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Posts Tagged ‘Bailey Brook Falls’

We’ve had some rough weather since I last did one of these “things I’ve seen” posts; large amounts of rain, record high temperatures and strong winds. Clouds like these have been commonly seen in the afternoon, just before a downpour.

One storm had strong straight line winds of 60+ mph and blew down many trees. These examples were sheared off rather than blown down but the trees were still done for no matter how it happened.

The wind blew bird’s nests right out of the trees.

The rain filled the rivers and gave me a chance to practice my wave shots at the Ashuelot River in Swanzey.  I like to see if I can tune myself into the rhythm of the river so I can tell ahead of time when a wave will form. Once you have tuned into its rhythm you can get photos of cresting waves again and again, with little effort.  As Joseph Campbell once said; The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.

Bailey Brook Falls up in Nelson, which is north of Keene, had plenty of water tumbling over the rocks. Last time I was there it was barely a trickle.

Since I was at Baily Brook Falls anyway I decided to walk the old dirt road and look for signs of bear. They were easy to find; marking this utility pole seems to be a favorite pastime of theirs. All the light colored tooth and claw marks seen here were all made by bears.

They also use the pole as a scratching post and rub up themselves against it. They often leave hairs behind when they do, and these were just slightly above eye level. I was glad I didn’t meet up with the donor. I wouldn’t have wanted him to think I was marking his territory.

I’ve seen a few great blue herons this summer but Lo and behold, this one was moving instead of pretending to be a statue. It was moving because moments before I had stepped around some brush and came almost nose to beak with it. We were both startled (in fact I might have said aa!) but the heron calmly walked away while I stood fumbling with my camera. This is the second time this has happened in as many years and I’m convinced that great blue herons don’t have very good hearing. I wish they’d find a way to let me know they were on the other side of the bush.

This heron was also moving but it was notable because it was moving through a field, and that’s something I’ve read about but have never seen. But since I took this photo I saw another one doing the same thing so it must be fairly common behavior. I’d say from the bulge in this one’s throat that it’s also a successful strategy. You don’t realize just how tall a great blue heron is until you see them with their neck fully outstretched. I wasn’t close enough to be able to tell for sure but it looked like this one could have pecked the top of my head.

I saw a beetle with a strange insignia on a shield like appendage and I immediately thought that it would be a nightmare to identify, but it was actually very easy.

It was the American carrion beetle (Necrophila americana) which is something I’ve never seen before. Not surprisingly, this beetle eats decaying flesh in both its adult and larval stages. Since there was no decaying flesh anywhere near where it was I thought it was odd that it was there but they do eat insect larvae as well so maybe that’s what it was hunting. I’ve read that adults prefer moist habitats and are active all summer. One generation is born each year.

There’s nothing odd about a bumblebee on a flower until I tell you that this bee was huge; at least as big as half my thumb. It also looked very different than the bumblebees that I’m used to.

That’s because it isn’t a bumblebee at all. It’s an eastern or Virginia carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) and that marking just between its eyes makes it very easy to identify. These bees nest in wood and eat pollen and nectar. They don’t eat wood but they will excavate tunnels through rotten wood. The adults nest through winter and emerge in spring. Though it is said to be common in the eastern part of the country I can’t remember ever seeing one. I’ve read that they can be up to an inch long and this one was all of that. Females can sting but they do so only when bothered. Males don’t have a stinger, thankfully.

Here was something strange that I can’t begin to explain. That butterfly flat on the ground was dead and the two standing butterflies were watching over it as if guarding it. As I got closer to take photos they would fly around me and then land near their dead compadre again, time after time. I think the standing ones were clouded yellow butterflies (Colias croceus.)

This is the dead butterfly that the mourners were tending to. I thought it would be easy to identify but it hasn’t been and I’ve run out of time. If you happen to know I’d love for you to tell me and I’d also love to know what this behavior is all about. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I saw another strange insect that I haven’t been able to identify on a milkweed plant. A “wheel bug” is the closest I could come, but that isn’t it.

I wondered if the strange insect did this to the milkweed seed pod. I’ve never seen one grow in a spiral.

Wooly alder aphids (Paraprociphilus tessellatus) grow a white, filamentous waxy covering that looks like it’s made up of tiny white ribbons. When grouped together in a colony the insects look like white fuzz on the alder’s branches and this white fuzz helps protect them from the eyes of predators. You can see aphids without their covering at about twelve and nine o’clock in this photo. They have a kind of checkerboard pattern on their backs. They are sap sucking insects which secrete a sweet honeydew on the leaves and branches of plants. This honeydew attracts a fungus called black sooty mold, but since the mold grows only on the honeydew and not the plant, it doesn’t harm plants. The aphids themselves will do far more harm because they can literally suck the life out of a plant.

Wooly alder aphids are quite small; smaller than a pencil eraser and can be hard to see, even with the white waxy covering. I look on the undersides of alder branches at about this time of year. Something I’ve never seen before are the reddish blobs that appear in this photo. I’m not sure but it looks as if some of the aphids on this branch were crushed somehow and I think that is their “blood.” If you are lucky enough to catch these insects in flight, they look like tiny white fairies. In fact another name for them is “fairy flies.”

I was driving slowly, looking for fall color, down an old road one recent evening and saw a young cottontail ahead. I stopped and turned my camera on. It was cloudy and already nearly dark at 6:00 pm but I thought I’d at least try. But the camera wouldn’t have it; I was too far away. So, instead of getting out of the car and scaring the rabbit away I simply took my foot off the brake and let the car creep toward the bunny. It couldn’t have cared less and kept munching grasses while the car crept ahead. This poor photo was taken from about 10 feet away through the windshield. The rabbit never moved until another car came along from the opposite direction.

I haven’t seen the beautiful autumn scarlet leaves of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) yet but the berries are ripe. The blue berries on their pink stems (pedicels) is a sight that goes far back into my memory because my mother loved Virginia creeper and grew it on wire on the side of our house. Many birds (35 species) love these berries, including thrushes, woodpeckers, warblers, vireos, mockingbirds, chickadees, and turkeys. So do mice, red fox, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, and deer. I’ve read that birds are attracted more to red fruits than the blue-black ones found on Virginia creeper, so the vine compensates by having flaming red leaves in the fall. When birds land amidst all the attractive shades of red they find and eat the berries.

The berries of silky dogwood are ripe now but when I took this photo they were in their turning from green to white to blue phase. In the middle of that turning some of the berries are white and blue at the same time and I’ve always wondered if that’s where the ancient Chinese got the idea for their beautiful blue and white porcelain. That’s a question that will most likely never be answered but I’d say that it is a fair bet that most if not all ancient innovations came from studying nature. One need only to look at the spiral as an example; it is found in everything from the center of a sunflower to a hurricane to the Archimedes screw; they have fascinated mathematicians, scientists, and artists for thousands of years.

Fall starts tonight at about 10:00 pm so I thought I’d show the only good display of fall colors that I’ve seen so far. There should be plenty more coming but for now this view of Half Moon Pond in Hancock is a good preview. For some reason the trees around this pond change before most of the others I see.

I’d like to end this post with a thank you to all the readers who wrote in to say that what I thought was pollution on the banks of the Ashuelot River in my post of last Saturday might easily have come from natural sources. Iron rich ferrous hydroxide that occurs naturally in soil can cause the oil like sheen on water, as can bacteria generated hydrocarbons in oxygen depleted soil. The example shown here was found on the very wet soil of a seep. It did my heart good to think that the Ashuelot River might really be completely clean once again, so thanks again for the enlightening information.

Since we cannot know all there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything. ~Blaise Pascal

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In my last post I spoke about climbing Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard. I took a short detour on the way home that day to see Bailey Brook Falls in Nelson. The brook wasn’t running quite as high as I expected considering the regular rain and all the snowmelt we’ve seen lately. The state says we’re still in a moderate drought because the underground aquifers have been depleted, so hopefully we’ll see our average rainfall this summer. That would help a lot.

This is my favorite view of the falls. Interesting how the brook is always split in two here.

A pileated woodpecker had carved a deep hole out of this white pine (Pinus strobus.) There’s nothing remarkable about that; I see holes like this all the time. It’s what happened afterwards that is worth noting.

The pine tree’s sap had turned a beautiful blue, deeper in color than most I see. I see more blue pine sap in winter than at other times of year so I’ve always assumed that it was the cold that turned it blue, like it does to some lichens, but now that I’m noticing it in warmer weather as well I’m just not sure. Does the cold turn it blue in winter and then it stays that way from then on? I’ve spent many hours searching for the answer and can’t find a single reference to blue pine sap, so I can’t answer the question.

Ninety five percent of the white pine sap I see looks like this; kind of a cloudy tan color, and that’s why blue pine sap is so startling and unusual. Pine sap (resin) has been used by Native American tribes for thousands of years to waterproof just about anything that needed it; baskets, pails, and especially canoes. The Chippewa tribe also used pine sap to treat infections and wounds. The treatment was usually successful because pine sap seems to contain several antimicrobials.

I also saw some resin on a black cherry tree, which is something I’ve never seen before. It was clear and amber colored and very different than pine resin. This is the kind of resin that insects got trapped in millions of years ago and which are found occasionally today, preserved forever just as they were when they became stuck in the sticky sap. There were quite large globs of it here and there on this tree and I wish I had taken one to add to my collection of outdoor oddities.

Because of colorblindness I don’t usually try bird identification but I think I’m safe saying that this is a European starling. European starlings were first introduce into New York In the 1890s. Those original 100 birds have now become  over 200 million, and they can be found from Alaska to Mexico. I saw three birds working this lawn for insects; not exactly a flock. The name starling comes from their resemblance to a four pointed star when they fly.

I’ve read that a starling’s spots are more easily seen in winter and all but disappear in summer, but they were very noticeable on all 3 of these birds. They’re a pretty bird but I understand that a lot of people here in the U.S. don’t like them.

Milk white toothed polypore is a resupinate fungus, which means it looks like it grows upside down, and that’s what many crust fungi seem to do. Their spore bearing surface can be wrinkled, smooth, warty, toothed, or porous and though they appear on the undersides of branches the main body of the fungus is in the wood, slowly decomposing it.

The “teeth” are actually ragged bits of spore bearing tissue. They start life as tubes or pores and break apart and turn brown as they age. Milk white toothed polypores appear very late in the year and are considered “winter mushrooms.”

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) is one of our earliest to show in spring but this year it was even earlier than I thought so it got ahead of me. These fiddleheads were already about 6 inches tall. This fern doesn’t like windy places, so if you find a shaded dell where a grove of lady fern grows it’s safe to assume that it doesn’t ever get very windy there. Lady fern is the only one I know of with brown / black scales on its stalks. It likes wet or very moist ground along rivers and streams.

I found a beard lichen (Usnea) still attached to a cut log and it turned out to be the longest one I’ve seen. They’re very common on pines and hemlocks in our area. They attach themselves to the bark but take nothing from the tree, much like a bird perching. Lichens in the Usnea genus contain usnic acid and have antiseptic / antibiotic properties. They have been used since ancient times throughout the world to heal wounds.

Bud break is defined as “when the green tip of a leaf can be seen emerging from the bud,” and I can’t think of a better plant to demonstrate it than rhubarb.

There is a very short time when skunk cabbage leaves (Symplocarpus foetidus) actually look like cabbage leaves. I’m guessing that with skunk in their name they don’t taste anything like cabbage though, and I hope I’m never hungry enough to be tempted by them. I’ve heard that bears will eat them when they can’t find anything else.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are up and growing fast. These wild leeks look like scallions and taste somewhere between an onion and garlic. They are considered a great delicacy and are a favorite spring vegetable from Quebec to Tennessee, and ramp festivals are held in almost all states on the U.S. east coast and in many other countries in the world. Unfortunately they are slow growers and a ten percent harvest of a colony can take ten years to grow back. They take up to 18 months to germinate from seed, and five to seven years to mature enough to harvest. That’s why ramp harvesting has been banned in many national and state parks and in pats of Canada, and why Ramp farming is now being promoted by the United States Department of Agriculture.

This photo from a few years ago shows what the complete ramp looks like. The bulbs and leaves are said to be very strongly flavored with a pungent odor. In some places they are called “The king of stink.” The name ramps comes from the English word ramson, which is a common name of the European bear leek (Allium ursinum), which is a cousin of the North American wild leek. Their usage has been recorded throughout history starting with the ancient Egyptians. They were an important food for Native Americans and later for white settlers as well.

False hellebores (Veratrum viride) grow close to the ramps and woe be to the forager who confuses them. Though all parts of ramps are edible false hellebore is one of the most toxic plants in the New England forest, so it would be wise to know both well before foraging for ramps. One clue would be the deeply pleated leaves of the false hellebore, which look nothing like ramp leaves. Second would be the color; ramps are a much deeper green. Third would be size; everything about false hellebore is bigger, including leaf size. The final clue would be the roots. False hellebore roots are tough and fibrous and don’t look at all like the bulbous, scallion like root of ramps. I’m surprised that anyone could confuse the two, but apparently it has happened.

I think these buds were on a white ash (Fraxinus americana), but it could also be a green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica). Both are commonly planted along streets and in parking lots and I saw this tree in a store parking lot. One thing that helps identify ash trees are the shape of the leaf scars that appear just below the buds, and I didn’t look at it closely. On the white ash these scars are “C” shaped and on green ash they look like a “D.” White ash leaf scars are also much larger than those on green ash. Ash bears male and female flowers on separate trees.

The beautiful fruits (samaras) of the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) start out their lives deep red with a white furry coat. When you see them beginning to form you have to check them frequently to catch them in this stage because it happens quickly and ends just as quickly. The mature seeds are the largest of any native maple and are a favorite food of the eastern chipmunk. Silver maples get their common name from the downy surface of the leaf underside, which flashes silver in the slightest breeze.

The pinkish leaf buds of striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) are growing quickly now. They often show hints of orange and are quite beautiful at this stage; in my opinion one of the most beautiful things in the forest at this time of year. Branches full of them stop me in in my tracks. There is so much beauty out there; I hope all of you are seeing as much of it as you are able to.

I meant to do my work today, but a brown bird sang in the apple tree, and a butterfly flitted across the field, and all the leaves were calling. ~Richard le Gallienn

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1. Rye Pond Beaver Lodge

I heard we were going to get a lot of rain this week and possible flooding, so last Sunday I thought I’d see how much more water we could take. With all of the meltwater the Ashuelot River is fairly high but as this photo shows, the water level of Rye Pond is looking much like it does in June. Rye Pond lies to the north of Keene and since the boundaries of three towns run through it, it’s hard to say what town it’s in; Antrim, Nelson, or Stoddard.

 2. Rye Pond Ice

The water level might look like it does in June but there was still ice on the pond in places, so I’m sure the water temperature feels more like December. I’m anxious to put my kayak in this pond because I’ve seen photos of some beautiful orchids that grow here, but I think I’ll wait until the water warms up a bit.

3. Cranberry Plants

I’ve seen a lot of cranberry plants (Vaccinium macrocarpon) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any as red as these that grew along the pond’s shores.

 4. Bailey Brook Falls

Since I was in the neighborhood I thought I’d stop and see Bailey Brook falls in Nelson. There was plenty of water coming over the falls but the brook didn’t seem that high. There is also an upper falls here but I wanted to save my hiking legs for another waterfall I planned to visit later in the day, so I didn’t go to see it.

5. Trail Sign

The folks in Nelson have a unique sense of humor. That’s a black fly on the trail sign along Bailey Brook.  For those of you not familiar with black flies; they are a tiny biting insect that breeds exclusively in clean running water, which is something that we have plenty of here in New Hampshire. Black fly season usually begins in early May and lasts until early June depending on the weather. Though they are a sign of a healthy environment, when the black flies disappear in June we are very thankful. Then comes mosquito season.

6. Striped Maple Buds

Striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) buds have broken. The orangey pink leaf buds will be among the most beautiful in the forest once they get just a little bigger. I’ll have to visit the plants daily now so I can catch them at their best. The colorful period doesn’t last long.

7. Trillium

Purple trilliums (Trillium erectum) are also showing buds. They seem to be blooming earlier each year. Last year I saw my first one on April 26th, and that one had bloomed earlier than those I found in 2012 and 2013.

8. Ashuelot in Gilsum

I like to stop along this stretch of the Ashuelot River between Gilsum and Surry because it always makes me think of how wild it must have been before Europeans came here. A few years ago severe flooding in this area really tore the banks up and washed away a bridge or two, and many of the scars are still visible along the banks.

9. Coltsfoot 2

I was surprised to see some coltsfoot plants blooming along the river bank.

10. Coltsfoot

I’ll have to remember where I saw them so I can come back and see them again next year. I’ve lost a few colonies of coltsfoot plants to loggers and flooding.

11. Lower 40 Foot Falls

Since I had time I thought I’d stop in at 40 foot falls in Surry. I’m not sure if the name describes the length of the falls or the height, but I think it must be the length.  The lowers falls are pictured above. There was some severe flooding here a few years ago too, and the size of some of the boulders that washed down the brook is astounding.

12. Middle 40 Foot Falls

These are what I call the middle falls. The dead tree isn’t a mistake-I liked it.

13. Upper 40 Foot Falls

My favorite thing to see here is the gorge where the upper falls are. I’d guess that the height of the ledges here must be at least 50 feet, and that light colored boulder to the right is the size of a compact car. It gets its light color from being made of pure feldspar, as are the ledges. I think it’s the most feldspar I’ve ever seen in one place and I’m surprised that it wasn’t mined years ago like so many other deposits were. If you are going to make glass you are going to need feldspar.

14. Upper 40 Foot Falls

You can just see the upper falls over to the right. Unless you want to put on waders and wade under the overhanging boulders, this is the best view you can get of them. If I could have taken the ice on the left and laid it out flat on the ground it would have been the size of a small pond.

 15. Unknown Yellow Organism

The strangest thing I saw on this outing was this organism that I haven’t been able to identify. As I walked by a fallen log I saw that pieces of bark had fallen off its underside. They weren’t just pieces of bark though; they were covered by the bright yellow growth shown in the above photo.  When I picked them up and put them on the log to take their photo, large clouds of yellow spores blew in the wind.

 16. Unknown Yellow Organism

A close up shot shows that the yellow growth was hairy like the bright orange algae called (Trentepohlia aureathat) that I find growing on certain cliff faces, but those algae don’t grow anywhere near as uniform as this growth appears in the previous photo. It’s so uniform it almost looks like a yellow lawn, and the only thing I know of that looks like that is a slime mold. I’ve never known or heard of a slime mold that lives through winter in its plasmodial stage, but this growth reminds me of the plasmodial stage of the scrambled egg slime mold (Fuligo septica.) If it is then it’s the earliest example of it that I’ve ever seen.

The waters of the stream played the part of the orchestra, and the sunlight provided the dancers. Every now and then a crescendo of wind highlighted the symphony in the clearing by the creek.
~Edward Mooney Jr.

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1. Meadow Wildflowers

Sometimes I get tired of being sprawled out on the ground taking photos of small things and I feel like standing for a while, so that’s what this post is all about. White asters, yellow goldenrod and purple loosestrife made a pretty scene in this roadside meadow, so I had to stop to get a few photos of it.

2. Thyme

I drove through a local cemetery one day and saw that the lawns were full of blossoming thyme. Bees love thyme so I’m sure they were just ecstatic.

3. Path Through the Pines

Back before 1938 this path would have wandered through a white birch forest but the hurricane of 1938 blew them all down, so the city planted red pines in their place. The pines have grown very tall but don’t seem to have added much girth in three quarters of a century. This place is called the Dinsmoor woods, named after Mary Dinsmoor, who donated 13 acres of forest to the city in 1928.

4. Stream

I’ve driven by this scene nearly every day for over 20 years now and have always admired it in a quick, out of the corner of my eye way, so I finally stopped and took a photo of it. I can’t really say what it is about it that appeals to me, but something does. It’s the kind of place that I can just sit and stare at.

5. Beaver Lodges

Rye pond in Hancock, New Hampshire is at the top of my list of places to kayak next summer because of the beautiful orchids that grow here. I went there recently to get a feel for the place and to find a good launching spot. While I walked the shoreline I saw two beaver lodges, but I think they were abandoned.

 6. Beech Branches

Beech leaves don’t usually fall until the following spring, so bare beech branches in the middle of summer are very noticeable. Many of our beech trees are dying of a bark blister disease but I don’t know if it caused the leaf drop seen in this young tree.

7. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

We’ve had enough rain this year to make me think that some of our waterfalls would be roaring, but as this photo of the lower falls at Bailey Brook in Nelson shows, they weren’t doing much more than trickling. There are upper falls here as well but since it’s berry season and this area is known bear country, I didn’t hike up to see them.

8. Sunbeams

One day after a rain the clouds parted and sunbeams shot straight down to earth. I wish I could have seen what they were highlighting.

9. Evening Sky

The colors of the sky and clouds were beautiful after thunderstorms rolled by one evening.

10. Ashuelot Falls

The late afternoon sun often turns the Ashuelot River falls in Keene into a golden ribbon. Silky dogwoods grow along the shoreline here and soon cedar waxwings will be eating the ripe berries.

11. Pond

The water in this pond was as smooth as water can be. It looks like it won’t be long before the cattails in the background fill this shallow pond completely.

12. Pond from Forest

This photo was taken just a few feet from where the previous photo was taken. It’s amazing how just a simple change in perspective can have such an impact on the mood of a photo.

13. Fern Glade

I’ve walked by this little glade of ferns a hundred times but for some reason on this afternoon the light was like I had never seen it before, and had transformed the scene into something quite beautiful. I had to sit for a while admiring it, and I remember thinking what a wonderful painting it would make.

Landscapes have the power to teach, if you query them carefully.  And remote landscapes teach the rarest, quietest lessons. ~David Quammen

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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

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1. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

Recently over the course of a week or so I had 3 or 4 people ask me if I had ever explored the woods in Nelson, which is a small town that lies northeast of Keene. I hadn’t, but I took the sudden interest in my exploring the woods around the town as a good sign that I should. This waterfall on Bailey brook was one of the first things I saw.

2. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

These falls can be seen quite easily from road, so you don’t even need to get out of your car. Here I had been bushwhacking my way through the woods looking for waterfalls and there was one right here beside a road the whole time.

 3. Bailey Brook

Bailey brook isn’t very large but it has upper and lower waterfalls that are about a mile apart. Following the brook upstream is an easy, gentle hike with plenty to see.

4. Winter Berry

After a season with almost no berries last year, this year the winterberries (Ilex verticillata) are covered with them. This native holly holds its berries through the winter and they look great against the white snow. These berries have a very low fat content and birds won’t eat them until other fruits with higher fat contents have been eaten. Other plants that fruit in the fall like maple leaf viburnum, high bush cranberry, and stag horn sumac also produce fruit that is low in fat content. That’s why you often see these plants with the previous season’s berries still on them in the spring.

 5. Pale New York Fern

Some ferns, like this New York Fern (Parathelypteris noveboracensis) turn ghostly pale in the fall. If you like the look of this fern, plant breeders have developed a fern called “Athyrium Ghost” that is a cross between our native lady fern and the Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum and Athyrium filix-femina). It’s a kind of silvery white color.

 6. Stone Wall

Stone walls line the path. These are great places to look for lichens and mosses. Chipmunks and other things live in stone walls, so you don’t want to go poking your fingers in any of the crevices between the stones. We have timber rattlesnakes here in New Hampshire, but they are rarely seen. Even so, they love rocky places that get plenty of sun so I leave old walls alone.

 7. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

Each pea sized, orangey brown fruiting body (aethalia) of wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum), holds a protoplastic liquid called plasmodium when they are immature. As they age the plasmodium will turn into a mass of gray, dust like spores.

 8. Blue Bead Lily

I was surprised to see uneaten berries on this blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis ) . Deer, chipmunks and many other animals and birds love these berries. Native Americans used the plant medicinally to treat burns and infections, and bears are said to be attracted to its root.

 9. Bailey Brook Upper Falls 2

Before too long you get a glimpse of the upper falls that you’ve been able to hear for a while.

 10.. Bailey Brook Upper Falls

Though there was quite a bit of water flowing, I’d like to see them during spring runoff.

11.  Bailey Brook Mill Foundation

Stephen Osborn built a sawmill on Bailey Brook just above the upper falls sometime around 1815. The mill had reciprocating saws and used a 15 foot diameter overshot water wheel to power them. The stone piers that held the water wheel still stand, and are seen in the above photo.

12. Looking Down on Upper Bailey Brook Falls

This view is looking downstream from above the upper falls.

 13. Cushion Moss

White cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) soaks up water like a sponge and will only grow in soil that has a high moisture content, so I knew my knees would be wet after taking this photo.

 14. Bracket Fungus on Birch

Good examples of timber bracket fungus (Fomes fomentarius) grew on a fallen birch. This is also called hoof fungus and tinder fungus. The 5000 year old “ice man” found frozen in the alps carried 4 pieces of this mushroom to use for starting fires.

 15. Beaver Pond

Now why would a farmer build a stone wall in the middle of a pond? The answer of course is that there wasn’t a pond here when he built it-beavers have enlarged the original mill pond. People who know about such things say that the original mill pond was too small to power the mill year ‘round and probably would have dried up in high summer. This means that the sawmill was most likely seasonal.

 16. Beaver Tree

There was plenty of evidence of beavers, but none recent. It looked like they had moved on.

 17. Indian Cucumber Root

I think, of all the great things that I saw on this short hike, this Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) losing its chlorophyll was my favorite.

I didn’t know this at the time but you can follow a trail from the mill ruins to the site of the house, shed, barn, and stone cattle path. There are stone walls, cellar holes, and old wells to see there.

It’s amazing how quickly nature consumes human places after we turn our backs on them. Life is a hungry thing. ~ Scott Westerfeld

Thanks for coming by.

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