Another warm sunny day last weekend prompted me to follow this old abandoned road up to Beaver Brook falls once more. I thought that, the way things were warming up so fast, it might be my last chance to see them in their frozen state.
The blue ice on the ledges reminded me of the aquamarine crystals I used to find while mineral hunting. I can’t say that blue ice is rare but I’ve only seen it in two places. As I learned from reading Sue’s Back Yard Biology blog, blue ice happens when the oxygen-hydrogen bonds in water absorb the red parts of the spectrum and reflect blue light back. Further reading tells me that it is also very dense. These ledges are about 15-20 feet high and the ice formations are bigger than tree trunks.
Beaver brook also had some interesting ice formations growing in it.
It was warm enough to thaw the amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa). I like holding it up to the light so I can see through it because it looks like stained glass, but I’ve never noticed the yellowish spots in it before. Amber jellies are true “winter fungi” and that is when I usually find them.
There are still plenty of seeds on the New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). In fact I’m still seeing an abundance of seeds, nuts and berries everywhere I go. That strikes me as odd but it could be that I’ve just never noticed how much is left in the spring before.
This boulder sits in the woods on the far side of the brook so I can’t get to it to see if it is a true glacial erratic, but it’s easy to see from where I stand that it’s as big as a house. There is quite a steep hill on that side of the brook and I wonder what stopped its rolling further down the hill and into the brook.
There are some interesting lichens here, like this smokey eye boulder lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens). One thing that makes it so interesting to me is how the whitish coating on the black fruiting disks (Apothecia) changes color when the light comes from different anglers. They can appear light gray, dark gray, light blue or dark blue. They change color because of the whitish waxy coating that reflects ultra violet rays and is very similar to the bloom on plums, blueberries, and black raspberry canes.
Every time I come here I see something that I’ve never seen here before and this time was no different. In the case of the greater whip wort (Bazzania trilobata) in the above photo I’m sure that I missed it because you have to look closely to see that it is a liverwort and not a moss. Bazzania trilobata is a leafy liverwort that likes high humidity. It always reminds me of centipedes.
I’m not sure why it is called greater whipwort, because each leaf is only about an eighth of an inch wide and the group of plants in the previous photo isn’t 6 inches across. The trilobata part of the scientific name refers to the way that each leaf ends in 3 triangular notches. The root-like growths are branches.
Ice must be a great insulator because the 40-50 foot tall falls, like the brook itself, was silent. It seems so strange for this place to be silent after hearing the very load roar of the falls in summer.
To get a really good view of the falls you have to climb down quite a steep embankment, which I’ve decided would be foolish to do in winter, so that’s why there are trees in the way in this shot.
This is part of the reason I don’t climb down the embankment to the falls. If you tipped a Volkswagen Beetle on its side it would fit right into this hole with room to spare. The depth from the top of the snow layer down to the water surface was about 7 feet, and I stood there thinking that if I accidently stumbled into a hole like this, I would most likely never get out of it. It reminded me once again why you have to have your wits about you when you’re in the woods.
This is probably the strangest thing I saw this day. I’m assuming it is a spider’s egg sac, but I’m not sure. It was hanging from some moss by a thread of silk like a tiny Christmas ornament.
This is a closer look at the whatever-it-is. It had a little stocking cap like growth on top that was opened, but I couldn’t see any of this until I cropped the photo because it was so small. The “orb” itself was no bigger than a sixteenth of an inch across. If you’re reading this and know what it is I’d like to hear from you.
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The whole secret of the study of nature lies in learning how to use one’s eyes. ~George Sand
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