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Posts Tagged ‘Pileated Woodpecker Damage’

Santa brought me some Kahtoola Micro Spikes for Christmas this year, so of course I had to try them. On the day after Christmas I decided that climbing Pitcher Mountain over in Stoddard would be as good a trial as any and as luck would have it the trail was covered in snow and ice. I’ve heard a lot of good things about micro spikes and I have to say that I won’t be without them from now on. I purposely walked over ice with them on and didn’t slip or skid at all.

I found this photo online for those who haven’t seen micro spikes. They really grip.

The message was a good one but was a little late, I thought. Or maybe it was me who saw it too late.

There was quite a pile of wood chips at the base of a dead tree, so I looked up.

Sure enough a pileated woodpecker had been looking for lunch. Pileated woodpeckers are our largest woodpecker and you can tell their holes by the more or less rectangular shape. The unusual thing about this was the perfectly round holes made by a smaller woodpecker inside the pileated woodpecker holes. I’ve never seen this before. The smaller bird was smart to let the bigger bird do most of the work. If there are carpenter ants inside they’re usually in the heartwood of the tree.

Before you know it you’re at the meadow where Scottish Highland cattle sometimes graze. I didn’t see any on this day though.

The trail takes a sharp left at the meadow and gets a little steeper. So far legs, lungs and micro spikes were all working well but the snow had melted on this leg of the trail.

The crunchy, frozen soil told me I was walking on ice needles and there were plenty of them to see. A lot has to happen for these to form but I’ve explained it many times, so I’ll spare you this time. It has to be cold for them to form, with the temperature right at 32 degrees at the soil surface. Air temperature was about 22 degrees F. when I started.

Hoar frost grew around the mouths of chipmunk and snake holes in the soil. The earth’s warm breath meeting the cold air of winter.

Stone walls made me think of the Pitcher family, who settled here in the 1700s and most likely built this wall. They gave their name to this mountain.

One of my favorite places marks the second sharp left turn along the trail. After essentially living in a forest all of my life wide open places like this one seem almost other worldly. It’s just you, the earth and the sky. Minimalism at its finest.

Quite often you’ll find a place where the ground looks like it has heaved up and around stones. The stone sits at the bottom of a hole that is usually shaped exactly like it is, so it also looks like the sun has heated the stone enough for it to melt down into the frozen soil. I doubt that is the answer though because the sun would heat the surrounding stones as well, but they haven’t melted into the soil. I think the ground must have heaved up and lifted all the soil and smaller stones that surrounded the bigger one. I saw that this had happened in several places along the trail.

The inner bark of staghorn sumac is sometimes brightly colored like the thin strip at the top of this piece, which my color finding software tells me is coral and salmon pink along with a little orange. I saw that colorful strip and peeled the section of bark it was on. I was surprised to see that the inner bark still attached to the wood was Indian red, dark salmon pink, and a lot of sienna. Why this bark colors like this when the tree dies, I don’t know.

When bark is removed from a tree, as long as the tree isn’t girdled it will live and try to heal itself, but I’ve been watching this young staghorn sumac for a few years and it hasn’t healed at all. I think that’s because deer are using it to rub their antlers on, because the wound on the tree is always fresh. Male white tail deer, called bucks, rub their antlers on trees for different reasons, but it seems fitting that they would choose a staghorn sumac. Staghorn sumacs get that name because of the hairs all along their stems that resemble the velvet on a stag’s antlers. Maybe this deer thought he was fencing with another deer.

You can get a glimpse of the fire tower through the trees in some spots. The sunshine was glaring off the windows on this day.

The old ranger cabin is having a relatively easy winter so far but I’m sure it has seen winters up here when the snow almost buried it. The concrete piers and blocks it rests on have all shifted and I wonder how much longer it will be able to resist the pull of gravity. I wouldn’t be surprised to climb up here one day and find that it had tumbled down the mountainside.

The fire tower must be manned at some point during the year but I’ve only seen people in it once out of all the times I’ve been up here. There were a lot of people up here that day and they all wanted to get into the tower, so I passed on it.

It can be very windy up here so the tower is tied down to the bedrock by steel cables. The tie down shown was used for the original tower, which burned in 1940 in one of the worst forest fires this state has ever seen. 27,000 acres burned, including all the trees on this summit.

The views weren’t too bad but it was windy and that made it feel colder so I didn’t stay long.

I liked this view because you could see how snowy the distant hills were.

There was ice on the summit but I didn’t worry about slipping with the micros spikes on. They even seem to make walking on uneven stones easier.

A close look at the bedrock on the summit shows that it is almost entirely covered by lichens.

One of my favorite lichens that grow here is the common goldspeck lichen (Candelariella vitellina.) This pretty lichen contains a yellow pigment called calysin and it was once used to dye wool yellow in Sweden. How they ever got it off the stones, I don’t know.

Perhaps there’s no better act of simplification than climbing a mountain. For an afternoon, a day, or a week, it’s a way of reducing a complicated life into a simple goal. All you have to do is take one step at a time, place one foot in front of the other, and refuse to turn back until you’ve given everything you have. ~Ken Ilgunas

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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 1. High Blue Sign

Last week we had one sunny afternoon when the temperature climbed to almost freezing. A walk at lunchtime convinced me that I needed to take some time to rid myself of the cabin fever I could feel coming on, so off I went to Walpole to climb the High Blue Trail in Warner Forest.

2. High Blue Trail

I told myself after I climbed Mount Caesar in Swanzey last winter that I’d never climb in winter again but, even though the trail leads uphill it is an easy, gentle climb and there are plenty of interesting things to see on the way. Many feet had passed this way before mine so the trail was well packed but not icy.

3. Hay Field

There are some large hayfields along the way that make great wintering places for white tailed deer. There is strong sunshine, plenty of browse, and plenty of forest to hide in.

It’s hard to imagine it now but 100 years ago most of the hillsides in this region would have been cleared of trees, and would have looked just like this hay field. Farming the thin, rocky soil was a hard way to make a living though, so in the mid-1800s when textile and furniture mills started offering better pay for easier work, many farms were abandoned and reverted back to forest.  Now New Hampshire is the second most forested state in the nation with 4.8 million acres-nearly 85 % of the total acreage forested. Only the state of Maine has more trees. This is why, for those of us who live here, a pasture like the one in the photo is a rare and welcome sight.

4. Deer Browse

Deer put on as much as 30 pounds of fat in the fall and though they browse on twigs like that in the photo, winter food is usually not very nutritious and they burn the extra fat. If everything goes according to plan they will be much thinner but still healthy in spring.

5. Deer Print

Deer prints were everywhere.

6. High Blue Game Trail

This is a game trail. Not a single print in the photo is human, so a lot of deer and other animals follow it. Trails like this crisscross the woods in every direction.

 7. Pileated Woodpecker Stump

I saw a stump that got into a fight with a pileated woodpecker and lost. This happened before the latest snowfall, otherwise there would be shredded tree all over the top of the snow.

8. Smoky polypore aka Bjerkandera adusta or White Rot Fungus

These bracket fungi were very dark and I suspected that they weren’t turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). After looking through my mushroom books I think they might be smoky polypores (Bjerkandera adusta). I didn’t want to kneel in the snow so I broke one of my own rules and didn’t look at the undersides.  The adust part of the scientific name means “scorched” or “appearing burned” and a peek at the burnt looking, dark gray, pore bearing surface would have helped confirm my suspicions.

9. Turkey Tails

There was no doubt that these were turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). The good thing about looking for the identity of things in books is, you only have to do it once or twice for each new thing you find. After a while as you learn what things are, the books become less necessary.

 10. Stone Foundation Ruins

I always try to visit this stonework when I come here. I used to build dry stone walls and it’s always fun to try to understand what the builder might have been thinking as he chose the stones. Flat stones with at least one square corner don’t just roll out of the forest and stop at your feet. I’m sure many of these were plowed up in the fields that were here.

 11. View From High Blue

The view from the granite ledge overlook is always very blue just as the name implies, but it can also be very hazy as it was this day. I could just make out the ski trails on Stratton Mountain, off across the Connecticut River valley in Vermont. In winter the wind out of the North West makes you pay for this view, so I didn’t stay long.

12. High Blue Sign

I always take a shot of this sign, just for the record.

 13. Rock Tripe

There are places in these woods where large outcrops of granite are covered with rock tripe lichens (Umbilicaria mammulata). The Umbilicaria part of the scientific name comes from the Latin umbilicus, meaning navel. This is where another common name, navel lichen, comes from and points to how these lichens attach themselves to stone with a single attachment point that looks like a navel.  The puckered area in the center of the lichen in the photo shows its attachment point. These lichens can grow as big as lettuce leaves and Native Americans taught early settlers how to prepare and eat them to keep from starving. George Washington’s troops are said to have eaten rock tripe while trying to survive the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1777.

14. Barbed Wire

I read a book recently, written by a man in Massachusetts who said he took great delight in running through the woods without following any trails. I wouldn’t advise doing that here. Since these woods used to be pasture land there are still miles of barbed wire running through them and it’s often hard to see.

15. Monadnock From High Blue Trail

As you come back down the trail and re-enter the hayfield there is a good view of Mount Monadnock directly ahead of you. This view is almost completely covered by foliage in the summer so it’s another thing that makes coming up here in winter worthwhile.

He who would study nature in its wildness and variety, must plunge into the forest, must explore the glen, must stem the torrent, and dare the precipice. ~ Washington Irving

Thanks for coming by.

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