Last weekend we had a beautiful (and rare) sunny day so I thought I’d hit the trail in Walpole and climb High Blue. Finding places to climb in the winter can be difficult because snowbanks block access to the normal parking spots, but High Blue has one of those few parking areas that are kept plowed.
You don’t have to walk too far before you come to a large open meadow. Deer love to come here and browse the shrubs along the edges of the meadow so there are game trails everywhere up here.
This track was about as fresh as it could be. I took the photo of it on the way back because it wasn’t there on the way in. I know that because I was thinking how strange it was that I wasn’t seeing any deer tracks. As usual the deer were seeing me but I wasn’t seeing them.
I knew they were there though, even if I didn’t see them or their tracks because they had been browsing the tips of the oaks along the meadow edge. They often tear rather than bite cleanly through a branch and that’s because they have incisors on only their bottom jaw that meets a cartilage pad on the front of the upper jaw. This causes them to pull rather than shear and for this reason they eat mostly tender shoots. Theoretically anyhow; the oak shoot in the photo doesn’t look like it was very tender to me. They might have gotten their back top and bottom molars around it to tear it like that.
Usually when I see a bright orange crust fungus it has an easily identifiable margin which is usually white as in steccherinum ochraceum, and on closer inspection reveals itself to actually be a toothed crust fungus. The example in this photo has no white margin or teeth but it does have bracket fungus like fruiting bodies, so I’m baffled. I haven’t seen anything like it on line or in books and I’m wondering if it might be an alga like Trentepohlia aurea growing over both the log and the bracket fungi on it. Those algae can be orange and many other colors and do grow on logs.
Naturalist John Burroughs said “To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday,” and I couldn’t think of better advice to give a nature lover. I’ve walked by this lichen too many times to count and never saw it, but this time I got a little closer to the tree it grew on and there it was. From a distance I thought it might be a common button lichen (Buellia stillingiana) but it isn’t.
I’ve never seen another lichen like this one and I’m having trouble identifying it. It had interesting cup shaped apothecia (fruiting bodies) but unfortunately there are many lichens that have them and they all look a lot alike. I think this one might be Tephromela atra but I can’t be certain.
These young maple trees showed a fine example of natural grafting. The wind made these two trees rub together enough to wear away the outer bark down to the cambium layer. The cambium layer lies between the inner bark and the wood and is where cells divide and grow. When the cambium layer of one tree meets the cambium layer of another tree of the same species (or of another closely related species), if the conditions are right they can grow together. It is thought that man learned the art of grafting by observing natural grafting.
There was a large colony of shield lichens growing on the self-grafted trees. They were slightly darker colored than the tree bark and had prominent black rhizines, which are root like structures that some lichens use to hang onto whatever they grow on. I haven’t been able to identify it but I think it might be one of the Parmelia lichens, of which there are 34 or more species.
It looked like someone had repainted the lettering on the sign.
I didn’t realize it at the time but every photo that I took while zooming in on the distant hills was hazy and looked out of focus. I’m not sure what happened but it left me with one useable shot of the view and this is it. You can just barely make out Stratton Mountain in Vermont off in the clouds, just to the left of center. At least this photo shows how blue the hills are from up here. The view is always very blue and that’s what gives this place its name.
The small pond on the summit was frozen solid and I wondered how the animals and birds were finding any water to drink.
I see signs of pileated woodpeckers every time I come here and this day was no different. A large pile of wood chips at the base of a dead tree means only one thing–you should look up.
Sure enough, there was the woodpecker’s hole about fifteen feet off the ground. Pileated woodpeckers excavate a new nest hole each year and this looked more like a nesting hole than a feeding hole. Abandoned holes are also used by owls, wood ducks and many other birds, and even bats and pine martens. This tree looked to be hollow.
I was glad to see that a small stream was covered only by paper thin ice. The ice had been broken in several places, so the birds and animals would be able to get a drink after all.
You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush. ~John Burroughs.
Thanks for stopping in.