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Posts Tagged ‘Beaver’

1. Ashuelot

We finally had some much needed rain last weekend. The Ashuelot River can use it; I’m guessing that it’s about a foot lower than it usually is at this time of year. The line of grasses above the far embankment shows how high it can get with the spring runoff, which is 10 feet or more above where it is now.

2. Beaver

As I took photos of its far bank a beaver swam down the middle of the river with a bundle of sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) in its mouth. I didn’t know that beavers ate ferns but a little research shows that they do and they must be a delicacy, because this one swam quite a long way to get them. I watched him haul this bundle downriver until he was out of sight. Apparently there aren’t any sensitive ferns in his neighborhood.

3. Crab Spider

A tiny yellow crab spider waited on Queen Anne’s lace for a meal and was very obvious. Crab spiders can change their color to match the color of the flower they’re on and I know they can be white because I’ve seen them in that color. Maybe this one had just left a black eyed Susan and was in the process of becoming white. I’ve read that it can take days for them to change.

4. Great Blue Heron

I was looking at plants along the edge of a pond when I looked up and saw that I was just a few close feet from this great blue heron. I thought he’d fly off before I had a chance for a photo but he just walked slowly away through the pickerel weed. I was very surprised when I saw this photo to see that the pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) was as tall as the heron; the plant is usually barely 2 feet tall.

5. Great Blue Heron

In this photo I see more of what I would expect, which is a three foot bird standing taller than the pickerel weed. Apparently I was very focused on the heron and paid no attention to the plants, because I don’t remember them being taller than the bird. I wasn’t very observant that day, I guess, but it isn’t often I find myself so close to a great blue heron.

6. Great Blue Heron

The heron kept shaking its head and the photo shows why; it was being plagued by flies. You can see one just where the bill meets the head. The photo also shows the bird’s forward pointing eyes. I’ve read that the eyesight of the great blue heron is about three times more detailed than a human. Their night vision is also better; they are able to see more at night than a human can see in daylight.

7. Mushroom

We had to dig down to about three feet at work recently and the soil was dry even at the bottom of the hole. The extreme dryness means that I’m seeing very few mushrooms and slime molds. The mushroom pictured had a half-eaten stem, most likely caused by a squirrel. I wasn’t able to identify it.

8. Slime Mold

Though most slime molds grow in low light and high moisture scrambled egg slime mold (fuligo septica) isn’t a good indicator of moisture or light. I’ve seen it growing in full sunlight in dry conditions. This slime mold is usually bright, egg yolk yellow and I’m not sure if its lighter color was caused by dryness or age.

9. Indian Pipes

I’ve seen a few Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) pushing up through the forest litter but they seem to be quickly going by. Their white stems turn black when damaged but nearly every plant I saw had black on it. Each stem holds a single flower that will turn upward when it sets seed. Fresh stems hold a gel-like sap that is said to have been used by Native Americans to treat eye problems. The common name comes from the plant’s shape, which is said to resemble the pipes that Natives smoked.

10. Red Wing Blackbird

A red winged blackbird flew to the top of a fir tree and told everyone I was coming.

11. Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is flowering now. Its large greenish flower heads can be seen from a good distance but though they are quite big in a mass, each individual flower is tiny.

12. Staghorn Sumac Flower

I think a group of 2 or 3 sumac flowers could hide behind a pea without any jostling. If they’re pollinated each flower will become a bright red, fuzzy berry. Native Americans used these berries to make a lemonade substitute and in some countries they’re ground and used as a lemon flavored spice. Many birds eat them but you can still find them on the plants well into winter.

13. Curly Dock

Curly dock (Rumex crispus) seeds always remind me of tiny seed pearls. The plant is originally from Europe and is also called yellow dock. It’s a relative of rhubarb and its seeds look much like those found on rhubarb, though they’re somewhat smaller. Once the seeds mature they can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, and the leaves are rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, and can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves were used by many as a vegetable during the depression when food was scarce. Curly dock’s common name comes from the wavy edges on the leaves.

14. Curly Dock

Until this year I never noticed the beautiful color variations in curly dock’s seed heads. The above examples were found side by side on the same plant.

15.Timothy Grass

Timothy grass was unintentionally brought to North America by early settlers and was first found in New Hampshire in 1711 by John Hurd. A farmer named Timothy Hanson began to promote cultivation of it as a hay crop about 1720, and the grass has been called Timothy ever since. Timothy-grass (Phleum pratense) flowers from June until September and is noted for its resistance to cold and drought.

16. Timothy Grass

Timothy grass is an excellent hay crop for horses but what I like most about it is its flowers. Each flower head is filled with tiny florets, each with three purple stamens and 2 wispy white stigmas, but though I looked at several examples I couldn’t find a single one showing the purple stamens so I might have been too early. Quite often the heads look completely purple when they bloom. The example shown does show the tiny, feather like female stigmas.

17. Acorns

We have a fine crop of acorns this year, and that means well fed animals.

18. Blueberries

Blueberries are also having a good year in spite of the dryness. The bears will be happy.

19. Blue Bead Lily Berries

The blue of blue bead lily berries (Clintonia borealis) is quite different from the blue of blueberries. The seeds in these berries can take two years to germinate and adult plants can take twelve years to finally show their yellow, lily like blossoms. This plant is also called “cow tongue” because of the shape of its leaves. Deer, chipmunks and many other animals and birds love the berries and I often have trouble finding them because they get eaten so fast. Native Americans used the plant medicinally to treat burns and infections, and bears are said to be attracted to its root.

20. Oak Leaf

The patterns left by leaf miners on this oak leaf reminded me of the artwork found on ancient Greek vases. Oak leaf miners are the larvae of tiny silvery moths which have bronze colored patches on their wings.

Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds. ~Regina Brett

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1. Silver Maple Seeds

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.

2. Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads

I joined a professional ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) fiddlehead forager earlier to see where the ferns grow along the Connecticut River. There were many thousands of ferns there-so many that I don’t think a busload of people could have picked them all. I also saw some of the biggest trees that I’ve ever seen that day. Ostrich fern fiddleheads are considered a great delicacy by many and many restaurants are happy to pay premium prices for them at this time of year. I’ve always heard that ostrich fern is the only one of our native ferns that is safe to eat. They like to grow in shady places where the soil is consistently damp. They really are beautiful things at this stage in life.

3. Lady Fern Fiddleheads

Though I’ve heard that ostrich fern is the only fern safe to eat many people eat lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) fiddleheads as well, and gourmet restaurants in Quebec will pay as much as $10.00 per pound for them. Both ostrich and lady fern fiddleheads are considered toxic when raw and should be boiled for at least 10 minutes, according to one chef. After they are boiled they are sautéed in butter and are said to hold their crispness. They are also said to have the flavor of asparagus, but more intense. Lady fern is the only one I know of with brown / black scales on its stalks.

 4. Cinnamon Fern Fiddleheads

Both cinnamon (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) and interrupted ferns (Osmunda claytoniana) have wooly fiddleheads that taste very bitter and are mildly toxic. Some fern fiddleheads, like those of the sensitive fern, are carcinogenic so you should know your fern fiddleheads well before picking and eating them or you could get very sick. I’ve known the fern in the photo for a few years now and know that it is a cinnamon fern, but if I hadn’t seen its fertile fronds in the past I wouldn’t know for sure. The fertile fronds that will appear a little later on once reminded someone of a stick of cinnamon, and that’s how it comes by its common name.

5. Interrupted Fern

The interrupted fern gets its common name from the way its green infertile leaflets are “interrupted” about half way up the stem by the brown, fertile leaflets. The fertile leaflets are much smaller and their color makes them stand out even at a distance. This fern doesn’t seem to mind dry, sunny spots because that’s usually where I find them.

6. Interrupted Fern Fertile Frond

Though usually brown the fertile leaflets on this interrupted fern were bright green and I wonder if they change color as they age; I’ve never paid close enough attention to know for sure. In any event, the fertile leaflets are covered with tiny, round spore producing sporangia. They will release their spores through tiny openings and then the fertile leaflets will fall off, leaving a piece of naked (interrupted) stem between the upper and lower infertile leaflets.

7. Algae

Last year at about this time I found this greenish stuff seeping out of the rocks on a rail trail and, not knowing what it was, called it rock slime. It looked slimy but if you put your finger in it, it felt like cool water and wasn’t slimy at all. Now this year I seem to be seeing it everywhere, but still seeping out of rocks. Luckily last year our friends Zyriacus, Jerry, Laura, and others identified it as a green algae of the genus Spyrogyra.  Zyriacus said that some 400 species of this genus are known, and they thrive in freshwater. It’s great having knowledgeable friends-just look at the things we learn from each other!

 8. Beaver Tree

Beavers started cutting this tree, but they don’t seem to be in any hurry to see it fall because it has been this way for a while. The only part of the tree’s trunk they eat for food is the inner bark, called the cambium layer, so maybe they were just snacking.

9. Beaver Tree Closeup

A beaver’s teeth really do make it look like someone has been chiseling the tree. If they have a choice they’d rather tackle trees less than six inches in diameter but they can fell trees up to three feet in diameter. The Native American Cherokee tribe has a story that says that the beaver collects the baby teeth of the tribe’s children, and will give a child good luck in return for a song.

10. White Baneberry

White baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) has so much movement and interest in its spring shoots. They remind me of tiny bird claw-like hands and always make me wish that I had brought a pencil and a sketch pad so I could draw them. Later on this plant will produce bright white berries, each with a single black spot, and that is how it got the common name doll’s eyes.

11. Striped Maple Bud Opening

We’re having some unusual spring warmth and it seems to be speeding up events that normally take a few weeks. I took this photo of a striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) bud breaking on April 30th. On May 10th I was taking photos of striped maple flowers. From no leaves to flowering in just 10 days seems quite remarkable to me.

 12. Shagbark Hickory Bud Break

As you walk the trails along the Ashuelot River you might see what look like large pinkish orange flowers on the trees and think gosh, what beautiful things. If you get closer you will see that the colors are on the insides of the bud scales of the shagbark hickory tree, and aren’t flowers at all. And then you might wonder why such beautiful colors would be on the inside of a bud where nobody could ever see them, and as you walk on you might find yourself lost in gratitude, so very thankful that you were able to see such a thing. And later on, you might wonder if this chance meeting might have been an invitation.

 13 Beech Bud

In the spring as the sun gets brighter and the days grow longer light sensitive tree buds can tell when there is enough daylight for the leaves to begin photosynthesizing, so the buds begin to break. Bud break is defined as “when the green tip of a leaf can be seen emerging from the bud” and this can be a very beautiful thing, as we just saw with the shagbark hickory. American beech bud (Fagus grandifolia) break is every bit as beautiful and begins when the normally straight buds start to curl, as in the above photo. The curling is caused by the cells on the sunny side of the bud growing faster than those on the shaded side. This creates a tension that curls the bud and eventually causes the bud scales to pull apart so the leaves can emerge. At the bud’s location on the tree branch an entire year’s new leaves and stems will often grow from a single bud.

 14. Beech Bud Break

Now we know how beech buds open, but who can explain why they’re so beautiful when they do? Maybe it’s just another invitation. These invitations come so unexpectedly. Art, music, the beauty of a leaf or flower; all can invite us to step outside of ourselves; to lose ourselves and walk a higher path, at least for a time. It’s an invitation which if accepted, can be life changing.

One who not merely beholds the outward shows of things, but catches a glimpse of the soul that looks out of them, whose garment and revelation they are–if he be such, I say he will stand for more than a moment, speechless with something akin to that which made the morning stars sing together. ~George MacDonald

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The weather people were a little off with their predictions for last weekend and instead of a nor’easter dumping a foot of heavy, wet snow we had drizzle that lasted for a day and a half. I was happy that it didn’t snow because I’m ready for spring, but the clouds and drizzle didn’t make for very good photographic opportunities.

 1. Ashuelot River on 2-23-13

February has been a moody, cloudy and cool month and it’s another one that I’m not sorry to say goodbye to. I don’t know if I’m imagining it or not, but even the geese seem to prefer sunny days. I hardly ever see them in this part of the Ashuelot River in cloudy weather.

 2. Witch Hazel Buds

The river banks are lined with Native witch hazel (Hammamelis virginiana) in this area. The buds on this shrub might fool you into thinking it was spring by the way the tiny leaves appear, but they have no bud scales so this is how they look all winter long-naked to the weather.

 3. Elm With Beaver Damage

Beavers have been gnawing at this elm tree for months. I can’t imagine why they picked on one of the toughest, stringiest trees unless it is to keep their ever growing teeth from getting too long.

 4. Growth on Maple Trunk

This maple burl was interesting but on the small side-probably about as big as a football.  One day, if it is allowed to grow, it could be worth a lot of money if sold as figured maple lumber.

 5. Soft Crep Mushroom

The trouble with finding mushrooms at this time of year is it’s hard to tell if they are fresh or if they have been there all winter. These looked and felt fresh and I’m fairly certain that they are jelly crep mushrooms (Crepidotus mollis.) They are also known as soft slipper mushrooms. The biggest one was about as big as a quarter.

  6. Polypody Ferns

The fronds of our native evergreen polypody ferns curl sometimes and that makes their spore bearing capsules (Sori) much easier to see. They appear on the undersides of fertile fronds.

7. Spore Sacs aka Sori on Polypody Fern

The spore sacs on the undersides of the common polypody fern frond are naked rather than covered. They look like tiny piles of birdseed. Common polypody ferns are also called rock cap fern because they like to grow on boulders.

 8. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen aka Porpidia albocaerulescens

Smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) also like to grow on boulders and weren’t too far from the polypody ferns. I can’t be positive that this is a smokey eye boulder lichen because the reproductive structures (Apothecia) are so blue. They are usually light to dark gray, so I don’t know if the one pictured is another species or if the color is a trick of the very low light from the drizzly sky.

 9. Hair Cap Moss aka Polytrichum

Hair cap moss (Polytrichum commune ) is always a welcome sight. This moss is very common on nearly every continent and gets its common name from the hairs that cap the hood that protects the spore case. Sometimes it is called goldilocks.

10. Grape Tendril

In the forest everybody is racing to grow taller faster to reach the required amount of sunshine first. Grape vines stake out their territory the previous year by fastening themselves to anything and everything, so when it gets warm enough they have a head start advantage.

You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters. ~Saint Bernard

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A few years ago developers decided that they would build a shopping center in a field that is in a corner of two intersecting highways here in Keene, New Hampshire

 1. Wetland

The trouble was it wasn’t just a field but a wetland as well. After fighting tooth and nail over what impact building in a wetland would have on the town, the developers and the town came to an agreement and the shopping center was built on the drier part of the large parcel.

 2. Evergreen Screen On Berm

 They started by building huge berms and planting them with pine, spruce, fir, cedar and juniper to give the place a woodsy feel and to hide what remained of the wetland. In landscaping terminology a berm is a long mound of soil that resembles a dam or levee but doesn’t hold back any water. They are a good way to reduce noise and they provide a good screen when planted.

 3. Mountain Ash Berries

I’ll have to give the developers credit for not totally ignoring the wildlife in the area because they planted quite a few fruit bearing trees like mountain ash (Sorbus,) the fruits of which are shown here. Many birds feed on these berries.

4. Juniper Berries

Nice ripe juniper berries also await hungry birds.

5. Flowering Crab

Flowering crab apple trees offer even more fruit.

 6. Beaver Lodge

Everything seemed to be going well and all of the local birds and beasts happily co-existed with the shopping center. Until beavers started moving into the water retention pond, that is. Then things started to get interesting.

 7. Beaver Stump

The beavers started cutting down the ornamental trees-in this case a Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryiana.) A tree this size would easily cost over $500.00 to replace and might run close to a thousand after the stump was dug out and a new tree planted. But what should the developers expect after providing a nice man made pond and then an open path from the tree to the pond?  The beavers said “Thank you very much-we’ll take it! You can bet we’ll shop here again!”

 8. Poplar Sunburst Lichen aka Xanthoria hasseana

There are many more ornamental trees in this area and one of them had these beautiful poplar sunburst (Xanthoria hasseana) lichens on it. I hope the beavers will leave this tree alone but I doubt that they will. Hungry beavers have to eat, after all.

 9. Alder Tongue Gall

Alders grow naturally on the banks of the pond so I’m surprised that the beavers aren’t eating them or the many birches and poplars that grow nearby. These female alder cones (strobiles) have alder tongue gall, brought on by a natural pathogen that causes a chemically induced distortion of tissues. These long curled “tongues” are very noticeable.

 10. Cattails

Cattails (Typha) grow in abundance throughout the wetland. Beavers eat the new shoots in the spring and red winged blackbirds will line their nests with the fluffy seeds.

 11. Beaver Pond

For now the pond and wetland are iced over except for the small area shown in the photo, but before long the ice will melt. Beavers are extra hungry in the spring, so the shopping center managers might want to start putting some stout wire fencing on their tree trunks now.

12. American Beaver

This photo of a happy beaver is from Wikipedia. Beavers in this area are very wary of man and I’ve never gotten a good photo of one.

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences. ~Robert Green Ingersoll

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