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Posts Tagged ‘Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen’

As the leaves fall there is much revealed in the forest that was hidden just a short time ago, and lichens are a big part of that revelation. Lichens are all around us but they’re one of those things that are so easy to miss unless we happen to be looking for them. Most people seeing this photo would probably say “Oh yes, I see lichens all over the stones in the stone wall.” But what about the tree? That’s a shagbark hickory tree and they have gray, not white bark. The white is a lichen called, appropriately enough, whitewash lichen (Phlyctis argena.) This lichen is usually found on the bark of hardwood trees and is fairly common. It makes the tree look as if it has been painted white, and that’s where its common name comes from. They can be greenish white, silvery, or bright white.

But you wouldn’t have been wrong in pointing out the lichens on the stone wall because it is covered with them, among them rock greenshield lichens (Flavoparmelia baltimorensis.) This lichen always looks like melted candle wax to me. It is very common in this area and is another of those bits of nature that you see so often they no longer register.

Peppered rock shield lichen (Xanthoparmelia conspersa) likes to grow on stone in full sun and I find a lot of them on stone walls like the one pictured in that first photo. They’re a good introduction to lichen study because their brown apothecia, where their spores are produced, are large and easy to see without aid. Lichens are made up of a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae or cyanobacteria. Technically apothecia are “fungal reproductive structures, in which the fungus reproduces itself through the production of spores” This is not the only way that lichens reproduce, but it is common and the apothecia are often beautiful and well worth watching for.

Another lichen common to stone walls is the sulfur dust lichen (Chrysothrix chlorina.) It’s very yellow and hides under overhangs so it doesn’t get rained on. At least I think that’s why I always find it tucked away like this, but this is odd behavior for a lichen because they usually like a lot of rain and sunshine.

Sulfur dust lichens are kind of granular in texture. If you’re lucky you can sometimes find them with fruiting bodies (apothecia) but more often than not I see them when they aren’t producing spores, like this example.

If you spend time walking along old stone walls eventually you’ll see a stone with a splash of bright orange on it and it will probably be the sidewalk firedot lichen (Caloplaca feracissima,) so called because it is a lime lover and grows on concrete sidewalks, which have lime in them. When you see it in a stone wall it’s a fair bet that the stone it grows on has limestone in it too. This stone looks like granite to me but it is almost completely covered by it.

A closer look at this example of the sidewalk firedot lichen showed it was made up of mostly irregularly shaped fruiting bodies, so it was making plenty of spores. It was raining just a short while before I took this photo so it was also still wet. Lichens are at their best when they are wet because that’s when they’ll show their true colors and size, so that’s when serious lichen hunters look for them. A misty or drizzly day is perfect.

I know of an old stump that has more British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) growing on it than I’ve ever seen in one place. Old rotted logs and stumps are the perfect places to find them and their bright red color makes them relatively easy to spot.

Even I can see this shade of red, and I’m colorblind.

If you see a tree with growths like this on it you really should take a closer look, because there are some amazing things going on here.

One of the things going on in the tree in the previous photo is what is happening on this star rosette lichen (Physcia stellaris.) Its apothecia are a good example of how colors can change, even on the same lichen. This lichen has dark brown apothecia that are often pruinose. Pruinose refers to the white, waxy, powdery coating on the apothecia. You’ve no doubt seen examples of this waxy “bloom” on blueberries and plums. I’ve noticed by watching lichens that have pruinose apothecia that the coating can reflect light in different ways, sometimes appearing gray and at other times more blue, and sometimes even black. The apothecia on this lichen show a range of colors, from brown to light blue. The way the sunlight strikes it has a lot to do with its colors, so sometimes you have to visit a lichen more than once to understand it.

Common goldspeck lichens (Candelariella vitellina) are uncommonly beautiful. Look for this bright yellow crustose lichen on stone, in this case slate. It’s a very artistic lichen and I like the patterns that it makes. I see it on gravestones quite often. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that, at high magnification, the body of the common goldspeck lichen looks like it’s made up of tiny golden specks. The book Lichens of North America describes the body of this lichen as “little cushions of flattened granules.” This lichen is sometimes sterile, with no fruiting bodies present, as this one appeared to be. Crustose lichens form crusts that tightly adhere to the substrate that they grow on and usually can’t be removed without damaging it.

The golden moonglow lichens (Dimelaena oreina) that I see are usually about an inch across but they can get much bigger. They grow in full sun on granite and don’t seem to change color when they dry out like many other lichens do. The bigger one in the photo was producing spores and that’s something I don’t see this lichen do very often. If you spend much time in cemeteries you have probably seen this pretty lichen, because it seems to like growing on smooth, polished stone, especially granite. It is a another crustose lichen, so removing it from a gravestone would be a challenge. When lichens grow on glass the acids in them can actually etch the glass and this is a problem in the big European cathedrals, especially. I would think the same would be true for polished stone.

Bright yellow-orange poplar sunburst (Xanthomendoza hasseana) is a beautiful lichen with its large disc shaped, sucker like fruiting bodies (apothecia) which are almost always showing. It’s found on tree bark and provides a lot of color in winter when there are no flowers to see. The example shown here was about as big as a penny, or about .75 inches across.

Another sunburst lichen, the elegant sunburst (Xanthoria elegans) was exposed to ultraviolet radiation, cosmic radiation, and the vacuum of space for one and a half years and when it was brought back to earth it grew on as if nothing had happened. Many believe that lichens are virtually indestructible and are therefore as close to immortal as any earth based life form can be.

Pink earth lichen (Dibaeis baeomyces) closely resembles bubblegum lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum.) One of the differences between the two is the length of the stalks that the plump pink apothecia sit on. They are longer on bubblegum lichens than they are on pink earth lichens. Both are very beautiful things that are rarely seen in this area. The whitish or grayish thallus, or body of the lichen, grows on soil; usually on dry acidic soil near blueberry and sweet fern plants. It can sometimes have a bluish cast as well.

Here’s a closer look at the apothecia on the pink earth lichen. You can also see the stalks that support them.

Scattered rock posy lichens (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) can be quite small and difficult to see without magnification, but it’s worth looking for them because they almost always have their bright orange apothecia showing. They like to grow on stone, especially granite, in full sun. They don’t seem to change their color when they dry out like many other lichens do. I’ve seen this pretty lichen even on mountain tops.

Some lichens are very easy to identify because there aren’t many others that look like them, and the toadskin lichen is one of those. Toadskin lichens show color changes like many other lichens. When wet it is pliable and pea green and when dry it becomes crisp and ash gray. This example hadn’t completely dried out but it was on its way, even though it had rained that morning. Toadskin lichens get their common name from their many “warts.” They attach themselves to stone at a single point that looks like a belly button, and that makes them an umbilicate lichen. This toadskin is very special, because it is the only one I’ve ever seen that wasn’t on a hill or mountain top. It grows on a boulder at the very water’s edge of a lake and I’m very happy that I found it now that hill climbing is getting more difficult. Now at least I’ll still be able to see these beautiful little things without having to struggle to reach them, if it comes to that.

Smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) are one of the most beautiful in my opinion, but their beauty is fleeting and it depends on how the light happens to fall on them. If you find one it might not look like this one at all. The pretty golden brown body (thallus) of the lichen is peppered with blue apothecia which again, are colored by the light. Take a look at the next photo to see what a simple change in light can do.

This is the exact same lichen we saw in the previous photo; all that is different is the light, and that’s why if you’re at all interested in lichens you really should visit them at different times of year, as I said when we looked at the star rosette lichen. The previous photo was taken when sunlight was falling on it, and this shot was taken when the lichen was in shade. Not only light but dryness can affect the color of many lichens, so make a note of where you find them and then go back when the weather has changed. I think you’ll be amazed by how much they can change, and also by how beautiful they can be.

There is a low mist in the woods—it is a good day to study lichens. ~Henry David Thoreau

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Half Moon Pond

I’ve been taking photos with my phone off and on since I got it but not seriously. Once in a while I’d snap a landscape because of the phone camera’s wider, almost panoramic format. Then recently I took a close photo of a mushroom and was surprised that it did so well, so I decided to put it through its paces and really see what it could do. This post is made up entirely of photos that I took with the phone, starting off with a foggy, rainy view of Half-Moon Pond in Hancock. The phone camera did about what I’d expect in such gloomy conditions; the scene looks like it was shot in black and white.

2. Crowded Parchment Fungi

This was taken with the phone camera on another rainy day but the colors of the crowded parchment fungi (Stereum complicatum) still came through. One of my mushroom books describes them as orange fading to cream, or cinnamon buff. These are definitely orange fading to cream. Sometimes crowded parchment fungi grow so close together that their edges fuse together, even though there seems to be more than enough room on the branch for all. This fungus grows on fallen deciduous tree branches; usually oak.

3. Lemon Drops

The phone camera seems to handle color and high contrast quite well, as the yellow lemon drop fungi (Bisporella citrina) on a dark log show.

4. Lemon Drops

Lemon drops are very small but even when cropped the phone photo still holds plenty of detail.  The smaller examples in this shot are about the size of a period made by a pencil on paper. These tiny disc shaped sac fungi actually have a stalk but it’s too small to be seen by me.

5. Milk White Toothed Polypore Crust Fungus

Milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) is a crust fungus with “teeth” that are actually tubes or pores in the spore bearing surface which break apart with age and become tooth-like as the above photo shows. As they age these “teeth” turn brown as they have here. I wasn’t sure if the phone camera could pick them out but it did a fairly good job of it. This crust fungus is common on the undersides of fallen branches and rotting logs.

6. Half Moon Pond 3

I’m not sure what happened to make the hill lit by the rising sun in this photo so red / brown. Since I didn’t look at the photo until a few days after I took it I can’t say if the colors were enhanced by the phone or not, but do know that I’ve seen the early morning sun do some very strange things here at Half-Moon Pond in Hancock.

7. Black Raspberry

The phone camera has a macro function so of course I had to try it, but I ended up not liking it. Either I was doing something wrong or it has trouble focusing in macro mode. When I zoom in on the photo of the bud on this black raspberry cane (Rubus occidentalis) I can see that it isn’t in sharp focus at all. It seems like the camera actually does better with close up shots when it’s in normal shooting mode.

8. Black Locust

It did okay with these black locust thorns (Robinia pseudoacacia) as far as focus goes but there is kind of a garish look to this photo, as if it was done in high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) that wasn’t set quite right.

9. Bitersweet Berries

The phone camera picked up the pucker on these oriental bittersweet berries (Celastrus orbiculatus) with no problems and also did well on the color. Red can be a tough color for some cameras, especially in bright sunlight as these examples were.

10. Hazel Leaves

The strangest thing about witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) to me is how its leaves always seem more colorful after their fall color has left them. They turn yellow in the fall but it isn’t the blazing yellow of beech and maple. It isn’t that it’s a drab color; it’s just not very exciting. Then the leaves go from yellow to brown, but it isn’t just any old brown. It’s a beautiful, vibrant and rich orange-brown that always makes me stop for a closer look, and sometimes a photo or two. I think the phone camera did a good job with the color. Even though I’m colorblind I can still see certain colors, and I can see that this one is very different from the pink brown of an oak leaf, or the red brown of iron oxide on stone. This brown is warm and alive, and on a cold winter day it can warm your perspective.

11. Moss on Quartz

Now that I see these phone photos I wish I had also taken the same photo with a different camera so I could compare the two. I’m fairly certain that either one of my other cameras would have seen the brightness of the quartz in this scene and darkened the shot considerably to compensate. But the cell phone didn’t and I really didn’t have to fiddle around much with this shot. The broom moss (Dicranum scoparium) looks more alive than just about any other photo of moss that I’ve taken, and it’s very beautiful against the milky white of the quartz.

12. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

The spore bearing apothecial disks of the smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) look blue in the right light. They have a waxy coating that reflects light much like the whitish bloom on blueberries and that makes them appear blue. The black border on each disk makes them really stand out from the body of the lichen which can be brown or the grayish white color seen here. They’re very small and I was surprised that the phone camera picked them out so well.

13. Feather

I wanted to see how the phone camera did on stop action shots and what could be a better subject for that than a feather blowing in the wind? The camera failed miserably but I think that’s because I didn’t have the settings adjusted the way they should have been. I really don’t use it enough to know what’s best.

14. Half Moon Pond

This simple shot of water plants on a foggy morning is my favorite shot to come out of the phone because it speaks of serenity, solitude and bliss; all things that I find regularly in these New Hampshire woods.

What I hope this post shows is that you don’t need anything more than a phone camera to record what you see in nature, and I hope it will inspire more people to get out there and give it a go. As I’ve said here before, if you photograph what you love that love will burn brightly in your photos and it will be very apparent to others. I don’t think the brand of camera you use matters as much as how you feel when you use it. If the subject and the photo please you they will please others as well. If you’d like to see a daily blog done solely with a cellphone you should take a peek at Marie’s blog, called I Walk Alone. She’s been writing a blog for several years now and uses nothing more than a phone camera, and her photos are often stunning.

Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself. ~Annie Leibovitz

Thanks for coming by.

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 1. Common Goldspeck Lichen aka  Candelariella vitellitta

If you visit a place or places day after day, year after year, you get to know what grows in those places, and that is how I have come to know so many lichens-because I visit them regularly. At this time of year people often think that once the leaves fall there isn’t anything colorful left to see, but that simply isn’t true.  Lichens like the common goldspeck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) in the above photo are here year round for us to enjoy, and once the leaves fall many lichens become even easier to see. Look for this crustose lichen on stone. Crustose lichens form crusts that tightly adhere to the substrate that they grow on and can’t be removed without damaging it.

2. Bubble Gum Lichen

Bubblegum lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum) gets its name from its bright, bubblegum pink fruiting bodies (apothecia.) I find this crustose lichen growing in large patches on acid, sandy soil in full sun along with blueberries and sweet fern.  It is uncommon and I knew of only two places where it grew. One of those places has been destroyed by logging however, so now there is only one place I know of to find it.

Note: Bob Klips has identified this lichen as Dibaeis baeomyces rather than Icmadophila ericetorum. One of the differences between the two is the length of the stalks that the apothecia sit on. They are longer on Icmadophila ericetorum than they are on Dibaeis baeomyces. Thank you Bob, for the help! If you haven’t visited Bob blog, “Bob’s Brain on Botany,” you should. It’s a real treat and you can find it at bobklips.com

3. Script Lichen

Script lichen looks just like its name suggests but it is a very ancient script, like long forgotten runes. This is another crustose lichen but I find it growing on tree bark rather than stone or soil. The dark “script” characters are its fruiting bodies. There are many script lichen species and each seems to prefer a certain species of tree. I think this example is the common script lichen (Graphis scripta) which prefers smooth barked trees like maple.

4. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

One of my favorite lichens is the poplar sunburst lichen ((Xanthoria hasseana). Its fruiting bodies are disc like structures that remind me of orange octopus suckers. This seems to be a perpetually fruiting lichen which hasn’t stopped since I found it about two years ago. It has grown though, and now a little bigger than a quarter.  I think it is one of our more beautiful lichens found in this area. This is a foliose lichen that grows on tree bark, but I’ve never found it on a poplar. Foliose lichens are lobed and leaf like.

5. Pixie Cup Lichen

Pixie cup lichens (Cladonia pyxidata) look like tiny golf tees or trumpets, and they are also called trumpet lichens. They are common and I almost always find them growing on the sides of rotting tree stumps, often with British soldier and common powder horn lichens (Cladonia coniocraea.) Common powder horn is, curiously, not horn shaped. They are the taller structures in this photo. Pixie cups are squamulose lichens, which means they are scaly, but they are also foliose, or leafy.

6. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

When I first found this beautiful little scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) a few years ago it could have sat on a penny with room to spare, but now it has reached quarter size. The orange pad shaped parts are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia,) and the grayish, brain like part is the body (thallus) of this relatively uncommon foliose lichen. By measuring the rate of growth of lichens scientists can get a fairly accurate estimate of how old the rocks are that the lichens grow on. This is known as lichenometry.

7. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Smokey eye boulder lichen is another favorite of mine. The blue color seen in the above photo is caused by the way light reflects off a waxy coating on the fruiting bodies, which is very similar to the “bloom” found on plums, blueberries, and grapes. In addition to blue it can also appear black or gray depending on which direction the light happens to be coming from.  The greenish-gold background color is the color of the body (thallus) of this crustose lichen.

8. Rock Disk Lichen

Crustose rock disk lichens (Lecidella stigmatea) look a lot like tile lichens (Lecidea tessellate,) but tile lichens have black fruiting bodies that are sunken, or concave, and rock disk lichens have black fruiting bodies that are raised or flat. These lichens are very common on rocks of all kinds and grow in full sun.

9. Granite Firedot Lichen aka Caloplaca arenaria

Granite firedot lichens (Caloplaca arenaria) have a gray body (Thallus) and dark orange fruiting bodies (Apothecia,) but the fruiting bodies are so crowded that it’s often hard to see the gray thallus. This is another crustose lichen that doesn’t mind growing on granite in full sun.

10. Golden Moonglow Lichen

Golden moonglow lichens (Dimelaena oreina) can get quite big but I usually find them at dime to quarter size. They grow in groups in full sun on granite and often grow quite close together. The examples in the above photo were fruiting, and that is something I don’t see them do very often. Their apothecia are the dark, cup shaped bodies in the centers of the examples shown. I’ve never been able to find out why so many lichens seem to release their spores so late in the year.

 11. Toadskin Lichen

I showed toadskin lichen (Lasallia papulosa) in a recent post and quite a few people seemed interested in it, so I thought I’d show it again here and go into a little more detail.  This lichen is very similar to rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata) and if it wasn’t for all of the warts it would look very much like it.  The warts are called pustules and on the back of the lichen there is a corresponding pit for every pustule. When wet the greenish color of the algae that is present comes through on the surface. The black dots are its fruiting bodies. Each lichen is attached to the rock at a single point that looks much like a belly button, so this is an umbilicate lichen.

12. Toadskin Lichen Dry

When wet toadskin lichens are rubbery and pliable and feel much like your ear lobe but when they dry out they are much like a potato chip, and will crack just as easily.  Like many lichens they also change color when they dry out, and turn kind of ashy gray like the example in the above photo. Toadskin lichens are also some of the hardest to find-I’ve only seen them growing on hilltop boulders.

However since most lichens grow on trees, soil, rocks, stumps and logs they’re virtually everywhere you go. Many are quite small though, so you have to walk slowly and look closely to find them. Once you’ve seen a few you’ll start seeing them almost everywhere you go. I know of a few that grow on trees right in the heart of downtown Keene.

The trees are coming into their winter bareness; the only green is the lichen on their branches.
~Verlyn Klinkenborg

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Abandoned Road

Recently I was contacted by Sean Hurley, playwright and frequent contributor to New Hampshire Public Radio. Mr. Hurley had read the blog post that I did last year about an old abandoned road and was interested in also doing a story about it. We talked back and forth for a few days, trying to find a common space where we both would have time to meet on the old road. In the end due to my time constraints and his three day’s hence deadline we never did get to meet face to face, but the telephone solved the problem and he called to interview me late one afternoon. He had a radio voice that was deep and smooth, and his words sounded more like they were being poured than spoken.

2. Beaver Brook Falls

He had explored the old road earlier and had lots of questions so we quickly got down to business. We started by talking about the place in general and what I thought of it. I told him that I thought it was great that it was so close to downtown Keene and so easily accessible. People have a place where they can go to experience nature up close and personal and can also see a great waterfall.

3. Beaver Brook Garnets

Native garnets are good for use in the abrasive industry, but not much else.

We talked about rocks; about what kind there were there. I told him that there was a lot of feldspar in the area and how I used to go there to find garnets colored such a deep blood red that they  looked almost black, and which had formed way back when the molten feldspar slowly cooled. In fact there are so many garnets in places that it looks like they were shot out of a shotgun. And they are just about the size of shotgun shot, too-quite small.

4. No Passing Lines

No Passing Zone

“What about the double yellow lines on the road?” he asked. “The grass growing up through them must mean something.” He was hoping that nature boy would come up with something deep and metaphorical, but all I could think of was how it was sunnier where the lines were, and how nature was doing all it could to fill that sunny spot with leaf surface so not a drop of sunshine was wasted. I told him that nature was slowly healing the scar that man had made. He was less than impressed, I could tell. It was only later that I thought about how ironic it was that the yellow lines meant “no passing” when everything about this place speaks of the passage of time.

5. Beaver Brook  Ice

Beaver Brook in winter

He asked if the road ever changed. Thinking like a photographer I told him about how the light changed from day to day, and even from morning through afternoon. Once again he was looking for something more-something deeper-and it was only later that I thought about how beautiful the place is when the leaves are falling, and how silent it becomes in winter when the brook wears a blanket and the roar of the falls is muffled by gigantic, gleaming columns of ice.

6. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

We talked about the plants that grow there and I told him about trillium and Jack in the pulpit, about dog lichens and Solomon’s seal and red elderberry. He answered yes, he had noticed the poison ivy growing thickly along both sides of the road, and then asked about any rare plants that I’d found there. I told him about rose moss and blue stemmed goldenrod but forgot about several others, like the smoky eye boulder lichens so amazingly blue that it looks like the sky itself has been broken into pieces and sprinkled over the stones.

7. Star Drill Hole Through Feldspar

Hole through feldspar boulder drilled by hand with a star drill sometime in the 1800s.

We talked about history, and I told him how my search for the exact dates of when the old road was closed and when the new highway was built had been frustrated at every turn. Can it really be possible that everyone has forgotten? Aren’t things like that written down somewhere? I told him that I had friends who remember driving on it, and how I could remember traveling on it as a boy with my father.

8. Beaver Brook Bridge 2

As soon as I mentioned my father I found myself wishing he were here, because he’d know all about this old place, and I wondered why he never told me about the waterfall that we passed each time we drove through here. And then I wondered if maybe he had told me and I just didn’t listen. Hearing is different than listening and I was a headstrong youth who often heard but rarely listened.

9. Dad

And that’s how, much like the old road itself with all of its twists and turns, this became a father’s day post-so I could I urge those of you who are lucky enough to still have fathers to listen-really listen-to their stories. I can say with certainty that you won’t regret it if you do, but you might regret it one day if you don’t.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom. ~Umberto Eco

If you’d like to listen to Sean Hurley’s radio piece and read a transcript about the abandoned road just click here.

If you’d like to read the 2 part blog post that started all of this, just click here.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Grape Tendril

I thought I saw a beautiful Hindu dancer in this grape tendril.

2. Feather

I see a lot of feathers in the woods. This white one had landed on a hemlock twig.

 3. Stream Ice

Red wing blackbirds have returned and there are buds on the daffodils but after the third coldest March in 140 years, there is still a lot of ice left to melt in the woods.

4. Ashuelot Ice

Where the river sees sunshine the ice is melting at a faster pace.

5. Orange Crust Fungus aka Stereum complicatum

This orange crust fungus (Stereum complicatum) was so bright on a rainy day that I could see it from quite far away, like a beacon guiding me into the forest.

 6. Slender Rosette Lichen aka Physcia subtilis

Gray rosette lichens are common enough so we often pass them by without a nod but some, like this slender rosette lichen (Physcia subtilis), are worth stopping to admire.

7. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen 3

I don’t know what it is with smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) this year but the wax coatings on their fruiting discs are bluer than I’ve ever seen them. It’s like someone sprinkled candy over the stones.

8. Beard Lichen

Beard lichens (Usnea sp.) always remind me of ancient, sun bleached bones. This one grew on a gray birch limb.

 9. Alder Catkins

Soon these alder (Alnus) catkins will to turn yellow-green and start to release pollen. If you look closely at the catkin on the far right you can see it just beginning to happen.

 10. Stair Step Moss

I’ve been looking for stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens) and I think I might have found it. This moss gets its common name from the way the new branches step up from the backs of the old.

11. Stairstep Moss

Stair step moss is feathery and delicate and quite beautiful.

At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough. ~ Toni Morrison

Thanks for stopping in.

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 1. Beaver Brook

Another warm sunny day last weekend prompted me to follow this old abandoned road up to Beaver Brook falls once more. I thought that, the way things were warming up so fast, it might be my last chance to see them in their frozen state.

 2. Blue Ice Formations 

The blue ice on the ledges reminded me of the aquamarine crystals I used to find while mineral hunting. I can’t say that blue ice is rare but I’ve only seen it in two places. As I learned from reading Sue’s Back Yard Biology blog, blue ice happens when the oxygen-hydrogen bonds in water absorb the red parts of the spectrum and reflect blue light back. Further reading tells me that it is also very dense. These ledges are about 15-20 feet high and the ice formations are bigger than tree trunks.

 3. Ice Formations

Beaver brook also had some interesting ice formations growing in it.

 4. Amber Jelly Fungus

It was warm enough to thaw the amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa). I like holding it up to the light so I can see through it because it looks like stained glass, but I’ve never noticed the yellowish spots in it before. Amber jellies are true “winter fungi” and that is when I usually find them.

 5. Aster Seed Head

There are still plenty of seeds on the New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). In fact I’m still seeing an abundance of seeds, nuts and berries everywhere I go. That strikes me as odd but it could be that I’ve just never noticed how much is left in the spring before.

 6. Giant Boulder

This boulder sits in the woods on the far side of the brook so I can’t get to it to see if it is a true glacial erratic, but it’s easy to see from where I stand that it’s as big as a house.  There is quite a steep hill on that side of the brook and I wonder what stopped its rolling further down the hill and into the brook.

 7. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen 

There are some interesting lichens here, like this smokey eye boulder lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens). One thing that makes it so interesting to me is how the whitish coating on the black fruiting disks (Apothecia) changes color when the light comes from different anglers.  They can appear light gray, dark gray, light blue or dark blue.  They change color because of the whitish waxy coating that reflects ultra violet rays and is very similar to the bloom on plums, blueberries, and black raspberry canes.

 8. Greater Whipwort Liverwort aka Bazzania trilobata

Every time I come here I see something that I’ve never seen here before and this time was no different. In the case of the greater whip wort (Bazzania trilobata) in the above photo I’m sure that I missed it because you have to look closely to see that it is a liverwort and not a moss.  Bazzania trilobata is a leafy liverwort that likes high humidity. It always reminds me of centipedes.

 9. Greater Whipwort Liverwort Closeup aka Bazzania trilobata

I’m not sure why it is called greater whipwort, because each leaf is only about an eighth of an inch wide and the group of plants in the previous photo isn’t 6 inches across. The trilobata part of the scientific name refers to the way that each leaf ends in 3 triangular notches.  The root-like growths are branches.

 10. Beaver Brook Falls 

Ice must be a great insulator because the 40-50 foot tall falls, like the brook itself, was silent. It seems so strange for this place to be silent after hearing the very load roar of the falls in summer.

To get a really good view of the falls you have to climb down quite a steep embankment, which I’ve decided would be foolish to do in winter, so that’s why there are trees in the way in this shot.

 11. Hole in Brook Ice 2

This is part of the reason I don’t climb down the embankment to the falls. If you tipped a Volkswagen Beetle on its side it would fit right into this hole with room to spare.  The depth from the top of the snow layer down to the water surface was about 7 feet, and I stood there thinking that if I accidently stumbled into a hole like this, I would most likely never get out of it. It reminded me once again why you have to have your wits about you when you’re in the woods.

 12. Egg Case Hanging from Moss

This is probably the strangest thing I saw this day. I’m assuming it is a spider’s egg sac, but I’m not sure. It was hanging from some moss by a thread of silk like a tiny Christmas ornament.

 13. Egg Case Hanging from Moss 2

This is a closer look at the whatever-it-is. It had a little stocking cap like growth on top that was opened, but I couldn’t see any of this until I cropped the photo because it was so small. The “orb” itself was no bigger than a sixteenth of an inch across. If you’re reading this and know what it is I’d like to hear from you.

Note: If you’d like to read more about this place just type “Beaver Brook” in the search box in the upper right corner.

The whole secret of the study of nature lies in learning how to use one’s eyes.  ~George Sand

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Long time readers will recognize this place but for you newer readers who are interested, last summer I did what turned out to be a popular two part post on an old abandoned road that we have here in Keene. Since people seemed to enjoy it I thought they might be interested in seeing what the area looks like in winter. If you missed the original posts or if you’d like to see what the area looks like in summer just click here.

1. Old Road Start

This is the starting point. Rather than break a trail through fresh snow I let the cross country skiers and snowshoers get here first. I was able to walk on nice, packed snow with just hiking boots on.

2. Frozen Brook

The road follows Beaver Brook, named for all of the beavers that once lived here. In places the ice had completely covered the brook and in others it was close to doing so.

3. Frost Covered Shrub

Down near the water every twig was covered in hoar frost.

 4. Hoar Frost

Hoar frost grows just about anywhere when there is enough moisture and it is cold enough. Here the delicate, feathery crystals grew at the edge of a puddle. Just a single warm breath is enough to destroy their beauty, so I wrapped all but my eyes up in a scarf before kneeling in the snow to take this photo.

 5. Moss and Snow

The feathery patterns in the hoar frost were repeated in this delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum.) Though this moss has the word delicate in its name in my experience it is quite tough. Snow and ice don’t seem to bother it at all.  It is also one of the prettier mosses, in my opinion.

6. Frozen Waves

In places the brook looked like it had flash frozen, with even its small waves captured in the ice. Once again I saw the feather pattern that I had seen in the hoar frost and delicate fern moss. It’s interesting how nature re uses some of the same patterns again and again.

7. Icicles

There were plenty of groundwater icicles on the ledges, but there was also still enough rock exposed to allow some lichen hunting.

8. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaeralescens) are crustose lichens that grow well here. The gray fruiting pruinose discs surrounded by black borders are very striking. A pruinose surface is one that is covered by white powdery granules and looks as if it has been frosted or dusted with powdered sugar. In this instance the surface reflects light, so these apothecial bodies often appear to be blue instead of gray.

9. Mountain Haircap Moss Capsules

Mosses also grow on these ledges. This example of mountain haircap moss (Polystrichastrum pallidisetum) had open spore capsules (sporophytes). When immature these capsules are covered by a hairy hood that resembles a stocking cap, and that’s how the name haircap moss came about. This moss is very similar to common haircap moss (Polytrichum commune). The chief difference between the two is a disk at the base of the spore capsules. Common haircap moss has this disk and mountain haircap moss does not.

10. Old Road

I took this photo to show how close the brook is to the road. I’ve met people up here who have told me that they remembered seeing the water up over the road in spring. Evidence that the brook is slowly eating away at the road can be seen all along it.

 11. Brook Ice

Ice dams had blocked the brook and created large pools behind them. This one had the flow down to little more than a trickle.

12. Beaver Brook Falls

I’ve spoken with a few people that I’ve met here and I think a lot of them come simply to get a taste of nature. Others though, come to see Beaver Brook Falls, which usually splashes into the pool below with a roar. On this day it was partially frozen and the water was falling behind a curtain of ice, so the roar had been reduced to little more than a splash. This isn’t a great shot of the falls but the steep path down to the brook looked treacherous, so I snapped what photos I could from the road. Even though this area isn’t that far from downtown Keene a twisted ankle out here alone could quickly turn serious, so I decided to play it safe. If you’d like to see and hear the falls in summer, just click the link at the start of this post.

The sole criterion is to walk with the senses, with hands that feel, ears that hear, and eyes that see. ~ Robert Browne

Thanks for coming by.

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