Saturday, August 28, 2010

Walking the Other Way

It was downright freezing in the building this morning. A cup of cocoa and a cup of tea did nothing to warm me up. And yet, visitors were coming in all sweaty - it had to be warmer outside. So, out I went.

Our choices are limited here at work: walk out on the peninsula, or walk around the outlet of the lake. Since I did part of the peninsula yesterday, I opted for the outlet today, doing part of the Sucker Brook Trail and all of the Sage Trail.

Several times this week the lack of blue jays has come up in conversation. They were like fleas on a dog earlier in the summer, but for the last few weeks, no one seems to have seen or heard a one. Until this morning - I heard them around the building and again out on the trails, where I also found this feather. So, they are around...they are just hiding.

These white mushrooms were quite plentiful along the one side of the Sucker Brook Trail. I'm pretty confident they are an amanita, but which one I don't know. Possibly A. bisporigera? Whatever species they are, amanitas are all deadly poisonous.

It turned out to be quite the fungusy day. These little ones were all crowded against a rock in the trail.

How beautiful these fungi were, all covered with large dewdrops, glistening in the sun.

Inchworm, inchworm...

A year and a half ago I was flummoxed by some strange growths on the trunk of this birch tree. The are apparently caused by a fungus, Inontus obliquus. You can read about this tree here.

Today when I walked by the same tree, each of those strange growths on the trunk had sprouted twigs. You can see the dormant twigs on the growths above.

Typically, witch hobble leaves turn a kind of burgandy color at the end of the summer:

But I found these lovely red ones...

... and these orange ones, too.

Hooray! Scat! This was deposited on a small mound in the trail. Probably coyote, since I think it was too large for a fox. (Wait 'til I get a photo of the monsterous bear scat I saw last night!)

These small purple "flowers" caught my eye. Each is less than an inch long, but their purple color stood out. What could it be? I immediately ran through the list of saprophytes I have seen: Indian pipes, beech drops, squawroot, putty root. Hm. I was leaning toward beechdrops, except there were no beeches growing in this part of the woods. Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) are parasites on the roots of beeches. I looked all around - sugar maples and a couple black cherries. No beeches. Could there be old, decaying beech roots underground in this spot?

As a whole, the "plant" isn't very attractive. It looks kind of like a dead twig.

The buds were very pretty, too. Who knew a parasite could be so lovely?

Here's a head-on view. It looks almost like it's been dipped in sugar.

I think this is the only time I've actually seen the fruit of the Indian cucumber root, and there's only one left.

Sure wish I knew what kind of mushroom this is! I was thinking Chicken of the Woods, but I don't think so. Any 'shroom experts out there, feel free to chime in. I had no luck with my mushroom book. It's pretty big - like, the size of my head.

The underside of this mushroom was very toothy, and a perfect candidate for a tripod. I'll come back with one sometime and try to get a better shot of the teeth.

Isn't this great? Here we have a witch hobble leaf in the process of emerging! So much for these being strictly next year's buds.

More turtleheads!

Here we have a Solomon's plume in fruit. It's hanging upside-down with dead leaves because the plant was snapped in two.

These were the only two dragonflies I could photograph. There were plenty of others out, but as they flew by, I could swear I heard them give me raspberries and taunt: nya-nya nya-nya nya nyaa!

I believe these are both yellowlegged meadowhawks, a female and male, respectively.

Turkeys! With the macro lens, this was the best I could do. Aren't the poults just so dinosaurish at this age? It's not only humans that make awkward teens.

A face only a mother could love? Can you imagine this fly 100 times larger than this? The stuff of nightmares! Check out the white claws on the feet, and those spines on the back. >

Morning Walk

Ah, fog. Gotta love it. The world is so lovely in the fog when the sun is starting to shine through.

So off we went, the dog and I, for our morning walk. He decided to head up to the open field where once an apartment building stood. It's now all over-grown, with dirt bike tracks around the edges, the remains of the driveway up the middle, and evidence of many a late night part by the local kids.

This morning, however, it was loaded with dewy spiderwebs.

The sheet web was over a foot across.

Just look at 'em all!

Then there were the goldenrods. August and September constitute goldenrod season. There's something warm about a goldenrod, at least in my mind. Maybe it's an association with Indian Summer.

Every year I tell myself that this will be the year I learn the goldenrods. Somehow, I never quite do it. So, I took some photos this morning and attempted to ID them once I got in to work. Bad idea - I need more info than just the photos can give me.

Could this one be gray goldenrod (S. nemoralis)?

How about late goldenrod here (S. gigantea)?

Perhaps lance-leaved (S. graminifloia)?

Maybe blue-stemmed (S. caesia)?

I need to start carrying my field guide with me again.

As we neared the end of our walk, I started hearing these crashing sounds. Not "crashing" like a tree falling down, but "crashing" like something crashing through the branches. Something was in the top of the Scotch pines - I could just see glimpses of it in the sun - and whatever it was, it was removing the pine cones and dropping them. A couple bounced into the road.

So, of course I tried to get a video of the action - if nothing else, I wanted to record the sound. All those popping sounds you hear are cones dropping from the top of the tree, hitting branches on the way down. If you look very carefully at the top of the center tree (the tallest), you can see some movement.

It took a while, but finally I saw the culprit. Can you see him?

How about now?

I had a good chuckle because earlier this week I wrote an article about red squirrels and this very behavior - harvesting green cones which are buried underground. You can read the article here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another Day on the Trails

It was just too nice to stay indoors, so I headed out on the Rich Lake Trail. Lately I've found something new each time I went, so I was looking forward to expanding my horizons.

First I had to photograph one of the squirrels who make our platform feeders a regular part of their diet. This poor little guy didn't know whether I was trustworthy or not. In the end, I left before he had to make the decision to leap or not.

Down along the first bit of shoreline there was a boulder with its own personal garden growing on its surface.

There didn't seem to be any soil at all in which these plants could've taken root, but a careful look at the base of the plants showed small cracks with just enough soil to make it possible.

All the recent rain was a gift for the mosses. Up until now they've been pretty crunchy, but today they were all lush and oh so green!

Another detour to the shoreline and I found shrubby cinquefoil in bloom. Potentilla. Very popular in gardens.

I should know what this one is, but it escapes me. I was very taken by the red veins, however, which stood out so beautifully against the green, like blood vessels. Try as I might, though, I just couldn't get a clear photo - the breeze was too strong.

We think this is a native phragmites, but we've never had confirmation from the state plant people.

It was all lit up beautifully by the sun, though.

The winterberry fruits have formed. They'll turn bright red and look so beautiful come winter. Several birds will then consume them. How plentiful nature can be.

Mosses weren't the only plants rejoicing in the rain. The wintergreen was looking especially shiny and bright.

What could've made this mark on the cedar tree? It's very distinctive.

It was a log chain. This chain once held a boom that ran across the outlet of Rich Lake to keep the logs from floating downstream until "they" were ready to send them. This is the original chain, although we've losened it to give the tree a little more room to grow.

Okay - what is this?

I love trees on stilts.

Came across this wonderful web, complete with spider sitting in the middle.

Here's the top view of the spid:

...and a view of the underside:

When I blew on the web, the spider scuttled very quickly up to the hemlock branch above, using on the front legs to climb; both back legs just went along for the ride. Hm - do all spiders do this?

View along the shore:
I was very surprised to find turtlehead in bloom! It seems a bit late in the season, but these were in prime condition.

Here's a close-up of the mouth:

Ever wonder what the inside of one of these flowers looks like? Well, I did, so I gently squeezed the edges. To my surprise, there was a "guest" inside!

Here's a good look at the interior structures. It almost looks like a ribcage!

This poor frog was trying its darnedest to squish itself into the rocks and vanish.

The pipewort was also rejoicing in the rain. All summer the flowers have been very small, but suddenly they are huge (by pipewort standards).

I was very surprised to see these: nodding ladies tresses. At least I think that's what they are. These are blooming now near my house, and they are one of the latest bloomers in the ladies tresses clan.

I think what really threw me for a loop was how robust the plants were. The ones by my house are much more delicate.

The leaves were visible, which should be another clue to the species.

Nearby plenty more were getting ready to bloom. I'll go back and check them again later, just to verify the flowers.

Lots and lots of sundew, dewing what they dew so well. Y'know, I don't think I've ever actually seen one with a captured insect. Hm...

There were also lots and lots of small white asters. Everywhere.

Another little frog posed long enough for a photo. This one is a pickerel frog (the other was a green frog).

I'm not sure what this plant is, but I was struck by the wonderful contrast between the green leaves and the red buds.

And I just really liked the colors here, the sun shining through the woods onto the striped maple leaves.

A couple kayakers were out enjoying the day, too.

My attention was first grabbed by the bloodred berry on the left, but then I also saw the spotted berries on the right. They are both Canada mayflowers, only the red one is ripe, while the others aren't quite yet.

I only saw a few dragon- and damselflies today. This one kept flitting about, as dragonflies will do, making it difficult to photograph. I believe it's a green darner, but my dragonfly books are not here at work. Will verify later.

Finally, we have this gone-to-seed flower. It looks like an avens, but I'm not 100% sure. I'm hoping Jackie will know her seedheads as well as her flowers.

I've included the leaves here, too, which also suggest avens.

And that was today's Rich Lake walk. It's now time to go home and feed and walk the dog. It will be a beautiful evening for a good long walk.