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Posts Tagged ‘Bailey Brook’

Recently we saw nearly 2 inches of rain fall in one day and the placid stream, which is actually called Bailey Brook, that you see in the above photo flooded to cover all of the land seen in the photo and much more. Now that it had returned to normal I decided to follow it for a time and see what kind of damage the flooding had done.

I saw some delicate ice formations.

And stream ice made up of long crystals.

Large chunks of ice had found a place to rest when the flood receded and there they sat scattered here and there, reminding me of glacial erratics.

In some places I thought I was walking on land until my foot went through the ice and found water. From the ice surface down to the soil surface was about 6-8 inches with nothing but air in between, so the stream rose at least that much in flood.

There is a lot of drainage going on in this area and smaller streams meet the main stream in several places. Generally it’s a happy place and a great place to walk with the stream chuckling and giggling beside you, but it can also be a place of great danger when enough rain falls. I’ve seen it flood and go up and over roads in just a matter of a few hours, so you don’t walk here until you’re sure the stream has calmed down after storms makes it rage. First it happened once in ten years, then a couple of more times over the next five years or so, and now it seems to happen each year.

There are still plenty of beech leaves around and I’m glad of that because they add color to the landscape.

A single beech leaf fell and became frozen in the ice. It was a beautiful thing, and it looked like someone had painted it there. It would have been one of the impressionists like Monet or Renoir who would have painted it, I think. It was more light than leaf.

There was something I wanted to see but I had to climb a small hill to get to it. The hill ends right at the stream so there is no level land to walk on. I got up the hill without too much trouble by hugging trees and pulling myself up, but under those leaves was nothing but slippery, solid ice and the only way back down the hill was sitting down and sliding in what I’d guess was a very undignified manner.

But it was worth it because I got to see the horsetails (Equisetum hyemale) that grow along that section of stream. These are ancient plants that are embedded with silica. Another common name is the scouring rush because they are sometimes used to scour pots when camping, and they are also used for sanding wood in Japan. I like the way they look as if someone had knitted them fancy little socks.

There are lots of river grapes growing here along the stream and they are very easy to identify because of their peeling bark. Exfoliating bark is very common on the older wood of many types of grapevines and happens naturally. Older bark cracks from the growth expansion of the newer bark beneath it and eventually the older, cracked bark peels off in strips.

On warm days in the fall this entire area smells like grape jelly because of all the overripe grapes. Birds and animals get most of them but they missed a few, as this photo of a freeze dried grape shows.

I read an article recently that spoke of how we as a people are losing our connection to nature. As of 2008, according to the United Nations, half of all human beings lived in cities and in the U.K. a typical 8 year old child is better at recognizing video game characters than common wildlife. The article mentioned how, not that long ago, people knew trees as well as they knew themselves because they relied on them for heat, shelter, food, and many other things. The article suggested that getting to know trees would be a simple way for people to reconnect with nature, because there are very few people who don’t see trees every day. I suggest starting with easy ones or ones you already know, like the muscle wood tree in the above photo. It’s easy to see why it’s called muscle wood (Carpinus caroliniana.) See how its “tendons” ripple beneath its “skin”? Muscle wood is also called American hornbeam, and its wood is very dense and hard, but learning to identify trees by their bark isn’t hard, and it’s fun. Books like Bark by Michael Wojtech are a great help. You’d be surprised how quickly you would be able to name all of the trees in your neighborhood after a short time.

Here’s another easy one. Yellow or golden birch (Betula alleghaniensis) has peeling bark like a white birch but its bark is kind of reddish brown, which in the right light looks golden. They like cool, moist soil and are usually found near streams and ponds. They can also stand quite a lot of shade so growing here beside this stream in a cool, shaded forest is just about the perfect place for one.

There are a lot of insects after these trees along the stream, including bark beetles. These beetles excavate channels in the wood and when these channels completely encircle the wood the branch or tree has been girdled. Once girdled moisture and nutrients can no longer move freely through the cambium layer. When moisture and nutrients can’t move from the roots to the crown of the tree and back again the tree will die. I see a lot of fallen white pine (Pinus strobus) limbs with bark beetle damage.

Woodpeckers tell me that this standing dead hemlock tree is also full of insects. In large numbers, apparently.

Bittersweet vines twine around tree trunks; they don’t grow straight like this. There is no exfoliating bark, tendrils, or branching like a grape vine would have, so they can’t be that. Since there are no tendrils it isn’t Virginia creeper either. Those are the “big three” native vines that I would expect to find here but if the examples growing up this pine tree aren’t one of them what are they? Poison ivy, that’s what, and it’s a good idea to leave vines you don’t recognize alone until you’re sure of their identity. Poison ivy isn’t poison and it isn’t an ivy. Way back in the early 1600s Captain John Smith thought it looked like the English ivy he had left behind in England and, since it made him itch, thanks to him it became known as poison ivy. The urushiol the vine contains is considered an allergen and there is nothing poisonous about it, but is sure can make you itch and it will give you a rash that might last for weeks. You can get the rash from any part of the plant, including the naked stems seen here.

We’ve probably all heard the old “Leaves of three, let them be” saying about poison ivy, but the plant has no leaves in winter so “Hairy vine, no friend of mine” has to do when there is snow on the ground.  “Hairy rope, don’t be a dope” might work too. The roots seen in this photo are how the poison ivy vine clings to what it climbs, and there will often be a thick mat of roots all along the stem. But not always; poison ivy can grow as a vine, a shrub, or it can creep along the forest floor. It’s wise, if you plan on spending time in a New England forest, to study the plant and know it well. I usually get a small rash on my knees each spring from kneeling on unseen vines growing under the forest litter when I’m taking photos of early spring wildflowers, and I know it well. I’m lucky enough to be little bothered by it but I’ve known people who were hospitalized because of it.

Everywhere I go I see lichens that look like they’ve been chewed on and I’ve tried to find out why with limited success. Reindeer eat lichens but we don’t have reindeer in these woods, just white tails. I’ve seen squirrels eat mushrooms and since fungi are an important part of a lichen I thought that they might be the culprit, but I’ve never found anything in print about it until researching this post. According to a website called “What Do Squirrels Eat” http://www.whatdosquirrelseat.org squirrels have expanded their palates and will eat just about anything, including what we and our pets eat. It also says that they do indeed eat lichens, so I can finally put the chewed lichen mystery to bed.

But it’s rare day when you hike through a forest and do not come away with a mystery, and this was today’s mystery. From the opposite side this looked like a hard gray lump, smaller than the first joint on my little finger, on a poplar limb. When I looked at the underside I saw what appears in this photo. Though I’ve searched for a few days for an identification so far I have no idea what insect made and hatched from it. I’m guessing that it was some type of gall wasp. It might take a few years but one day I’ll find out more about it. In the end I went home happy, because I saw all kinds of interesting and beautiful things and surprisingly, saw no real flood damage at all.

Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything – even mountains, rivers, plants and trees – should be your teacher. ~Morihei Ueshiba

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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1-the-stream

There is a small stream near my house that I like to visit at least once in winter and I did so recently. Right now it looks lazy and placid, but I’ve seen it rise overnight into a raging, road eating thing that easily covered everything in this photo except the trees. Its name is Bailey Brook, I just found out the night before posting this, but according to the Maine Geological Survey a brook is just a small stream. On the other hand a stream is a small river or brook, so I’m just going to keep calling it a stream.

2-tree-moss

One reason I like to come here is to see my old friends the tree mosses (Climacium dendroides.) They’re beautiful little mosses that I never see anywhere else. They must like very wet soil because they grow right at the edge of the stream and are covered by water when the stream floods. In fact all of the plants you’ll see in this post are under water for at least a day or two each year. It is their shape that gives tree mosses their common name but it is their inner light that draws me back here to see them.

3-christmas-fern

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is probably the most common of our evergreen ferns. When seen at this time of year it is obvious that it has had its branches flattened by the weight of the snow because they splay out all over the ground. When the new fronds, or fiddleheads, appear in spring the previous season’s fronds turn yellow and then finally brown. The dead fronds then form a mat around the living fern that helps prevent soil erosion. This is a fern that doesn’t mind wet soil.

4-christmas-fern

Christmas fern is easy to identify by its leaflets that resemble little Christmas stockings. The narrow fine teeth that line the edges of the leaflets and the short leaf stalks can also be seen in this photo. It is said to be called Christmas fern because early settlers brought the green fronds inside at Christmas.

5-marginal-wood-fern-spore-cases

Marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) is another evergreen fern that also grows well here because it likes damp, shady places. Its spore bearing sori grow on the edges of the leaves and give this fern its common name. The sori are covered by a kidney shaped cap (indusium,) which is smooth. The cap comes off just when the spores are ready to be released, as it has done on at least two of these examples.

6-pine-sap-on-fern

The sticky sap from a white pine (Pinus strobus) had dripped on the upper part of the marginal wood fern’s frond. I decided to show it to you so you could see how white pine sap turns blue when it’s cold.

7-jelly-fungus

An orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) was drying out and had lost its transparency. Jelly fungi can absorb many times their own weight is water but when they begin to dry out they can shrink down to a hard dry chip the size of a toddler’s fingernail.

8-fungal-growth

I saw a fallen branch with some familiar looking growths on it, so I looked a little closer.

9-fungal-growth

The branch growths had me believing they were slime molds for a minute or two. They looked a lot like a slime mold called Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa v. porioides, which looks like tiny geodesic domes and loves to grow on rotting wood. But something wasn’t right; they were a little too big and they weren’t bright white like Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa. Them my right hand found something cold and jelly like on the branch.

10-fungal-growth

I think what my hand found was a milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus.) This is a “winter” fungus that can appear quite late in the year. It is also 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 logs the main body of the fungus is in the wood, slowly decomposing it. This is the first time I’ve seen the “birth” of this fungus.

11-winter-fungus

I saw an awful lot of fungi for a January day. I’m not sure what this one was but it was pleasing to the eye and reminded me of spring, and that was enough.

12-artists-conk

Artist’s conk (Ganoderma applanatum) grew on an old oak and wasn’t hard to identify. This bracket fungus gets its name from its smooth white underside, which is perfect for drawing on.  Any scratch made on the pure white surface becomes brown and will last for many years. I drew a farm scene on one more than 30 years ago and I still have it.

13-artists-conk

Artist’s conks are perennial fungi that get bigger each year. Older examples can be up to two feet across, but this one was closer to half that. I put my Olympus camera on it to give you an idea of how big it was. This fungus causes heart rot in a wide variety of tree species, so this living tree is doomed.

14-horsetails

Horsetails (Equisetum hyemale) rise like spikes from the forest floor. These ancient plants are embedded with silica and are called scouring rushes. They are a great find when you are camping along a stream because you can use them to scour your cooking utensils. Running your finger over a stalk feels much like fine sandpaper.

15-horsetail

In Japan horsetails are boiled and dried and then used to smooth wood, and are said to produce a finish superior to any sandpaper. Horsetails produce spores in their cone shaped tips, but the examples in this spot rarely grow them. I think the stripes on them will always remind me of socks.

16-woodpecker-tree

This tree is full of insects, probably carpenter ants, and the pileated woodpecker that made these holes knew it. Pileated woodpecker holes are almost always rectangular and very big compared to other woodpecker holes. These were quite deep as well.

17-bark-beetle-damage

Pine bark beetles (Ips pini) had a field day here, according to the evidence left behind on several fallen limbs. The look of a jagged saw tooth pattern means unfinished egg chambers.  Pine bark beetles kill limbs and trees by girdling them. This stops the movement of water and nutrients up and down the tree and the infected limbs or the entire tree will die. These beetles are small and range in size from about 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch in length, but they can do a lot of damage when enough of them are in a forest.

18-grape-tendril

Native river grapes (Vitis riparia) grow along the stream banks. These are old vines that grow well into the tree tops and the fermenting fruit makes the forest smell like grape jelly on warm fall days. I like looking at their tendrils. Sometimes I see beautiful Hindu dancers in their twisted shapes; other times animals, sometimes birds. This one took the shape of a heart.

River grapes are also called frost grapes, and their extreme cold tolerance makes their rootstock a favorite choice for many well-known grape varieties. They’ve been known to survive temperatures of -57 degrees F. (-49 C)

19-tangle

Bailey Brook gets its start in the Horatio Colony nature preserve in Keene, which was too far away to hike to on this day, so I stopped at this tangle of trees, brush and vines. Finding ways under, over, through or around snags like these can take a lot out of you. This stream completely dried up in last summer’s drought and I could have walked up its bed all the way to its source, but I didn’t. I’m happy to see it full pf water again.

If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song. ~Carl Perkins

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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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October and November were much drier than normal here but finally, on the day before Thanksgiving, it warmed up a bit and rained over 2 inches. I thought, with all that rain, that waterfalls might be worth looking at, so off I went.

1. Ashuelot Depth Marker

Normally this depth marker in the Ashuelot River can’t be seen. When it is, you know it has been very dry. After the rain on November 27th, it is underwater once again.

 2. Disappearing Waterfall

I decided that my first waterfall would be Beaver Brook Falls, north of Keene. The only way to get to them is by walking, and when you do you have to pass the disappearing waterfall that flows down the hillside on the far side of the brook.  This stream appears only when we’ve had a large amount of rain and if we don’t have more it will disappear in a day or two.

 3. Beaver Brook Falls

The falls were roaring as I expected. The mist was reaching me from across the pool but there was very little ice here. Montucky had a great shot of a frozen waterfall on his Montana Outdoors blog and I’m hoping that this waterfall will be as beautiful if it freezes. It’s hard to imagine such a large volume of water freezing, but it can.

4. Stream Ice Formation

Brickyard Brook, which is south of Keene, had more ice on it and some of the formations, like these long needles that had formed on the shore, were really interesting,  Watching ice grow is more exciting than watching it melt, in my book.

 5. Ice on Stone

The stones in the brook had cooled off enough so Ice crystals were forming around them as well. If the weather stays cold these ice skirts will grow larger and will finally join with those along the shoreline, and that’s all we’ll see of this creek bottom until March.

 6. Brickyard Brook

Brickyard brook was a good place to practice my water blurring skills. Blurring water shows the viewer that the water is moving instead of just sitting still. At least, that’s what I get from statements like “blurred water conveys the impression of motion in a still photograph.”  I’m not sure why anyone would think the water in a stream was sitting still, but that is the argument usually made for blurring water.

There is quite a war of words going on between those who blur water and those who don’t, with those who don’t saying it doesn’t look natural and those who do saying that it is “dreamy” and gives a greater impression of motion. Personally, I think it’s over done, but I have seen some really beautiful blurred water photos.

 7. Brickyard Brook

I think blurred water is best used when the focus is on the water itself as it is in this photo. When water is just one part of a wider landscape photo made up of many different elements, blurred water seems distracting because it forces the viewer to focus on the water instead of the landscape as a whole.

 8. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

After Brickyard brook I headed north to Nelson, New Hampshire to see what the cold had done to Bailey brook falls and yes, it was as cold as it looks-and slippery too. There are two waterfalls along this short stretch of brook and the lower falls shown in this photo were in deep shade. In this instance I had no choice but to blur the water, because no amount of upping the ISO or fiddling with f stops helped. I could only hope for sunshine at the upper falls.

 9. Snow Along Bailey Brook

The folks in Nelson saw dusting of snow the night before but before I left most of it had melted anywhere that the sun had touched it.

10. Icicles

The sun wasn’t melting the ice though.

11. Bailey Brook Upper Falls

There was a little more sunlight at the upper falls, but I decided to blur them anyway because there wasn’t much of anything else of interest in this scene.

12. Brook Ice Formation

This would have been a great place to sit and have some lunch, but I don’t usually carry any. Maybe I should start, and spend a little more time sitting in the woods rather than just hiking through them. I’d see a lot more birds and animals that way.

 13. Ashuelot River

All the added water made for some good waves in the Ashuelot River. I think this photo shows a good example of when not to blur water. Even though the water itself is the focal point in this instance I think it would have ruined the shot.

What do you think about blurred water in photos? Do my thoughts on the subject make sense, or am I all wet?

A cheery relaxation is man’s natural state, just as nature itself is relaxed. A waterfall is concerned only with being itself, not with doing something it considers waterfall-like. ~Vernon Howard

Thanks for coming by.

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