Moi–Bull in a China Shop

Several inches of fresh snow topped with freezing rain two days ago and the world is transformed. I couldn’t decide whether to wear snowshoes, micro-spikes or neither. I choose micro-spikes, which seemed a good choice at the start, but not long into my 3.5 hour tramp through the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge off Farrington Pond Road, I wished I chosen the snowshoes. At times the snow was soft, but other times it sounded as if glass was breaking as I crashed through it. Broken shards slide across the glazed surface. I was the bull in a china shop.

SB-sweet fern begin blue trailFrom the parking lot, I decided to begin via the blue trail by the kiosk. It doesn’t appear on the trail map, but feels much longer than the green trail–possibly my imagination. Immediately, I was greeted at the door of the shop by sweet fern, aka Comptonia peregrina (remember, it’s actually a shrub with foliage that appear fern-like). The striking color and artistic flow of the winter leaves, plus the hairy texture of the catkins meant I had to stop and touch and admire.

SB-bobcat1And only steps along the trail another great find–bobcat tracks. This china shop immediately appealed to moi.

SB-bob 3My Trackards slid along the glassy surface, so it was difficult to show the print size. But . . . it is what it is. The bobcat crossed the trail a couple of times and even came back out to explore squirrel middens.

SB-rocksWhen I got to a ledgy spot, I decided to explore further–thinking perhaps Mr. Bob might have spent some time here. Not so–in the last two days anyway.

SB-red squirrel printThe best find in this spot–red squirrel prints. A few things to notice–the smaller feet that appear at the bottom of the print are the front feet–often off-kilter. Squirrels are bounders and so as the front feet touch down and lift off the back feet follow and land before the front feet in a parallel presentation. In a way, the entire print looks like two exclamation points.

SB-bear 1As I plodded along, my eyes were ever scanning and . . . I was treated to a surprise. Yes, a beech tree. Yes, it has been infected by the beech scale insect. And yes, a black bear has also paid a visit.

SB-bear 1aOne visit, for sure. More than one? Not so sure. But can’t you envision the bear with its extremities wrapped around this trunk as it climbs. I looked for other bear trees to no avail, but suspect they are there. Docents and trackers–we have a mission.

SB-beech nut1And what might the bear be seeking? Beech nuts. Viable trees. Life is good.

SB-right on red maplesExactly where is the bear tree? Think left on red. When you get to this coppiced red maple tree, rather than turning right as is our driving custom, take a left and you should see it. Do remember that everything stands out better in the winter landscape.

SB-nest 2As delicate as anything in the china shop is the nest created by bald-faced hornets.

SB-nest 3Well, it appears delicate, but the nest has been interwoven with the branches and twigs–making it strong so weather doesn’t destroy it. At the bottom is, or rather was, the entrance hole.

SB-witch hazel flowersWitch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) grows abundantly beside younger beech trees. Though the flowers are now past their peak, I found a couple of dried ribbony petals extending from the cup-shaped bracts. China cups? No, but in the winter setting, the bracts are as beautiful as any flower.

I have to admit that I was a wee bit disconcerted when I reached a point where the blue trail and green trail split and it wasn’t at a point that I remembered. But I lumbered on and was pleasantly surprised when I reached the field I recognized–approaching it from the opposite side than is the norm. And later on, I realized that where the blue trail again joined the green trail was a shortcut. We need to get an accurate map made of this property, but I also need to spend more time familiarizing myself with it. At last I reached Sucker Brook.

SB-lodges and Evans NotchWith the Balds in Evans Notch forming the backdrop, the brook is home to numerous beaver lodges, including these two.

SB-lodge and layersLayers speak of generations and relationships.

SB-two lodges 1Close proximity mimics the mountain backdrop.

Old and new efforts mark return attempts.

SB-cove beaver treesAnd sometimes, I just have to wonder–how does this tree continue to stand?

SB-near outlet leatherleaf fields foreverLeatherleaf fields forever.

SB-leatherleaf budsSpring is in the offing.

SB-wintergreen 2Wintergreen offers its own sign of the season to come.

SB-hemlock stump et alIn the meantime, it’s still winter and this hemlock stump with a display of old hemlock varnish shelf (Ganoderma tsugae) caught my eye. By now, I was on the green trail.

SB-grouse 2But it’s what I saw in the hollow under the stump, where another tree presumably served as a nursery and has since rotted away, that made me think about how this year’s lack of snow has affected wild life. In the center is ruffed grouse scat. Typically, ruffed grouse burrow into snow on a cold winter night. Snow acts as an insulator and hides the bird from predators. I found numerous coyote and bobcat tracks today. It seems that a bird made use of the stump as a hiding spot–though not for long or there would have been much more scat.

On the backside of the stump, more ruffed grouse scat white-washed with uric acid.

SB-hemlock grouse printsApparently it circled the area before flying off.

Moments later I startled a ruffed grouse in a tree while I observed turkey tracks. Though their prints and scat appear to be similar–turkeys are soooo much bigger in all respects.

SB-sweet fern end of green trail

My trek ended in the same manner that it began–with sweet-fern offering a graceful stance despite my bull in a china shop approach.


6 thoughts on “Moi–Bull in a China Shop

  1. The bob cat print: is that about 2″? I found a print here, in the sand, the other day. I couldn’t get a good photo…..bob cat vs house cat….we have both around here. Also, in the photo of the red maple: toward the left, below center, is that fresh ?pecking? Maybe from woodpecker? You’ve really encouraged my wondering!!

    Faith sent from my Ipad


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love your questions, Faith. And that you are not only looking closely at what you see on your own wanders, but you are also looking closely at my photos. Yes, about 2″ and round for the bobcat–think house cat=quarter and bobcat=50 cent piece, though they’re actually a bit bigger than that. And yes, woodpecker holes in the red maples. Good eye! Good day! Keep on wondering.


  2. We’re going on a bear hunt, oh my. Yup, another one, JinMe. Glad you are up for the mission. Just seeing that one tree is worth it. You and I have traveled that trail before, but I took a longer loop that through me off for a bit. Hmmm . . . learn GPS? Moi?


Comments are closed.