Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Cedar Waxwing’

I see this view of Halfmoon Pond in Hancock almost every morning on the way to work. Sometimes there are ducks, geese or great blue herons here so I always at least slow down and look. The view from here reminds me of total wilderness, where all you really have is you. At the very edge of a pond the growth is thick and hard to get through because that’s where all the sunlight is. Back away from where the water meets the land, back where the forest is dark and there is less undergrowth, there is usually a way around. I think, long before Europeans showed up, Native Americans most likely had trails around every pond and lake in this area.

Ponds are great places to see waterfowl of all kinds and I’ve seen plenty of Canada geese this year. This family swam quite close and I think it’s because they’ve been fed by humans sometime in the past.

These goslings on the other hand swam away as fast as they could, with mom and dad just out of view, bobbing their heads up and down frantically. Personally I don’t feed wild animals because I’d rather have them rely on nature. Nature will provide all they need, just as it has since the time began.

But nature doesn’t discriminate and it also provides all that snapping turtles need, and some of what they need are small birds like goslings that swim on the surface of their ponds. If you watch a family of geese over time they might start out with 6 or 7 goslings, but then often end up with only one or two that reach adulthood. Foxes, bobcats, snapping turtles and other animals all thin the flock.

The big turtles have been on the move until recently and I’ve seen quite a few females out looking for suitable places to dig their nests and lay their eggs. Once they do many of the nests are almost immediately dug up and the eggs eaten, but there are thousands of eggs around every pond. Nature allows for the losses, so there will always be turtles and there will always be goslings. I should say that you don’t want to get too close to a snapping turtle because though it doesn’t look it they have long necks that can stretch out quickly. They also have very strong jaws.

Rosy maple moths appear at about this time each year and are easy to identify because there apparently aren’t too many others that look like them. This is a cute little thing with its wooly yellow body and pink and creamy yellow wing stripes. These moths lay their tiny eggs on the undersides of maple leaves and that’s how they come by their common name. Adult moths do not eat but the caterpillars are able to eat a few leaves each. They are called green striped maple worms.

Virgin tiger moths are large, butterfly sized moths and I’ve read that its hindwing color can vary from yellow to scarlet. Unfortunately they can’t be seen in this photo. The larvae feed on various low growing plants. Though there are countless photos of this moth online there is very little information on it. It is certainly one of the prettiest moths I’ve seen.

I saw a wolf spider crawling on one of the buildings where I work. Wolf spiders carry their egg sacs by attaching them to their spinnerets. They have eight eyes and two of them are large, which helps them see their prey. They will sometimes chase prey but usually just wait for it to happen by.

Here is a closer view of the wolf spiders egg sac. According to Wikipedia “the egg sac, a round, silken globe, is attached to the spinnerets at the end of the abdomen, allowing the spider to carry her unborn young with her. The abdomen must be held in a raised position to keep the egg case from dragging on the ground. However, despite this handicap, they are still capable of hunting. Another aspect unique to wolf spiders is their method of care of young. Immediately after the spiderlings emerge from their protective silken case, they clamber up their mother’s legs and crowd onto the dorsal side of her abdomen. The mother carries the spiderlings for several weeks before they are large enough to disperse and fend for themselves. No other spiders are currently known to carry their young on their backs for any period of time.”

A cedar waxwing sat on a lawn and let me walk right up to it and takes as many photos as I wanted before finally hopping away into the undergrowth. This is odd behavior for a bird but it must have either been a juvenile that couldn’t fly yet or maybe an adult that was stunned. I saw a Baltimore oriole fly into a window once and knock itself out. I thought it had died but an hour later it woke up and flew away. I love the beautiful sleek look of cedar waxwings, and the little bandit masks they wear. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology the name waxwing comes from the brilliant red wax drops you can see at the tips of its wing feathers. Cornell also says because they eat so much fruit, cedar waxwings occasionally become intoxicated or even die when they run across overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol, so maybe this one was simply drunk.

Our white pines have been growing pollen cones, which are the tree’s male flowers. Pine trees are wind pollinated and great clouds of smoke like yellow-green pollen can be seen coming from them on windy days. The trees look like they’re on fire and virtually everything gets dusted with pollen; cars, houses, and even entire lakes and ponds. If you live near pine trees it’s impossible not to breathe some of it in, but pine pollen is a strong antioxidant that has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years. Its numerous health benefits were first written of in China nearly 5000 years ago.

I like lake sedge (Carex lacustris) because I like the way it seems to flow like the waves of the pond and lake shores it grows on. It is really the wind and its own weak stems that make it bend so, but I think it makes a pretty display. Lake sedge is native to Canada and the northern U.S. and can at times be found growing in water. Waterfowl and songbirds eat its seeds. Even when it isn’t blowing in the wind it seems to have movement.

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) blooms in rings around the flower stalk, starting at the bottom and working towards the top. Though an invasive from Europe and Asia English plantain prefers growing in soil that has been disturbed, so it isn’t often seen in natural areas where there is little activity. But it is taking hold and it has gone from a plant I rarely saw just a few years ago to one I see just about everywhere now. I see it in lawns more than anywhere else. It is wind pollinated so it hangs its stamens out where the wind can blow the pollen off the anthers. Each stamen is made up of a white bag like anther sitting at the end of a thin filament. If pollinated each flower will bear two tiny seeds in a small seed capsule.

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum,) is as rare as hen’s teeth but I know of one or two. Some confuse it with royal fern but maidenhair fern really bears little resemblance to royal ferns. The name maidenhair comes from the fine, shiny black stalks, which are called stipes. This fern is very rarely seen in a natural setting in this area.

Grasses like this orchard grass have started flowering and I hope everyone will take a little time to give them a look, because they can be very beautiful as well as interesting. They are also one of the easiest plants there are to find. According to the book Grasses: An Identification Guide by Lauren Brown, George Washington loved orchard grass so much so that he wrote “Orchard grass of all others is in my opinion the best mixture with clover; it blooms precisely at the same time, rises quick again after cutting, stands thick, yields well, and both cattle and horses are fond of it green or in hay.”

Orchard grass seed heads are composed of spikelets that bear two to eight flowers which dangle from thin filaments (pedicels) and shimmer in the breeze, which of course blows the pollen to other plants.

Someone carved a heart into a birch tree. I did the same once but mine was carved into a maple and wasn’t as elaborate. Still, I’d guess the reasons for doing the carving were the same.

It might look like the hills were on fire in this shot but this was mist that the warmth of the sun was wringing out of the forest one morning after a rainstorm the night before. Marty Rubin once said “Mist around a mountain: all reality is there.” And for me, on that morning, it was. I thought it made a beautiful scene, and losing myself in it almost made me late for work.

Mists like the one in the previous photo usually mean high humidity in the forest, and if there’s one bit of nature that loves high humidity it’s a slime mold, and I’ve been seeing a few. I think this one is the scrambled egg slime mold (Fuligo septica.) It gets quite big and will grow in full sun on wood mulch or chips, so it is easily seen and is often people’s first introduction to slime molds. It also produces the largest spore-producing structure of any known slime mold. Slime molds move using a process called cytoplasmic streaming, which is basically a contracting of “muscles” by all of the separate cells until they come together in a single mass,  and I was fortunate enough to find this one on the move. Though its movement is imperceptible you can tell it has moved if you watch it over time. In fact it can climb onto stumps, logs, and living plants.

Scrambled egg slime mold is the perfect name for this one. According to mycologist Tom Volk of the University of Wisconsin, a plasmodium is essentially a blob of protoplasm without cell walls and only a cell membrane to keep everything in. It is really nothing but a large amoeba and feeds much the same way, by engulfing its food, which are mostly bacteria, spores of fungi and plants, protozoa, and particles of nonliving organic matter. Slime molds are a very important part of the ecosystem; it isn’t hard to imagine what this world would be like without decomposers like fungi and slime molds doing their work.

Scrambled egg slime in the plasmodium stage will eventually come together into a sponge-like mass called an aethalium, which is pictured forming here. An aethalium  is a “large, plump, pillow-shaped fruiting body.” Over time this slime mold forms a smooth, brittle crust which breaks easily to reveal a black spore mass.

My fungal offering for this post is a tiny bird’s nest fungus, which few people ever get to see. I think they were fluted bird’s nest fungi (Cyathus striatus) and this is a view of them from the side. They grow in a funnel or vase shape and have flutes around the rim of the body, which is hollow like a cup. They are so small not even a pea would fit inside them.

The “bird’s nest” is actually a splash cup called a peridium and when a drop of rain falls into it with enough force the “eggs” are splashed out. These eggs, which really can’t be seen here, are really disc shaped spore cases called peridioles. Once ejected from the splash cup the peridioles degrade over time to release the spores.

Here is a shot of a fluted bird’s nest cup with two disc shaped “eggs” in the bottom that I took earlier in 2015. It’s another of those miracles of nature that tend to boggle the mind.

Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.
~Edna Jaques

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July tomorrow.

 

Read Full Post »

The clouds were very angular on this morning at Half Moon Pond in Hancock, but they weren’t what I was trying to get a photo of. I was interested in the trees along the far shoreline, which are starting to show just the first hint of their fall colors.

Some of our native dogwoods like this silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) have already turned a beautiful deep red-maroon.

Silky dogwood berries go from green to white and then from white to blue, but for a short time they are blue and white like Chinese porcelain. In fact I’ve always wondered if the original idea for blue designs on white porcelain didn’t come from berries just like these. Once they are blue and fully ripe birds eat them up quickly.

Among the birds that love silky dogwood berries is the beautiful, sleek cedar waxwing. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology the name waxwing comes from the brilliant red wax drops you can see on its wing feathers. Cornell also says because they eat so much fruit, cedar waxwings occasionally become intoxicated or even die when they run across overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol. I met a drunken cedar waxwing once so I know that story is true. I got between a bird and its fermented dogwood berries one day and it flew directly at my face at high speed, only pulling up at the last second. I wondered what is with this crazy bird as it flew at me several times, but once I finally realized what was happening and moved away from its berries it left me alone. I can still remember the feel the wind on my face from its drunken aerobatics.

If you’re wondering if I climbed a tree to get above that cedar waxwing in the last photo the answer is no; I just stood on a bridge and looked down on it. There is a huge brush pile against one of the bridge piers and the birds rest here between flights. They fly out quickly and grab insects out of the air in the evening, just before the sun sets. Earlier in the day they feed on silky dogwood and other berries and rest in the bushes.

Cedar waxwings are beautiful birds that don’t seem to mind me being above them, but if I walk down along the riverbank so I can be eye to eye with them it causes quite a ruckus among the flock and they all go and hide in the bushes. Though this photo looks like we were on nearly the same level I was quite far above the bird when I took the photo. Once I saw the photo I thought that the bird’s wing didn’t look quite right. Or maybe it does; I’ve never been much of a bird studier and it was obviously able to fly, but it does seem to be missing the red wax drops.

Rain can be a blessing to an allergy sufferer because it washes all of the sneezy, wheezy pollen out of the air, but on this day it washed it into the river where it could reveal the otherwise invisible currents and eddies.

One of the reasons I like cutting and splitting firewood is because, unless you want to lose a finger or two, you have to be focused on the task at hand and on each piece of wood before you. When you focus so intently on any subject you see many unexpected things, like these robin’s egg blue “insect eggs.” At least I thought they were insect eggs, so I put this piece of wood aside to see what happened when they hatched. They hatched all right, but after turning white and splitting open instead of baby insects out came black spores, and then I knew it was a slime mold. Blue is a rare color among slime molds and I’m happy to have seen it.

This event really was an insect hatching and there were hundreds of baby hickory tussock moth caterpillars (Lophocampa caryae) crawling all over this tree. I’ve never seen as many as there are this year.

Hickory tussock moth caterpillars have a stark beauty but each one should come with a warning label because those long hairs can imbed themselves in your skin and cause all kinds of problems, from rashes to infections.

I’ve done several posts that included hickory tussock moth caterpillars but I just realized that I’ve never seen the moth itself, so I went to Wikipedia and found this photo of a very pretty hickory tussock moth by Mike Boone from bugguide.net.

According to what I’ve read the banded net-winged beetle (Calopteron discrepans) is commonly found resting on leaves in moist woods, and that’s right where I found this one. Its bright Halloween colors warn predators that this insect contains acids and other chemicals that make it at best, distasteful. The adult beetles eat nectar, honeydew, and decaying vegetation.

I find more feathers than you can shake a stick at but this is the first time I’ve ever found one like this one. It was quite big as feathers go and I think it was a great blue heron feather.

But the feather wasn’t from this great blue heron. I walked around a tall clump of Joe Pye weed at a local pond and almost ran nose to beak into this bird. We both looked at each other for a moment and I don’t know which of us was the most startled, but instead of flying away the big bird just calmly walked into the cattails and began hunting for food while I fumbled around for my camera.

Instead of pretending to be a statue the heron bent and jabbed at some unseen morsel several times, but from what I could tell it missed every time because it never swallowed.

Each time after the heron had dipped and missed whatever it was it was trying for it would look back at me and grin in a self-effacing way before wiggling its tail feathers vigorously. I’m not sure what it was trying to tell me. If at first you don’t succeed try, try again?

The berries of the white baneberry plant (Actaea pachypoda) are called doll’s eyes, for obvious reasons. The remains of the flower’s black stigma against the porcelain white fruit is striking, and so are the pink stalks (pedicels) that they’re on. Though Native Americans used its roots medicinally all parts of this plant are extremely toxic. As few as six berries can kill so it’s no surprise that “bane berry” comes from the Old English words bana or bona, which both mean “slayer” or “murderer.”

Another baneberry that can have white berries is red baneberry (Actaea rubra) but I know these plants well and I’m sure they’re white baneberry. It really doesn’t matter though, because both plants are extremely toxic. Finding baneberry in the woods tells the story of rich, well drained loamy soil and a reliable source of moisture, because those are the things that it needs to grow. I often find it at or near the base of embankments that see a lot of runoff.

On their way to becoming brilliant red, the berries of false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) are speckled green and red for a short time. This plant is also called treacle berry because the berries are supposed to taste like treacle or bitter molasses. They are rich in vitamins and have been used to prevent scurvy, but large quantities of uncooked berries are said to act like a laxative to those who aren’t used to eating them. Native Americans inhaled the fumes from the burning roots to treat headaches and body pain. They also used the leaves and roots in medicinal teas.

From a distance I thought a beautiful spotted butterfly had landed on a leaf but as I got closer I saw that the beauty was in the leaf itself.

I did find butterflies though; they were all on the zinnias at the local college but only the painted ladies were willing to pose. I was able to tell the difference between this butterfly and the American painted lady thanks to a link posted by blogging friend Mike Powell. If you love nature but aren’t reading Mike’s blog you’re doing yourself a real disservice. You can find him by clicking on the word here. I’ve also seen several monarch butterflies lately but none would pose for a photo.

How very lucky and grateful I am to be able to see such beauty in this life. I hope all of you will take time to see it too.

Beauty is the moment when time vanishes. Beauty is the space where eternity arises. ~Amit Ray

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

Read Full Post »

1-ice-drop

The first time I did one of these looking back posts was last year and I thought I remembered it being fun, but I found this one a little harder than fun. Picking one photo from 80-100 of them for each of the 12 months isn’t easy, but in the end I decided on the ones that best spoke about the month they were from. Last winter we didn’t have a lot of snow but we always have cold in winter, and that’s why I chose this photo of a tear shaped icicle for the month of January. It is said that January is our coldest month but I’ve seen February earn that title a few times in recent years.

2-maple-dust-lichen-on-beech

Along with cold February can sometimes bring enough snow to cover nearly everything, and this is when tree trunks gain a certain appeal. There are almost always lichens and mosses found on them and last February this maple dust lichen answered a question that I had been asking for some time, which was “Do maple dust lichens only grow on maple trees?” This one growing on a beech tree put the question to rest, and I have since seen them on poplars and young oaks as well. This pretty little lichen averages about an inch in diameter I’d guess, and can be identified by the white fringe around its perimeter. Proof that even when there’s six feet of snow on the ground there is still plenty of beauty to be found.

3-skunk-cabbage

March is when things really begin to stir and one of the first plants I see coming up is skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus.) As this photo shows, we didn’t have much snow last March but even if we had the skunk cabbages would have simply melted their way up through it. Through a process called thermogenesis, skunk cabbages raise their internal temperature so it’s above the surrounding air temperature, and this melts any ice or snow that might hinder its progress. The dark color of their blotchy spathes attracts sunlight and that means they are also heated by the sun. This makes a nice cozy warming room inside the spathe where early insects can come and hang out and warm up. While they’re inside if they happen to bump into the spadix full of flowers and get pollen all over themselves, so much the better.

4-spring-beauties

April is when flowers begin to appear in great numbers. Spring bulbs bloom, trees bloom, and the first of our wildflowers bloom, including wild ginger, purple trillium, trout lily and the beautiful spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) shown in this photo.  I’m always so excited when I see their first blooms I drop down to my knees and start taking photos, forgetting that there are often leafless poison ivy vines crawling under last year’s fallen leaves. But itchy knees are worth it when beautiful things like these can be seen. There are few sights as breathtaking as a woodland floor carpeted by thousands of them and I’m very anxious to see them again.

5-new-beech-leaves

In May the leaf buds on many of our trees start breaking and king among them is the beech, in my opinion. American beech (Fagus grandifolia) bud break begins when the normally straight buds start to curl. 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. Once the downy angel wing like leaves begin to show they unfurl quickly, so you have to watch carefully. I check them each day, and it’s always worth the effort to see something so beautiful. It’s too bad that so many people miss such a captivating event.

6-ladys-slippers

In June there are many beautiful wildflowers blooming and I had a very hard time choosing which one to include here. In the end I chose the pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule,) which is New Hampshire’s state wildflower. The wild part of the word is significant, because our official state flower is the lilac, which isn’t native to New Hampshire. In any case the lady’s slipper is a beautiful native orchid and we’re lucky enough to have several different examples of them. Pink are the most common in this area but I’ve heard that there are yellow ones tucked away here and there and I’m always looking out for them.

7-swamp-milkweed

July is when I finally get to see the swamp milkweeds again. In my opinion they are easily one of our most beautiful wildflowers, and one that I’ve lost myself in more than once. If only there were more of them. I know of only two or three smallish clumps and last year one of those was too sick and insect ridden to even blossom, so they’re something I have to search for here, but their rarity and beauty make them worth every minute of searching.

8-cedar-waxwing

August is when the silky dogwood berries ripen and the cedar waxwings appear out of nowhere to eat them up, and isn’t it amazing how nature will teach you such things if you just pay a little closer attention? I love seeing the beautiful blue and white berries that always remind me of Chinese porcelain, and I also love seeing the sleek beautiful birds that feast on them.

9-moldy-mushroom

The fungi and slime molds didn’t do too well this year because of our drought but I saw a few in September, including this bolete with a mycoparasite called Syzygites megalocarpus growing on its cap. A mycoparasite is essentially a fungus that feeds on other fungi. This one has been found on over 65 species of mushroom. It can appear overnight if heat and humidity levels are just right, and that’s exactly what this one did.

10-reflections

No matter how you slice it October has to be about the fall foliage colors because that’s usually when they’re at their peak in this area and that’s when people from all over the world come to see them. This spot at Howe Reservoir in Dublin is always worth a look because it’s a forest of mostly deciduous trees and it is always colorful in the fall. I love the muted, pastel shades that happened on this cloudy day.

11-frozen-pool

We don’t usually get much snow in November but it does get cold enough for ice to form on puddles and small brooks and streams. I found this frozen pool in the woods on a cool walk one November day and I liked the many colors in and around it. The ice was thin enough so one step would have probably shattered it.

12-split-gill-fungus

There are people who seem to think that once the leaves fall there is nothing left to see outside until spring, but nothing could be further from the truth. I chose this photo of a split gill mushroom (Schizophyllum commune) that I took in December to show that there is still a lot of beauty and interest out there. You just have to look a little more carefully, that’s all.  The “gills” on the split gill fungus are actually folds on its underside that split lengthwise when it dries out. The splits close over the fertile surfaces as the mushroom shrivels in dry weather. When rehydrated by rain the splits reopen, the spore-producing surfaces are exposed to the air, and spores are released.

13-purple-fringed-orchid-from-july

I thought I’d make the photo count in this post an even baker’s dozen so I could squeeze in what I thought was an amazing find in July. I walked down an unknown trail through a swamp and found a two foot tall orchid growing right beside it on a mossy hummock. It’s either a purple fringed orchid (Platanthera psycodes) or a greater purple fringed orchid (Platanthera grandiflora.) I’m not sure which but it is definitely one of the most beautiful wildflowers that I’ve seen. The chance of finding something like this is what keeps me wandering through these woods. There are beautiful things around every turn in the trail.

To be able to look back upon one’s life in satisfaction is to live twice. ~Khalil Gibran

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone has a safe, happy, nature filled New Year!

Read Full Post »

1. Old Tree

I drive to work past this old tree every day but have never noticed it until recently, when a sunbeam decided that I should pay more attention to it. Now I see it every morning and probably will for a long time to come. I had to stop and take its photo so it would forgive me for ignoring it for so long. It was most likely mighty in its day but it’s very old now and its time as a tree might be just about over.

2. Mountain Ash Fruit

American mountain ash (Sorbus americana) is a relatively short lived tree when compared to the tree in the previous photo. They only live for 50-70 years in ideal conditions, but in the wild most die after 30-40 years. Though mountain ash is native here I’ve never seen one in a forest. They like a climate that is cool and humid and that’s why they’re seen more in the northern part of the state up in the White Mountains, often in the 2,300-3,300 foot elevation range. The orange red berries and large white flower heads have made it a favorite among gardeners and it was first cultivated in 1811. As this photo of the fruit shows, the trees are having a good year. I’ve read that the berries are low in fat and very acidic, so they’re one of the last foods that wildlife will choose. Ruffed grouse, robins, thrushes, cedar waxwings, blue jays, squirrels, chipmunks and mice eat them, and moose will eat the leaves, twigs, and bark. Mountain ash bark was once used in a medicine to combat malaria because it resembles the quinine tree. Whether or not it worked I don’t know.

3. Doll's Eyes

The berries of the white baneberry plant (Actaea pachypoda) are called doll’s eyes, for obvious reasons. The remains of the flower’s black stigma against the porcelain white fruit is striking, and so are the pink stalks (pedicels) that they’re on. White baneberry plants are extremely toxic and no part of them should be eaten.

4. Scaly pholiota Mushrooms in Button Stage

At first I thought these were spiny puffballs but after seeing them a week later I knew that I’d have to do some research. They turned out to be what I think are scaly pholiota (Pholiota squarrosa) mushrooms in the immature button stages of growth. It is also called shaggy scaly cap. It’s a parasitic mushroom that can infect and kill live trees but luckily I found them growing on an old beech blowdown.

5. Scaly pholiota Mushrooms

And here are the scaly pholiota mushrooms a week later looking like honey mushrooms, which are edible. But this one is not edible and is considered poisonous, so that’s why I don’t collect and eat wild mushrooms. I know that a lot of people do, but I don’t have a microscope and probably wouldn’t know what I was looking at if I did, so I don’t feel comfortable eating them. I didn’t notice an odor but it’s described as being like garlic, lemon, radish, onion, or skunk, depending on who is doing the sniffing I suppose. They are said to taste like radishes by those unfortunate enough to have tasted them.

6. Gilled Bolete

This is another mushroom I thought looked a bit like a honey mushroom from a distance but I think that it might be a gilled bolete (Phylloporus rhodoxanthus.) These grew in large clusters at the base of an oak and most likely signal its doom. I wish I had gotten a shot of its gills, which are golden yellow when young. The cap, as seen in the above photo, often cracks with age. This mushroom was big, with a cap about 8-9 inches across. It looked like a soufflé that had just come out of the oven.

7. Coral Fungus

Though I’ve been seeing more mushrooms I’m seeing very few coral fungi, and they should be everywhere right now. I found what I think is this clustered coral (Ramaria botrytis) growing under some pines recently.

8. Red and Yellow Bolete

Many mushrooms will stain a certain color when they’re bruised and red boletes with yellow stems stain blue, some almost instantly. You can see blue in the scratches on the cap in this example, but unfortunately that doesn’t help much with identification because there are at least 5 different boletes with red caps and yellow stems that stain blue. A bolete usually (but not always) has pores instead of gills on the underside of the cap. The gilled bolete we saw previously shows how confusing mushroom identification can be.

9. Red and Yellow Bolete

I’m not even going to guess which bolete this and the previous younger example were, but they grew to a large size. That’s a nickel in the center of this one. A nickel is 3/4 (.75) inches in diameter, so I’m guessing that this bolete was about 6-7 inches across. It’s a pretty mushroom, I thought. It reminded me of a freshly baked pie.

10. Shelving Tooth Fungus aka Climacodon septentrionale

Here’s a mushroom that has never appeared on this blog. It’s called the shelving tooth fungus (Climacodon septentrionale.) Though the shelving part of the name is obvious the tooth part wasn’t, so I had to go back and have another look when I was trying to identify it. It’s quite big but from a distance as in this shot the teeth are hardly visible.

11. Shelving Tooth Fungus aka Climacodon septentrionale Close

But up close it’s apparent that this mushroom has many thousands of very tiny teeth, there so it can increase its spore bearing surface. This mushroom is a parasite on live hardwood trees, primarily maples and, according to mycologist Tom Volk, especially sugar maples. It causes heart rot in the tree and weakens it enough so strong winds can snap the trunk. As it turns out I was lucky to find this example growing just above eye level, because they usually grow quite high in the tree.

12. Bolete

This cute little bolete had been partially eaten by slugs but I thought it was still very photogenic. When I used to draw mushrooms its shape was always the picture I had in my mind. We’ve most likely all seen the shape a hundred times; usually colored red with white spots, and sometimes with an elf or fairy sitting on or under the cap. I haven’t been able to identify it but it resembles the devil’s bolete (Boletus satanas,) enough to tell me that I won’t be eating one.

13. Yellow Patches

Yellow patches (Amanita flavoconia) gets its common name from the yellow bits of the universal veil on its orange cap. The universal veil is made of tissue and completely covers the young mushroom. As the mushroom grows it eventually breaks through the membranous veil and pieces of it are left behind on the cap. Rain can wash them off, but since we’ve had so little rain the patches have stayed in place on this example.  This mushroom is in the amanita family and is considered toxic. The amanita family contains some very dangerous mushrooms, so we should never eat any mushroom that we aren’t 100% sure is safe.

14. Purple Cort

Young purple cort mushrooms (Cortinarius iodeoides) are very purple but lighten as they age. Squirrels and chipmunks won’t touch this one, possibly because it’s covered with a very bitter slime. This slime often makes the young examples look wet but this one looked quite dry. Slugs don’t have a problem eating it though, and I often see white trails on the caps where they have eaten through the purple coating to the white flesh below. Purple corts often develop white or yellow streaks as they age and this helps in identifying them.

16. Tussock Moth Caterpillar

I’m not sure what this caterpillar’s name is but I was sure that I wasn’t going to touch it because I’ve heard that sometimes these hairy caterpillars can give people quite a rash. This one was spiky all over.

17. Garter Snake-

I’ve seen just a handful of snakes this year but the other day this garter snake was sitting in the middle of a dirt road and just stayed right there while I took some photos. We’re having a toad population explosion so he will eat well, I’m sure.

18. Cottontail

At a certain time of day, in the early evening, the cottontail rabbits come out to eat and play along the banks of the Ashuelot River. I try not to bother them but I wasn’t thinking about rabbits as I walked noisily into their area and saw this one. He immediately froze as soon as he saw me. Rabbits do that; they freeze for a minute or two and then they run away, but not this one. Once he relaxed he just went back to eating as if I wasn’t even there.

19. Cottontails

And then his friend came hopping out of the bushes to join him. What was odd was how close they let me get to them. I walked slowly toward them as they looked right at me but they didn’t run away. Then when I stopped they just went back to eating as if they had no fear at all. I’ve never seen a rabbit act like that.  Not since a porcupine crossed a field and sat beside me in Walpole last year have I been so close to an animal.

20. Cottontail

This one wanted to make sure that we all knew that he was indeed a cottontail.

21. Cedar Waxwing

Getting caught up in the rabbit patch almost made me forget what I was doing at the river in the first place, which was seeing if the cedar waxwings were there yet. They were, and in great numbers. They come each year at this time when the silky dogwood berries ripen. They love the berries and will do just about anything to get them. One year I found myself between a bird and its silky dogwood bush and it kept flying right at my face; pulling up only at the last minute. It took me a minute to understand what he was trying to tell me but once I turned and saw the silky dogwood berries I knew what he wanted, so I beat it out of there and let him eat in peace. Cedar waxwings are beautiful sleek birds that travel in large flocks, at least at this time of year.

22. Silky Dogwood Berries

Silky dogwood berries (Cornus amomum) go from green to white and then from white to blue, but for a short time they are blue and white like Chinese porcelain. In fact I’ve always wondered if the original idea for blue designs on white porcelain didn’t come from berries just like these. Once they are blue and fully ripe the cedar waxwings eat them up quickly.

How quick and rushing life can sometimes seem, when at the same time it’s so slow and sweet and everlasting. ~Graham Swift

Thanks for coming by.

 

Read Full Post »

Over the course of the almost 5 years that I’ve had this blog I’ve seen many things that have gotten my goat. That’s New England Yankee speak for something that angers you, by the way.  Anyhow, I’ve decided that keeping my mouth shut about these annoyances is accomplishing nothing except allowing them to continue, so I welcome you to the first installment of Things that get my goat. Maybe I’ll hear from others who are also bothered by these things. I can’t be the only one.

1. Gomarlo's Market

At one time there was a small grocery store that stood very close to the Ashuelot River in Swanzey, New Hampshire. You wouldn’t have had to walk too far behind the car in this 1952 photo to have reached the covered bridge that crossed the river, and still crosses it today. Not too long ago, a couple of years I think, I watched this building being torn down and it was then that I heard rumors of a town park being built on the property. I didn’t have a good feeling about that.

2. Terracing

The park, as it stands now, seems to consist of granite block terracing and an expanse of crab grass. It reminds me of an amphitheater, but if you sat on these granite blocks you would look out on more crabgrass, so I’m not sure amphitheater is the right word.

3. Fake Stone Wall

The park is sunken below street level and the retaining wall where it meets the street was once part of the foundation of the store in the first photo. Now concrete blocks that are supposed to look like stone are used as a retaining wall.

4. Fencing

A new fence was installed and it makes sense because there is a 7-8 foot drop from street level down to where the riverbank starts.

5. Cut Embankment

What doesn’t make sense is what was done to the riverbank. All of the shrubs and wildflowers that once grew there have been cut down, and what is left is an ugly scar.

6. Ashuelot Wildflowers

This photo I took last year shows what this section of the river bank once looked like. There were lupines, ox-eye daisy, birds foot trefoil, asters, yarrow, goldenrod, button bush, silky dogwood, smooth and staghorn sumacs, Virginia creeper, and many other plants and shrubs that were important to the birds, waterfowl and other wildlife in the area.

7. Thompson Bridge

One of the things Swanzey is known for its covered bridges. This one was built in 1832 and is called the Thompson Bridge, named after the playwright Denmon Thompson, who lived in town. Of open lattice design, it has been called the most beautiful covered bridge in New England and it draws a lot of tourists to the area. Tourists easily translate to income and the cutting has opened up the view so they can see the bridge better. I understand that; it seems like a valid reason. But what I can’t understand is why all of these plants had to be butchered back to ground level when more selective cutting would have opened up the view and left a riverbank overflowing with blooming shrubs, vines, and wildflowers. Why not have someone who knows what they’re doing come and at the very least give their opinion about what should be done before just hacking away at it?

8. Ashuelot Wildflowers

Because what once looked like this…

9. Butchery

…now looks like this. I doubt very much that tourists are going to be drawn to this. Are there more “improvements” in store, I wonder? I have to say that I hope not. Over there on the upper right is where one of only two examples of chicory plants that I knew of grew. The beautiful blue flowers would have pleased the tourists more than this empty riverbank, I think.

10. Silky Dogwood

At this time of year the beautiful blue berries of silky dogwood hung out over the water.

11. Cedar Waxwing

You might say “big deal, sumacs and silky dogwoods grow everywhere, so who cares if we cut a few of them down?” Well, the cedar waxwing in the above photo probably cares. They rely heavily on silky dogwood berries at this time of year and when I was on the bridge watching one recent evening he and many of his cousins kept flying to where the shrubs used to be, as if they couldn’t figure out why there were no berries there. Who knows how many generations of birds have been taught to forage here?

And that’s saying nothing about the 25 species of ducks and 28 species of birds that feed on buttonbush seeds. Or the robins, bluebirds, crows, mockingbirds and 300 species of songbirds that feed on the sumac berries. Or the raccoons, rabbits, muskrats and squirrels that used the shrubs for cover and food. Or the birds that nest in the thickets the shrubs create. Or the bees, butterflies and other insects that feed on the wildflowers.

As John Muir once said: When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

12. Cedar Waxwing

The saddest and most ironic part of this story is, I think, how just a few hundred yards downriver on the other side of the bridge a 250 year old timber crib dam was torn down in 2010. At the time that section of river bank was also “improved” and good money was paid by taxpayers to plant native shrubs and trees there. Many of the shrubs that were planted are silky dogwoods!

So here we are on one side of the bridge spending tax dollars to plant silky dogwood while on the other side of the bridge, just a couple of hundred yards away, we’re busy paying more tax dollars to cut them all down. I’m sure this must make sense to someone somewhere who probably wouldn’t know a dogwood from a dandelion, but it makes absolutely no sense to me.

13. Uncut Riverbank

Just as ironic is how most of the native wildflowers were cut and good sized patches of purple loosestrife, one of the most invasive plants that we have in this area, were left standing. There are still one or two goldenrods, asters and smartweeds growing here but they won’t be able to compete against the loosestrife. It will eventually win out.  Instead of using it to cut down native plants would the money be better spent trying to eradicate invasive species along the river bank? There are many, including Japanese barberry, burning bush, and oriental bittersweet. They’ve taken over the woodland just downriver from here.

14. Clouded Sulfur Butterfly

Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance. ~Theodore Roosevelt

Thanks for coming by.

 

Read Full Post »

1. Snowy Road

All of the sudden we’re seeing more sunny days but it’s still cold enough to keep the snow from melting very fast. The word is we’re going to see warmer days next week. A few days above freezing will get the sap flowing in these maples.

 2. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

In spite of the snow the poplar sunburst lichens (Xanthoria hasseana) are looking good. This one has grown quite a bit since the last time I visited it and is now about an inch in diameter. The round fruiting cups, called apothecia, are where this lichen’s spores are produced. This lichen never seems to be affected by the weather.

 3. Foliose Lichen Comparison

These photos are of the same lichen but the photo on the left was taken when it was moist from rain and snow and the photo on the right was taken after it had dried out. This is a good example of why serious lichen hunters look for them after it rains. The color change due to weather conditions can be dramatic.

 4. White Lichen Possibly Diploicia canescens

I thought this white shield lichen was very beautiful, but is it really white or has it changed color because it has dried out? That is the dilemma facing people who enjoy finding lichens. The only example of a white shield lichen I can find is called pleated white lichen (Diploicia canescens), which can be white, bluish white, or grayish white. I don’t know whether or not the one in the photo is that lichen.

 5. Black Jelly Fungus

Jelly fungi also go through drastic changes due to weather conditions. On the left side of the photo are black jelly fungi (Exidia glandulosa) when very dry and on the right side are the same fungi after a good rain. The difference is pretty amazing. When dry they look like black crust fungi and when wet like small black pillows. I find them mostly on alder bark.

 6. Carrion Flower Berries aka Smilax herbacea 

The berries on this smooth carrion flower (Smilax herbacea) vine haven’t been touched by either bird or animal.  This plant gets its common name from the way the flowers smell like decaying meat but even so, it is said that song and game birds, along with raccoons and black bears, eat the berries. Native Americans and early colonists ate the roots, spring shoots and berries-all said to be odorless- but after smelling its flowers I think I’d have a hard time eating any part of this plant.

 7. Cedar Waxwings

I drove by a spot that had several crab apple trees planted in a row and each tree was full of cedar waxwings. This soft, not quite sharp photo was the best I could do out of the window. I thought I probably didn’t have much time and sure enough, just after I came to a stop and took a couple of quick shots they all flew off.

 8. West Street Dam

The cedar waxwings reminded me of last year when I visited this waterfall and inadvertently got between a cedar waxwing and the silky dogwood berries he wanted. He kept flying directly at my face, pulling up at only the last minute.  Some readers suggested that he might have gotten drunk on the fermented berries. There is a lot more ice built up on the rocks at the base of the fall now than there was then!

9. Tire Track

This is a tire print from a large front end loader that was used to move snow. I liked the tread pattern.

10. Horse Chestnut Buds

The buds of the horse chestnut are some that can fool you into thinking that they’re swelling from sap flow, but they stay this way all winter. This tree lives in a local park so I don’t know its name but it has beautiful pink flowers each June.

 11. Tulip Tree Bracts

Across from the horse chestnut is a native yellow, or tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). This photo shows what is left of the seed head once most of the seeds have fallen.

 13. Woodpecker Sawdust

Finding sawdust (bill dust?) like this on the snow can only mean one thing-a woodpecker was here.

 13. Woodpecker Hole

This hole is small and round rather than large and rectangular, and the sawdust on the snow is made up of fine particles rather than large, torn shreds, so I know this wasn’t a pileated woodpecker. One of the smaller ones made this hole and even excavated a chamber that leads down into the heart of this dead tree. Woodpeckers mate from March through May, so this might be an important bit of wood work.

 14. Milk White Toothed Polypore aka Irpex lacteus

This milk white, toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) looked fresh in spite of the snow and below zero temperatures. According to Mushroom Expert.com this is a resupinate mushroom. Resupinate means upside down, but in the case of mushrooms, according to The Journal of Wild Mushrooming, it means it is a “fertile surface with its back attached to or intergrown with the substrate.”  In other words it looks like a crust fungus with teeth.

 15. Milk White Toothed Polypore aka Irpex lacteus Closeup

This is a closer view of the teeth on the milk white, toothed polypore.  I think they were frozen solid. The Irpex part of the scientific name means “a large rake with iron teeth” and lacteus means “milky.”

Commonly we stride through the out-of-doors too swiftly to see more than the most obvious and prominent things. For observing nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace. ~Edward Way Teale

Thanks for stopping in.

 

Read Full Post »

I call these posts “moving things” so I don’t have to call them birds, insects, amphibians, and mammals or some other long, boring title. Since plants don’t move from place to place on their own accord “moving things” in this case means something other than plants. Long time readers know I don’t usually try to photograph these critters, but when they pose for me like these did I can’t resist.

1. Viceroy Butterfly

I posted a photo of a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) here not too long ago and mistakenly called it a monarch. Thanks to fellow blogger Mike Powell I learned that monarchs don’t have the black stripe seen here on the lower wing. I’ve seen quite a few viceroys this year but no monarchs.

 2. White Admiral Butterfly aka Limenitis arthemis

A white admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) landed on a maple tree to get some sun.  Every time I tried to get a photo of this one it closed its wings just before I clicked the shutter release. After doing that at least 10 times it finally let me get a shot with its wings open. Trying to guess what a butterfly is going to do next can be frustrating.

 3. Red Spotted Purple Butterfly aka Limenitis arthemis astyanax

This red spotted purple butterfly ( Limenitis arthemis astyanax) landed on the damp sand in front of me as if to show me the differences between it and the white admiral in the previous photo. The white admiral and red spotted purple are essentially different forms of the same butterfly. I think the harsh sunlight made this one’s red spots almost disappear.

 4. Great Blue Heron

The water that this great blue heron was in was so covered with duckweed, pollen and / or algae that I didn’t see how he could see anything in it to catch. For as long as I watched him he didn’t move, so maybe there was a clear spot he was looking through.

 5. Frog on a Rock

This bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) would have made a tasty snack for the heron, but he was in a much cleaner pond sitting on a rock. I just read that bullfrogs will eat just about anything that moves, including other bullfrogs.

 6. Toad

Toads probably have better luck getting away from herons than frogs do. This one was out in the woods, away from any water. I’ve seen a lot of much smaller toads in the forest too. Like the bullfrog in the previous photo, this one was big enough so it would have been a handful if I’d picked it up. I think this is an American toad (Bufo americanus.) We only have one other in New Hampshire-Fowler’s toad.

 7. Painted Turtle

This painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) seemed to be sniffing the air like a raccoon. I’m not sure what he was doing, but I wondered if he could smell me standing on the shore.

 8. Crows

One foggy morning these two crows were perched where a great blue heron usually sits to wait for the sun on foggy mornings. Crows are smart birds and usually fly off if anyone points anything at them but these two sat still as I pointed my lens at them.  It’s hard to tell from the photos, but these were big birds. After reading Jerry’s latest post on his Quiet Solo Pursuits blog, I’m wondering if they weren’t ravens instead of crows. They didn’t make a sound while I was there, so I can’t tell by that. Their beaks are another way to identify them but they don’t show very well in this shot.

 9. Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly

I’ve discovered that fritillary butterflies are very hard to identify, even for experts. This one could be a great spangled fritillary (Speyeria Cybele,) but to be honest I don’t know what it is, other than very beautiful. It was also quite big-bigger than a viceroy.

10. Brown Butterfly

Here is another butterfly I can’t positively identify, but it might be an Appalachian Brown (Lethe appalachia.) It was on a goldenrod.

 11. Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

The milkweed tussock moth caterpillar (Euchaetes egle) gets chemicals from plants like milkweed and dogbane that protect the moth from being eaten by bats. The moth is also called the milkweed tiger moth. There was one black, white and yellow caterpillar on top of the leaf and another mirror image of it on the bottom of the leaf, but I didn’t get a shot of them both.

12. Hoverfly on Evening Primrose

This hoverfly (Toxomerus geminatus) landed on the outer edge of this evening primrose blossom just as I was about to take a shot of it. As I watched, it crawled into the center so I took its picture instead of the blossom.

13. Puffed Up Sparrow

This song sparrow looked like someone had left it on the fluff cycle in a clothes dryer. I wonder if it’s a juvenile or an adult just having a bad day.

 14. Sparrow

This song sparrow caught what I think is a grasshopper. Maybe it was going to feed it to the bird in the previous photo. It flew from tree to tree as if not wanting to show me what it was up to. I felt kind of guilty, realizing that I was keeping it from doing what it wanted to do, so I left it alone after a few quick photos.

15. Cedar Waxwing

I was at the Ashuelot River recently and this cedar waxwing kept flying from rock to rock, acting agitated. Every now and then it would fly toward me and then pull up and turn when just a few feet away. I wondered what it was trying to tell me and then I remembered that these birds eat fruit.  I just happened to be standing between it and a bush full of ripe silky dogwood berries, so I took a few photos and let him be.

Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough.  We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it.  ~St. Francis of Assisi

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »