Perley Pond Preserve Presents

I love to learn and today’s presence offered such as I explored Loon Echo Land Trust’s Perley Pond/Northwest River Preserve in Sebago. I’ll be leading a hike there this Saturday, so if you are so inclined, I hope you’ll come along. But if you can’t, then please read on. (Note: Jon Evans, Stewardship Manager for LELT will be with me on Saturday, and he’ll have so much more to offer about the lay of the land, which was acquired by the trust in 2014. Today marked my first visit to this property.)

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There are three entry points along Folly Road and I began my reconnaissance mission at the first, where I didn’t get far due to a stream not quite frozen, but still found plenty to examine.

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Evening Primrose stood at alert in the field just off the road. Tall in stature, its distinctive seed pods peeled back in four parts and small seeds looked like fresh ground pepper on the snow.

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Black-eyed Susans also decorated this space, some leaning over to share their offerings. The hairy bracts and gumdrop shape made these easy to spot.

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One of my favorite finds in the first section of the property–the hairy twig, catkin, leaf and bud of a Beaked Hazelnut. Just last week I saw the same, well, minus the catkins, in Lovell. And knowing that certain leaves are marcescent, e.g. remain attached to the stem throughout some or most of the winter like oak, witch hazel and especially beech, I was thrown off by this other type. It had me thinking birch and well it should have because Beaked Hazelnut is a member of the birch family. But #1, though a hairy twig like Yellow and Paper Birch, the leaf base wasn’t right for either, and #2, I didn’t recall ever seeing these leaves still dangling in later fall/early winter. The trees taught me a lesson today–the most perfect of gifts–a few Beaked Hazelnut leaves continued to dangle, though most were turning quite dark in hue and I suspected will fall soon, and, I found Gray Birch leaves also clinging. Just when I thought I knew everything, nature proved there’s more to learn. So the gift was a reminder to pay more attention.

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I left that section and walked down the road to a spot where a chain prevents vehicles from entering the old log landing. It certainly didn’t stop the deer who had danced in the night.

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As I moved through the landing, I paused to admire another dancer as witnessed in the fluid movement of Sweet-fern.

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Like the Beaked Hazelnut, its catkins were wrapped gifts that spoke to the future.

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Also in this space, a few willows with their own little packages.

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The willow pine cone gall was created in the summer by a gall gnat midge. The larva stage secreted a substance on the stem that caused the willow to go into overdrive–resulting in a multi-layered chamber composed of hardened material that would have been leaves, but alas, the stem growth was arrested. Inside that hairy structure resides the wintering larva, nice and snug for the winter. It will metamorphose into a gnat when warm weather arrives.

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As I walked along I noticed Christmas tree patterns among the firs.

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It was a simple case of an upside-down look. Once flipped, in my brain anyway, the seasonal symbol was obvious.

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And the ornaments dangled–in the form of Big-toothed Aspen leaves and White Pine needles,

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Northern Camouflage Lichen,

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and shredded bark created by . . .

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a Pileated Woodpecker in search of food.

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I felt my good fortune to find a spot where a ruffed grouse had tunneled.

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And then I was stopped by a burl. Like a gall, this was created by insects.

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The tree of choice featured lower gnarly bark that resembled a Northern Red Oak.

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But a peek toward its crown revealed a birch–the two-fer one gift: Big-toothed Aspen.

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Its leaves, oh my, another  temporarily “marcescent” variety–showing off the big teeth for which it received its common name.

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Speaking of leaves, there were numerous renditions of White Oak–another dancer that seemed to freeze in motion.

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Here and there among the offerings, Red Pine. This particular one showed my love for it where a branch had broken off. Do you see the wee heart?

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While mature Red Pines feature bark that reminds me of a jigsaw puzzle, I found some younger trees, their structure speaking to geometry.

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Continuing on along the logging road, I wondered if perhaps I’d gone astray. Suddenly, I found myself in Piscataqua County–miles and miles from home. I knew I was in unknown territory, but was I really that far from home? More than my usual fake lost?  Or someone’s sense of humor?

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Maybe so. Certainly I was in the land of owl feet.

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And a tuckered coyote?

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It was at this point that I headed off trail, made easy by underbrush.

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Deer tracks led me to another wonder-filled gift.

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The wetland and Northwest River, one of the namesakes for this place.

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It was here that another lesson presented itself–the layered bark made me realize I was viewing Pitch Pine growing beside the bog. My understanding was that these grew on ledges or rocky outcrops. But here was one with wet feet. And so I later consulted Bogs and Fens by Ronald B. Davis (I highly encourage you to add this title to your Christmas wish list) and discovered that not only does it grow in dry woodlands, but also “in swamps and at the edges of fens and bogs.” (Additional note: Pitch Pine Bogs are listed as S2:  “Imperiled in Maine because of rarity (6-20 occurrences or few remaining individuals or acres) or because of other factors making it vulnerable to further decline”; thus another reason to give thanks to LELT for preserving this place)

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Pitch Pine needles present themselves in bundles of three–perfect for this time of year–ahhhh, the Trinity.

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Rhodora

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and Leatherleaf added to the winter ornamentation.

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In my attempts for “the perfect photo,” I broke through the ice several times. I’d been post-holing through about seven or eight inches of snow all afternoon sans snowshoes because it was quite easy to move about in the fluffy stuff, but when I reached the edge of the water, the snow had insulated the thin ice cover and . . .  crash, crackle, crunch, I sunk in to the top of my Boggs and even a wee bit over.

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On my way back down the logging road, I realized how my own tracks were much more varied than that of the deer who’d passed before me.

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And then I came to a boundary sign. Opps. Guess I went beyond the land trust’s property, though thankfully no signs deterred me from trespassing.

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And a wee bit further down Folly Road, I stopped at Perley Pond, part of the namesake for this property–and part of the reason for my presence for the presents presented.

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