you could drive almost to the top with a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

According to the good folks at the Cheshire County Historical Society Pitcher Mountain gets its name from the Pitcher family, who settled in this area in the late 1700s. Their house was located just a stone’s throw from this sign, right where the parking lot is today. They must have been hardy souls. This is rugged country for farming.

 3. Pitcher Mountain Trail

The elevation gain may be only 300 feet but the trail is steep enough for me to have to stop occasionally to huff and puff and look at interesting things. Several web sites say that if you don’t stop you can reach the summit in about 15 minutes, but what is the hurry?

4. Pitcher Mountain Pasture

The trail skirts a large pasture in places. The owners raise Scottish Highland Cattle here but I didn’t see any of them this day.

 5. Scottish Highland Cattle

Scottish highland cattle look well equipped for our winter weather. This photo is from Wikipedia.

 6. Pitcher Mountain Fire Tower

It isn’t long before you get a glimpse of the fire tower through the apple trees and blueberry bushes. The spacing of the apple trees tells me that there used to be an orchard here. Now people come from miles around to pick the blueberries, and with 50 acres of bushes there must be plenty to go around.

 7. Pitcher Mountain Ranger Cabin

The old fire warden’s cabin still stands but doesn’t look like it sees much use even though the tower is staffed from April through October. There is a privy out in back of the cabin so there probably isn’t any running water here.

 8. Pitcher Mountain Fire Tower

The 5 acres at the very top of Pitcher Mountain are owned by the New Hampshire Forestry Commission. They first built a wooden fire tower here in 1915 but in April of 1940 a fire destroyed 27,000 acres of forest, including the fire tower and all of the trees on the summit.  It was the most destructive fire in the region’s history. The present steel tower is a replacement and, because of the lack of trees, offers a full 360 degree view of the surrounding hills.

 9. Pitcher Mountain View to North East

Lovewell mountain lies somewhere to the north, just north of Washington, New Hampshire but I couldn’t see it on this day because of the haze. These hills make up the Monadnock highlands which separate the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers.

 10. Pitcher Mountain View to West

This hill off to the west looked almost close enough to touch but it would have been quite a hike to the top of it from here.

 11. Pitcher Mountain Pasture

This is the view of the pasture we passed in photo number 4 from above. The cattle have quite a view.

 12. Pitcher Mountain Rock with Lichens

I wondered if these steel rods hammered into the rock were once used for tying down the fire tower.  It was pretty cool with a gusty wind on the summit, so I didn’t stand around wondering for too long.  I was also interested in the lichens. The steel rod was about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter, so that should give you an idea of how small the lichens were.

 13. Common Goldspeck Lichen

Common goldspeck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) is a crustose lichen that seems very granular when you get a close look at it, and this is the closest I’ve ever gotten in a photo. You can just make out a couple of its round, almost microscopic fruiting bodies (apothecia) in the center of the photo. This lichen contains a yellow pigment called calysin and was once used in Sweden to dye wool yellow. It must have been difficult scraping it off the rocks that it grew on and I would imagine that yellow wool in Sweden was very expensive then.

14. Tile Lichen

An areolate lichen is one in which the body is made up of many little lumps or islands. The tile lichen (Lecidea tessellata) in the above photo fits that description well. Its black fruiting bodies (apothecia) are even with, or slightly sunken into the surrounding body (thallus). There are 136 species of tile lichens and identification is difficult without a microscope. I’ve made a guess at the identity of this one hoping that someone will correct me if I’m wrong. Tile lichens grow on rock in full sun and can grow through winter in temperatures that are just above freezing.

 15. Monadnock From Pitcher Mountain

As you head back down the trail you are greeted by a view of Mount Monadnock to the south, the only mountain in this region taller than the one you’re standing on.

I’ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it. ~Author unknown

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Snowy Road

All of the sudden we’re seeing more sunny days but it’s still cold enough to keep the snow from melting very fast. The word is we’re going to see warmer days next week. A few days above freezing will get the sap flowing in these maples.

 2. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

In spite of the snow the poplar sunburst lichens (Xanthoria hasseana) are looking good. This one has grown quite a bit since the last time I visited it and is now about an inch in diameter. The round fruiting cups, called apothecia, are where this lichen’s spores are produced. This lichen never seems to be affected by the weather.

 3. Foliose Lichen Comparison

These photos are of the same lichen but the photo on the left was taken when it was moist from rain and snow and the photo on the right was taken after it had dried out. This is a good example of why serious lichen hunters look for them after it rains. The color change due to weather conditions can be dramatic.

 4. White Lichen Possibly Diploicia canescens

I thought this white shield lichen was very beautiful, but is it really white or has it changed color because it has dried out? That is the dilemma facing people who enjoy finding lichens. The only example of a white shield lichen I can find is called pleated white lichen (Diploicia canescens), which can be white, bluish white, or grayish white. I don’t know whether or not the one in the photo is that lichen.

 5. Black Jelly Fungus

Jelly fungi also go through drastic changes due to weather conditions. On the left side of the photo are black jelly fungi (Exidia glandulosa) when very dry and on the right side are the same fungi after a good rain. The difference is pretty amazing. When dry they look like black crust fungi and when wet like small black pillows. I find them mostly on alder bark.

 6. Carrion Flower Berries aka Smilax herbacea 

The berries on this smooth carrion flower (Smilax herbacea) vine haven’t been touched by either bird or animal.  This plant gets its common name from the way the flowers smell like decaying meat but even so, it is said that song and game birds, along with raccoons and black bears, eat the berries. Native Americans and early colonists ate the roots, spring shoots and berries-all said to be odorless- but after smelling its flowers I think I’d have a hard time eating any part of this plant.

 7. Cedar Waxwings

I drove by a spot that had several crab apple trees planted in a row and each tree was full of cedar waxwings. This soft, not quite sharp photo was the best I could do out of the window. I thought I probably didn’t have much time and sure enough, just after I came to a stop and took a couple of quick shots they all flew off.

 8. West Street Dam

The cedar waxwings reminded me of last year when I visited this waterfall and inadvertently got between a cedar waxwing and the silky dogwood berries he wanted. He kept flying directly at my face, pulling up at only the last minute.  Some readers suggested that he might have gotten drunk on the fermented berries. There is a lot more ice built up on the rocks at the base of the fall now than there was then!

9. Tire Track

This is a tire print from a large front end loader that was used to move snow. I liked the tread pattern.

10. Horse Chestnut Buds

The buds of the horse chestnut are some that can fool you into thinking that they’re swelling from sap flow, but they stay this way all winter. This tree lives in a local park so I don’t know its name but it has beautiful pink flowers each June.

 11. Tulip Tree Bracts

Across from the horse chestnut is a native yellow, or tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). This photo shows what is left of the seed head once most of the seeds have fallen.

 13. Woodpecker Sawdust

Finding sawdust (bill dust?) like this on the snow can only mean one thing-a woodpecker was here.

 13. Woodpecker Hole

This hole is small and round rather than large and rectangular, and the sawdust on the snow is made up of fine particles rather than large, torn shreds, so I know this wasn’t a pileated woodpecker. One of the smaller ones made this hole and even excavated a chamber that leads down into the heart of this dead tree. Woodpeckers mate from March through May, so this might be an important bit of wood work.

 14. Milk White Toothed Polypore aka Irpex lacteus

This milk white, toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) looked fresh in spite of the snow and below zero temperatures. According to Mushroom Expert.com this is a resupinate mushroom. Resupinate means upside down, but in the case of mushrooms, according to The Journal of Wild Mushrooming, it means it is a “fertile surface with its back attached to or intergrown with the substrate.”  In other words it looks like a crust fungus with teeth.

 15. Milk White Toothed Polypore aka Irpex lacteus Closeup

This is a closer view of the teeth on the milk white, toothed polypore.  I think they were frozen solid. The Irpex part of the scientific name means “a large rake with iron teeth” and lacteus means “milky.”

Commonly we stride through the out-of-doors too swiftly to see more than the most obvious and prominent things. For observing nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace. ~Edward Way Teale

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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 1. High Blue Sign

Last week we had one sunny afternoon when the temperature climbed to almost freezing. A walk at lunchtime convinced me that I needed to take some time to rid myself of the cabin fever I could feel coming on, so off I went to Walpole to climb the High Blue Trail in Warner Forest.

2. High Blue Trail

I told myself after I climbed Mount Caesar in Swanzey last winter that I’d never climb in winter again but, even though the trail leads uphill it is an easy, gentle climb and there are plenty of interesting things to see on the way. Many feet had passed this way before mine so the trail was well packed but not icy.

3. Hay Field

There are some large hayfields along the way that make great wintering places for white tailed deer. There is strong sunshine, plenty of browse, and plenty of forest to hide in.

It’s hard to imagine it now but 100 years ago most of the hillsides in this region would have been cleared of trees, and would have looked just like this hay field. Farming the thin, rocky soil was a hard way to make a living though, so in the mid-1800s when textile and furniture mills started offering better pay for easier work, many farms were abandoned and reverted back to forest.  Now New Hampshire is the second most forested state in the nation with 4.8 million acres-nearly 85 % of the total acreage forested. Only the state of Maine has more trees. This is why, for those of us who live here, a pasture like the one in the photo is a rare and welcome sight.

4. Deer Browse

Deer put on as much as 30 pounds of fat in the fall and though they browse on twigs like that in the photo, winter food is usually not very nutritious and they burn the extra fat. If everything goes according to plan they will be much thinner but still healthy in spring.

5. Deer Print

Deer prints were everywhere.

6. High Blue Game Trail

This is a game trail. Not a single print in the photo is human, so a lot of deer and other animals follow it. Trails like this crisscross the woods in every direction.

 7. Pileated Woodpecker Stump

I saw a stump that got into a fight with a pileated woodpecker and lost. This happened before the latest snowfall, otherwise there would be shredded tree all over the top of the snow.

8. Smoky polypore aka Bjerkandera adusta or White Rot Fungus

These bracket fungi were very dark and I suspected that they weren’t turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). After looking through my mushroom books I think they might be smoky polypores (Bjerkandera adusta). I didn’t want to kneel in the snow so I broke one of my own rules and didn’t look at the undersides.  The adust part of the scientific name means “scorched” or “appearing burned” and a peek at the burnt looking, dark gray, pore bearing surface would have helped confirm my suspicions.

9. Turkey Tails

There was no doubt that these were turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). The good thing about looking for the identity of things in books is, you only have to do it once or twice for each new thing you find. After a while as you learn what things are, the books become less necessary.

 10. Stone Foundation Ruins

I always try to visit this stonework when I come here. I used to build dry stone walls and it’s always fun to try to understand what the builder might have been thinking as he chose the stones. Flat stones with at least one square corner don’t just roll out of the forest and stop at your feet. I’m sure many of these were plowed up in the fields that were here.

 11. View From High Blue

The view from the granite ledge overlook is always very blue just as the name implies, but it can also be very hazy as it was this day. I could just make out the ski trails on Stratton Mountain, off across the Connecticut River valley in Vermont. In winter the wind out of the North West makes you pay for this view, so I didn’t stay long.

12. High Blue Sign

I always take a shot of this sign, just for the record.

 13. Rock Tripe

There are places in these woods where large outcrops of granite are covered with rock tripe lichens (Umbilicaria mammulata). The Umbilicaria part of the scientific name comes from the Latin umbilicus, meaning navel. This is where another common name, navel lichen, comes from and points to how these lichens attach themselves to stone with a single attachment point that looks like a navel.  The puckered area in the center of the lichen in the photo shows its attachment point. These lichens can grow as big as lettuce leaves and Native Americans taught early settlers how to prepare and eat them to keep from starving. George Washington’s troops are said to have eaten rock tripe while trying to survive the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1777.

14. Barbed Wire

I read a book recently, written by a man in Massachusetts who said he took great delight in running through the woods without following any trails. I wouldn’t advise doing that here. Since these woods used to be pasture land there are still miles of barbed wire running through them and it’s often hard to see.

15. Monadnock From High Blue Trail

As you come back down the trail and re-enter the hayfield there is a good view of Mount Monadnock directly ahead of you. This view is almost completely covered by foliage in the summer so it’s another thing that makes coming up here in winter worthwhile.

He who would study nature in its wildness and variety, must plunge into the forest, must explore the glen, must stem the torrent, and dare the precipice. ~ Washington Irving

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Last weekend (before our latest snowstorm) I decided to look for signs of spring. What follows is some of what I found.

 1. Skunk Cabbage Swamp

I started my search in a low, swampy area where hundreds of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) plants grow. The plant smells just like its name suggests and I could smell them as I tiptoed through the snow, trying not to step on them.

 2. Skunk Cabbage

I saw signs of life. Skunk cabbages are one of the earliest spring plants, and through a process called thermogenesis are able to generate temperatures far higher than the surrounding air. You can often see evidence of skunk cabbage having melted its way through several inches of solid ice.

 3. Skunk Cabbage

The maroon thing with yellow-green splotches that looks like a tongue in the lower right corner is this year’s skunk cabbage flower (spathe), just starting to poke up out of the soil.

 4. Script Lichen aka Graphis alboscripta 

Script lichen (Graphis scripta) doesn’t have anything to do with spring except to remind me that soon it will be much harder to find lichens because of foliage.  Script lichen grows on tree bark and is seems to be quite rare here. I’ve only seen two examples in my lifetime, but a lot of that could be because I forget to look for them.  The dark lines that look like some type of strange cuneiform writing are the apothecia, or fruiting bodies of this crustose lichen. These were much larger on this example than on the other one that I found.

 5. Shagbark Hickory Bud 

The terminal buds of shagbark hickory (Carya ovate) are quite large and can fool you into thinking that they are swelling because of spring sap flow but no, they are this way all winter. We have to have several sunny days above freezing to trigger sap flow, so it’ll be awhile yet before buds really start to swell.

6. Hazelnut

I loved all the movement and texture in these American hazelnut seed pods. Hazelnuts (Corylus Americana) are usually snapped up quickly by bears, squirrels and other animals but in this spot I could have collected pockets full of them. It makes me wonder why the animals aren’t eating them.

 7. Hazelnuts

The tasty hazelnuts are also called filberts. Each one is about as big in diameter as an M&M candy. It’s strange to see them this late in the year.

 8. Marginal Wood Fern Sori

Native evergreen marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) gets its common name from the way its spore cases or fruit dots (sori) grow on the margins of the leaflets (pinnules). These ferns grow new sori on fertile fronds each spring and release their spores in July and August. The sori are no bigger than a match head.

9. Marginal Wood Fern Sori Closeup

On marginal wood fern the sporangia inside the spore cases are covered by a membranous cover called an indusium or fruit cover. When the sporangia are ripe they push this cover off so the tiny, dust like spores can be released.  This only happens on a dry day when there is a dry breeze so the spores might be carried as far from the parent plant as possible. Some ferns, like polypody (Polypodium vulgare), lack indusia and have naked spore cases.  The fiddleheads of this fern are covered with golden brown scales and are among the first to appear in spring.

 10. Tinder Fungus aka Fomes fomentarius

This example of a tinder polypore (Fomes fomentarius), also called horse hoof fungus, looked ancient but probably isn’t that old. This bracket fungus produces spores at all times of year but through spring and summer studies have shown that as many as 800 million can be produced in a single hour. The fungus is also known for its ability to stop bleeding and was recommended for that purpose by none other than the father of medicine himself, Hippocrates (460 – 370 BCE).

11. Frullania Liverwort

If you see a tree with what looks like fine, lacy, brown or purplish spots all over its trunk a closer look might show the spots to be Frullania eboracensis liverworts. This is the only liverwort in this region that can stand a dry environment. It is considered a northern species and is quite common here. I find it on maples and oaks. Though the one in the photo is dime sized they can get to the size of a grapefruit.

12. Frullania Liverwort

Frullania eboracensis liverworts are considered leafy liverworts. The above photo shows how the almost microscopic, zipper like, zig zagging leaves overlap. Not seen are the sac like lobes on their undersides. The leaves radiate outward from a central point and become very dark in winter, lightening as the air temperature warms. Quite a few lighter colored ones can be seen here, so maybe they feel spring in the air.

13. Willow Catkins

Last time I visited this willow it had one catkin showing, but on this day there were many. I haven’t been able to figure out which willow it is yet, but its catkins are quite small. Male catkins appear much earlier than female catkins, so there’s a good chance that these are male.

Spring might seem like it’s far off but if you go by nature rather than the calendar, you can see it happening right now.

Even in the winter, in the midst of the storm, the sun is still there.  Somewhere above the clouds, it still shines and warms and pulls at the life buried deep inside the brown branches and frozen earth. ~Gloria Gaither

Thanks for stopping in.

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This post is about firsts as much as anything else; the first post I’ve ever done in black and white and the first post that’s been about photography more than the subjects of the photos. This is also the first time I’ve had to see things so very differently, and for that I have Patrick Muir to thank. Patrick has a blog called Patrick’s Garden, which you can visit by clicking here. He saw the first black and white photo to ever appear on this blog and challenged me to do an entire post in black and white, so Patrick, this one is for you.

 1. Dead Tree in Ice

I thought I’d start at the beginning with this photo of a dead tree that I posted back in December. Though I admire photos by people like Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange I haven’t ever been very interested in black and white photography, but then I saw a black and white photo on Tootlepedal’s blog (another one worth a visit) and thought it might be fun to give it a try. I found out by doing this little project that color can actually be a distraction and a hindrance, and sometimes you don’t really see until you remove the distraction.

 2. Dim Sun

Often in winter the world is more black and white than anything else so it was no work at all to turn the photo above and the first photo of the dead tree to black and white. If I showed both the color and black and white versions side by side you could barely tell which was which.

 3. Pixie Cup Lichens

These pixie cup lichens (Cladonia asahinae) are the color of wood ash but many times they look almost white in a certain light. They have a granular, pebbly surface and the absence of color makes it much easier to see.

4. Japanese Knotweed Seed 

This is the seed pod of Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum). The plant itself is a terribly invasive weed that is almost impossible to eradicate, but its tiny whitish seeds have three wings that fly 120 degrees apart, and make up a papery husk around the seed. I never noticed the texture of their wings until I saw them in black and white.

 5. Icicles  in Black and White

Ice and water seem to make good candidates for black and white photography. The icicles are much easier to see.

6. Mushrooms on a Log 

Long time readers of this blog have probably heard me talk about my colorblindness at one time or another. The kind I have isn’t severe but, though I can see red and green traffic lights, if a red cardinal lands in a green tree he disappears. The above photo was rejected because it was (to me) monochromatic, showing only varying shades of brown. The mushrooms almost blended into the background but in the black and white version they really stand out.

7. Tree Wound 

Tree wounds can be interesting but this one seems even more so in black and white. The absence of color helps me to think more about shape and texture.

 8. White Poplar Leaf

If you find something that looks like a maple leaf but has a deep green upper surface and a pure white underside, it is a leaf from a white poplar (Populus alba). Making this photo black and white did nothing to the leaf-it really was as snow white as it appears in the photo.

 9. Mushroom Gills

I like how the texture of the oak leaf that this tiny mushroom cap is sitting on becomes almost reptilian when seen this way.

 10. Hoar Frost

The dark water and white hoar frost again meant little change when this photo became black and white.

11. Gray Birches in Winter 

This photo of gray birches (Betula populifolia) was another one that showed little change from color to black and white.

12. Lowbush Blueberry Blossoms 

Last September, on a very foggy morning, I climbed Mount Caesar in Swanzey and found a lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) blooming long after any blueberry should have been. I posted the color version of this photo then, but I like the black and white version more. The water droplets make sense because of the dense fog, but I still can’t figure out what would have caused the bubbles on these tiny blossoms.

This was a fun post, if for no other reason than forcing me to climb out of my comfort zone and try something new. I feel though, because black and white photography is very easy in the winter when the world is black and white, that I’ve cheated a bit, so I’ll do another black and white post in the summer or fall. I have a feeling that will be a real challenge.

To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul. ~ Andri Cauldwell

Thanks for coming by. 

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This is another post full of things I’ve seen in the woods which, for one reason or another, didn’t fit into other posts.

1. European  Barberry Thorns aka Berberis vulgaris

Early settlers planted European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) so they could make jam from its fruit and yellow dye from its bark. This plant, along with American barberry (Berberis canadensis) plays host to wheat rust disease and has been slowly but surely undergoing eradication by the U.S. government.  Both plants have clusters of 3 or more thorns, but American barberry doesn’t grow in New England. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), grows in New England but it has just a single thorn under each leaf or cluster of leaves.

2. Boston Ivy Berries

Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) looks a lot like English ivy (Hedera helix), but English ivy is evergreen and Boston ivy is deciduous, with leaves that turn bright red in the fall before falling. Both plants will climb trees, brick walls, and just about anything else in their path. This photo shows the plant’s dried (and probably frozen) berries. Interestingly, the plant is from Eastern Asia, not Boston.

3. Hydrangea

Some hydrangea blossoms stay on the plant throughout winter and will eventually come to look “skeletonized” and lace like. I keep checking mine, but it hasn’t happened yet.

 4. Indian Pipe Seed Pod

Indian pipe flowers (Monotropa uniflora) are nodding until they have been pollinated, and then they stand straight up. The seed pods dry that way and take on the look of old wood. This capsule will split down its sides into 5 parts to release its seeds. It is said that Native Americans had a story that this plant first appeared where an Indian had dumped some white ashes from his pipe.

5. Marble Gall on Oak

The hole in the side of this oak marble gall tells me that the gall wasp (Andricus kollari) that lived inside it has grown and flown.

6. Witch's Broom on Blueberry

Witch’s broom is a deformity described as a “dense mass of shoots growing from a single point, with the resulting structure resembling a broom or a bird’s nest.” The example in the photo is on a highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ) and was caused by a fungus (Pucciniastrum goeppertianum). This fungus spends part of its life cycle on the needles of balsam fir (Abies balsamea). When it releases its spores and they land on the stems and leaves of the blueberry, it becomes infected. The fungus overwinters on blueberry bushes and in the spring again releases spores which will infect even more balsam fir trees and the cycle will begin again. In my experience witch’s broom doesn’t affect fruit production.

 7. Hawthorn Fruit

Hawthorns (Crataegusmight have evolved thorns to keep animals away but they don’t keep birds away. This bush had been stripped of every fruit except one tired old, mummified haw.

 8. Winterberry Fruit

There are still plenty of fruit on the winterberry bushes (Ilex verticillata), but they’re starting to whither a bit too. Winterberry is a deciduous native holly with berries that have a low fat content, so birds tend to leave them until last, when it gets a little warmer.  Even so, it is said that 48 different species of birds and many small mammals eat them. Native Americans used the bark of this shrub medicinally to treat inflammations and fevers, which explains how it came by another of its common names: fever bush. It was also used as a substitute for quinine in parts of the U.S. in the 18th century.

9. Disk Lichen aka Lecidella stigmatea

The body (Thallus) of a rock disk lichen (Lecidella stigmatea) can be gray or whitish, but can also be stained green, red-brown or black, so sometimes it’s hard to know what you’ve found. My color finding software sees gray with green in this example. This lichen’s fruiting bodies (Apothecia) are flat or convex dark brown or black disks. This lichen is similar to tile lichens, but the fruiting bodies on tile lichens are always sunken into the body of the lichen rather than even with or standing above it. The rock it was on was wet and that’s why it’s so shiny.

 12. Small White Cup Shaped Fungi

I think these tiny things might be bird’s nest fungi, but I can’t be sure because there are no “eggs” in them. The eggs are actually fruiting bodies that contain spores and are called peridioles. These peridioles have hard waxy coatings and get splashed out of the cup shaped “nest” by raindrops. Once the outer coating wears away the spores can germinate.

11. Small White Cup Shaped Fungi

If you have ever shot an air rifle (BB gun) and know what a “BB” is, picture a single BB filling one of these cups. For those of you unfamiliar with BB guns, most BBs are 0.171 to 0.173 inches (4.3 to 4.4 mm) in diameter. If you would like to see some great photos of bird’s nest fungi with their eggs,  Rick at the Between Blinks blog just did a post about them. You can get there by clicking here.

13. Oak Leaves

Oak leaves curl into each other in the winter as if to keep warm.  I can’t think of any other leaves that do this.

14. Burdock Seeds

When viewing a seed head from the burdock plant (Arctium species) in an extreme close up it’s easy to see why they stick to everything. When Swiss inventor George de Mestral pulled a bunch of burrs from his pants and looked at them under a microscope in 1940, he came up with the hook and loop system that is called Velcro today. The word Velcro comes from the words velour and crotchet. Not surprising really, since the burr seeds look like tiny crochet hooks.

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. ~Henry Miller

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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