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Posts Tagged ‘Super Moon’

1-first-snowOur first snow was just a dusting and didn’t amount to much, but it did grease up the roads and remind people that it was time for snow tires and windshield scrapers. There were a surprising number of car accidents for a seemingly small amount of snow, but the temperature dropped over night and it turned to ice on the roadways. There’s nothing worse to drive on than black ice.

2-frosted-mosses

Where the snow didn’t fall the frost did, and it coated this juniper haircap moss (Polytrichum juniperinum) one cold morning. The mosses and other plants looked like they had been dusted with powdered sugar.

3-ice-needles

Ice needles have started to form in places where there is plenty of groundwater. For them to form the air temperature has to fall below 32 degrees F right at the soil surface while the soil and groundwater remain thawed. Hydrostatic pressure forces the groundwater, sometimes super cooled, out of the soil where it freezes instantly into a “needle.” As more water is forced out of the soil the process is repeated over and over, and each needle grows in length because of more water freezing at its base. I’ve read that each thin needle is hexagonal in shape, and that needles have been found that were 16 inches long. The needles in these photos were 2-4 inches long I’d guess.

4-ice-needles

Ice needles start growing slightly below the soil surface and lift the soil as they lengthen. They also lift pebbles, as this photo shows. Though these examples are just pebbles, frost in the soil can heave quite large stones to the surface. When water in the soil freezes and expands, the ice grows into a kind of lens shape and pushes against everything above it. Large objects like rocks are pushed upward, sometimes as much as a foot. When the ice melts, the mud and sediment collapses in the space under the rock. This leaves the rock sitting at the height the frost has raised it to. Over time the rock eventually reaches the surface. This is also the way that frost breaks water pipes that aren’t buried deep enough, and heaves and breaks apart our roads each winter.

5-broken-stone

Frost can also break stone. This stone cracked somehow and water got into the crack and froze, breaking the top of it right off. This, along with wind and rain, is what turns mountains into sand.

6-monadnock

The side of Mount Monadnock that I see on my drive to and from work has shown a snow capped peak, but this side at Perkin’s Pond in Troy gets more sun and most of the snow had melted by the time I got there. Monadnock is at its most beautiful with a dusting of snow, in my opinion.

7-snow-on-monadnock

There was snow on this side of Monadnock but you had to have a zoom lens to see it. I’ve been up there when the snow was so deep you almost had to swim through it. And that was in late April.

“Monadnock” in Native American Abenaki language means “mountain that stands alone,” and over the years the word has come to describe any isolated mountain. In 1987 Mount Monadnock was designated a national natural landmark. It is the second most climbed mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji in Japan.

8-lake-sedge-aka-carex-lacustris

The wind was blowing this lake sedge (Carex lacustris) around when I took this shot and that accounts for the blur, but I didn’t care about that because it was the color I was taken by. I thought it was very beautiful.

9-winterberries

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a native holly that gets its name from the way that its bright red berries persist throughout most of the winter. They persist because birds don’t eat them right away and the reason they don’t is thought to be because of the levels of toxicity or unpalatable chemicals in the berries declines with time. Winterberry makes an excellent garden shrub, especially near ponds, streams and other wet places. Many birds will eat the berries eventually, including robins, catbirds, mockingbirds, Eastern bluebirds, and cedar waxwings. There are several cultivars available, including dwarf varieties. If you’d like to grow them make sure  that you buy both male and female plants or you won’t see any berries.

10-juniper-berries

I love seeing juniper berries at this time of year. A waxy coating called bloom reflects the light in a way that makes them a bright and beautiful blue. I always wonder how many gin drinkers know that the unique flavor in their drink comes from this plant’s fruits. Though they’re called berries, botanically speaking juniper fruits are actually fleshy seed cones. Unripe green berries are used to flavor gin and the ripe, deep purple-black berries are the only part of a conifer known to be used as a spice, often used on game like venison, moose and bear meat. Birds also love them.

11-sapsucker-holes

The horizontal rows of holes made by the yellow bellied sapsucker cause “phloem” sap to dam up and accumulate in the plant tissue just above the wounds. The bird enlarges the holes over the course of several days and then adds another row above the first, eventually resulting in square or rectangular patterns of many holes. Sapsuckers have a kind of brushy tongue that they lick up the sap with.  The kind of sap that we tap maple trees for is “xylem” sap, which is much thinner and less sweet than phloem sap. Because phloem sap is so much thicker and stickier than the watery xylem sap that we make maple syrup from, scientists can’t figure out how these birds get it to flow so freely. Insects, bats, other birds, and many animals also drink sap from these holes. I usually see sapsucker holes in trees with sweet sap like maples and birches, but these examples were in an eastern hemlock.

12-tree-down

Anyone who spends time in the woods knows that the number of fallen trees is high right now. Trees that  were already weakened by insects or fungi, sandy soils, road salt, or other stresses were hard hit by the ongoing drought and they continue to fall. The question is; for how long? For now, I stay out of the woods on very windy days.

13-full-moon

I went out to get some shots of the super moon on the 13th, but it only looks super when there is something else in the photo like trees, mountains or buildings to relate a sense of scale. In this shot it just looks like any other full moon.

14-maple-dust-lichen-on-stone

I didn’t know that maple dust lichens (Lecanora thysanophora) grew on stone until I saw this one doing just that. There were several of them on the stone and some were quite large. One of the easiest ways to identify this lichen is to look for the white fringe around its perimeter, but up until now I’ve looked for it on tree bark. They are usually the size of a penny but these examples were bigger than quarters, or about an inch in diameter.

15-pinkish-brown-turkey-tails

I haven’t seen many turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) this year and the ones I have seen have been in shades of brown rather than the brilliant blues, purples, yellows and oranges that I know they can wear. Though I can’t see it my color finding software tells me that there is salmon pink in this example, which is a new color for turkey tails in my experience.

16-mushrooms

These mushrooms grew on an old stump and then froze. I don’t know their name but they sure were peachy.

17-striped-wintergreen

Our native striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) has foliage which in winter turns deep purple where the darker areas are on the leaf and stays that way through the winter. It’s hard to tell from a photo and hard to explain why but these plants are so well camouflaged that I have looked right at them many times in the summer and not seen them. They are one of our rarer native wintergreens, and also one of our prettiest.

18-bobcat

A friend sent me a photo of a bobcat that he took with his trail camera recently. I had a bobcat walk right in front of me, maybe 30 feet away last summer. They’re about 3 feet long and weigh about 19 pounds on average. They’re bigger than a housecat but smaller than a Labrador retriever. It’s said that bobcats are doing well because their prey; turkeys, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and rarely deer are also doing well. Rabbits, for instance, are doing very well. I saw a lot of them this summer. I was interested to see that this one had all 4 paws on that fallen branch. I wonder if it did that so it wouldn’t rustle the dry leaves and alert any prey to its presence. I also wonder if Native Americans learned how to walk through a forest so stealthily by watching animals like this one.  It isn’t easy to walk silently through a forest, especially at this time of year.

19-johnny-jup-up

Since I started this post with snow it seems odd to end it with a flower but though there haven’t been fields full of them I’ve seen a surprising number of flowers this month, including goldenrod, yarrow, meadowsweet, false dandelion, and this cheery little Johnny jump up I saw just last week. It’s almost enough to start me thinking we might have another mild winter, but I’ve seen flowers fooled by winter enough times to really believe it.

The snow was too light to stay, the ground too warm to keep it. ~Shannon Hale

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 1. Feather on Fern

I’m forever finding feathers in strange places out there in the woods. In the past I’ve stumbled through the undergrowth to see what I thought was a beautiful solitary flower, only to find that it was instead a colorful feather. This one landed on a fern frond.

2. Poplar Starburst Lichen

I stopped in to visit one of my favorite lichens recently. This poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthoria hasseana) always seems to be producing spores. The little round cups are its fruiting bodies (apothecia) and they have been there since the day I found this lichen-probably 3 years ago now. It’s a beautiful thing.

3. Dry Dragonfly Husk

Dragonflies start life as an egg in the water. Once they hatch they live for a time as a water nymph until climbing out to shed their exoskeleton and begin life as a winged adult. The photo shows the shed dragon-hunter dragonfly nymph exoskeleton (exuvia) that clung to a rope while it was being shed. The rope it clung to was about half to three quarters of an inch in diameter, I’d guess. I can’t explain the blue “eyes” but they could just be a trick of the light. Dragon hunters are large dragonflies that live up to their name by hunting and eating other dragonflies. They also eat butterflies and other large insects.

4. Bee on Knapweed

I went to a place where hundreds of knapweeds grow to see if they were blooming. They were and they were covered with bees of all kinds. I think this must be a honeybee because of its bead like pollen baskets, but I could be wrong because I’m not a bee expert. In any event we can see the color of knapweed pollen.

 5. Grasshopper

I think this metallic green grasshopper thought that he was invisible because he let me take as many photos as I wanted. He was right out in the open so it’s a good thing for him that I wasn’t a hungry bird. I never knew that they were so pretty until I saw them in a photograph, even though I caught many as a boy. Photography has taught me a good lesson in how seeing with different eyes can sometimes change our viewpoint about things we once thought that we knew well.

6. Baby Spiders Hatching

I saw a nest of hundreds of tiny spider hatchlings in a curled leaf one day. I don’t know what variety of spider they will grow up to be, but watching them was fascinating. They seemed very busy but I couldn’t see that they were actually accomplishing anything.

7. Japanese Beetles

One of these Japanese beetles wore a white dot. Such dots are the eggs of a tachinid fly, and once they hatch the larva will burrow into the beetle and eat it. The beetle will of course die and the fly larva will become adult flies and lay eggs on even more Japanese beetles. Nature finding a balance.

8. Black Raspberry

Our blueberries and black raspberries are starting to ripen. Many berry bushes grow in the sunshine along the edges of trails, and their ripening increases the chances of meeting up with a black bear.  Heightened senses are required in the woods at this time of year.

9. Super Moon on 7-12-2

Though it didn’t seem any bigger the “super moon” was certainly colorful on the night of July 12th.

A Native American myth says that the sun and moon are a chieftain and his wife and that the stars are their children. The sun loves to catch and eat his children, so they flee from the sky whenever he appears. The moon plays happily with the stars while the sun is sleeping but each month, she turns her face to one side and darkens it (as the moon wanes) to mourn the children that the sun succeeded in catching.

10. Unknown Fungi

These hook shaped mushrooms seem to be defying all of the mushroom guides that I have. I’ve never seen any others like them and haven’t been able to identify them.

11. Bent Cattail Leaf

In every stand of cattails there seems to be at least one leaf that dares to be different.

 12. Skeletonized Oak Leaf

This skelotinized oak leaf taught me that there is a caterpillar called the oak-ribbed skeletonizer (Bucculatrix albertiella). It lives on the undersides of leaves and eats the soft tissue, leaving just the veins behind. The tiny blue insect in the photo isn’t the culprit but it’s so small that, even by zooming in on the photo, I can’t tell what it is.

 13. Curly Dock Seeds

When the seeds of curly dock are forming they look like tiny tear drop shaped pearls that shine in the sun. They are beautiful little things that always deserve a second look.

14 Tendril

Was does a tendril do when it can’t find anything to curl around? It curls anyway. This might not seem earth shaking unless you know that a tendril curls in response to touch. Through a process called Thigmotropism, the side away from the point of contact grows faster than the side that makes contact, and that is why it coils around any object that it touches. So why and how does it curl when it hasn’t made contact with anything?

15. Timothy Grass Blooming

Timothy grass (Phleum pretense) gets its common name by way of Timothy Hanson, a farmer who began to cultivate it in 1720, a few years after its introduction into colonial America in 1711. It’s an important hay crop and is also quite beautiful when it blossoms.

The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first; be not discouraged – keep on – there are divine things, well envelop’d; I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.  ~Walt Whitman

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New readers of this blog might not know this, but I’m always finding things that never seem to fit into other posts. When I have found enough of these unusual, sometimes bizarre and often beautiful things, I put them all in a post of their own. That’s what this post is.

1. Marasimus Mushrooms

The twig that these mushrooms grew on was less than half the diameter of a pencil, so that should help illustrate just how small these mushrooms were. By the time I found them it hadn’t rained for a few days so they were kind of dry. I think these are one of the Marasimus mushrooms-possibly Marasimus epiphyllus.

2. Bee on Red Clover

I’ve been giving red clover blossoms a closer look this year and have found that they vary greatly in color, sometimes appearing as a washed out pale pink that can look almost white all the way to a deep rose / purple color. I’ve been taking photos of the flower heads and letting my color finding software tell me what it sees. The software tells me that this one with a bee or hoverfly on it is pale violet, thistle, and plum.

3. Red Clover

Compared to the flower head in the previous photo this is very dark. The color finding software sees dark orchid, violet and medium purple. Red clover flower heads are made up of many individual florets, each having 5 petals. One petal is called a banner, 2 petals on either side of the banner are called wings, and 2 more fused petals make up what is called the keel. The keel encloses the reproductive structures.

 4. Bracken Fern

 Bracken ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) climb all over each other, trying to be the one to reach the sun first. These ferns are now almost 4 feet tall. Bracken fern releases chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants, and this gives it the ability to form large colonies with reduced competition from other species.

5. Deer Tracks

A deer (or more than one) went the same way I was going and not too long before, judging by the freshness of its footprints in the damp sand. I was wondering if I scared it off.

6. Goldsmith Beetle aka Cotalpa lanigera

I was walking along the side of a road one day and saw something in the road that didn’t look like it belonged there. It turned out to be this Goldsmith Beetle (Cotalpa lanigera.) This beetle was quite big-at least as long as the diameter of a quarter-and had a metallic shine, as if it had been painted with metallic paint. I wish that I had taken a photo or two of its underside, which is said to shine red-gold like polished copper. I can’t remember ever seeing this one before.

7. Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

I’m so colorblind that if this eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) had of just stayed still I probably never would have seen him. Instead he dashed across the path in front of me and froze. He convinced himself that he was invisible and that gave me time to fumble around with my camera, trying to get a photo. He let me take as many as I wanted but as soon as I took a step he was gone in a gray streak. I chose this shot because you can see his round cottony tail.

 8. Timothy

Timothy is blooming. No that’s not the title of a 60s song about Timothy Leary-it’s about the grass known as Timothy (Phleum pretense.) I’ve been waiting for it to flower because I think it’s the most beautiful of all the grasses. The story of how this grass got its name says that it was unintentionally introduced from Europe in 1711 and in 1720 a farmer named Timothy Hanson began to cultivate it. The grass took on his name and has been called Timothy ever since. It is an excellent hay grass.

 9. English Plantain

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is also blooming. This is another plant with a beautiful flower. This plant is considered a common weed found in lawns and waste places now, but it wasn’t always that way; Anglo-Saxons had nine sacred herbs that they believed protected them from sickness and other evils, and this was one of them. At that time, no other plants had such an elevated status. This plantain was cultivated in Europe and brought here in colonial times to be used medicinally. Native Americans called it “white man’s footprint,” because it grew wherever the colonists went.

10. White Cheese Polypore on Log

White Cheese Polypore (Tyromyces chioneus) grew on the end of a log. The Tyromyces part of the scientific name means “with a cheesy consistency” and chioneus means “snow white,” so both the common and scientific names for this fungus say the same thing. This fungus has a scent that some people say is like cheese cake.

11. Dark Green Bulrush aka Scirpus atrovirens

Many sedges and rushes grow near water and I like to include water in their photo if I can. That isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but this time it worked and I liked the color of the water behind these dark green bulrushes (Scirpus atrovirens.) Bulrushes aren’t true rushes, but are members of the sedge family. In Anglo Saxon times a sedge was any plant that grew near water, but now a sedge is one of nearly 1000 species in the genus Carex.

12. Sunset-2

While waiting for the moon to rise one night I saw this colorful sunset.

13. Full Moon on 6-21-13

The moon I was waiting for was a “super moon,” according to those in the know. This super moon was a moon that was both full and at its closest point to the earth for this year. It will not be as close to the earth again until August of next year. I wanted to get a view of it reflected in water and I drove around to rivers, lakes and ponds but I could never get to the side of the body of water that would have shown its reflection.

I have since found that there is a freeware program called “The Photographers Ephemeris,” which you can get by clicking here. In a nutshell, this program lets you position yourself anywhere on a Google map and see in which direction the sun and moon will rise and set from that position. I could have put myself on the accessible part of the local lake shore and seen beforehand, with a high degree of accuracy, that the moon wouldn’t be reflecting in the lake and saved myself the drive. The program can be used on computers or phones.

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. ~ Henri Poincaré

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