Lichen Everything We See

The Tuesday morning Greater Lovell Land Trust docent tramps don’t typically have a theme–we just like to explore a property together to see what it has to offer and learn from each other. But this morning I tried to invoke one–lichens–since we recently had Maine Master Naturalist Jeff Pengel present a talk on the topic and a few days later he led a walk for us.

w-on the trail (1)

I’m happy to say, we are who we are and within minutes we found ourselves easily distracted.

w-many fruited pelt lichen

We did spot a variety of lichens and talked about their forms and substrates. The youngest among us at age 5 found this pelt lichen growing among the mosses.


In fact, he spotted it just after he’d jumped off what he deemed Jockey Cap, a rock that represented the 600-foot ledge that overlooks neighboring Fryeburg. We welcome his keen eyes and those of his siblings, for they see things we overlook and have a natural curiosity. (Don’t you just want to pinch those cheeks?)

w-green stain fruiting

In fact, his oldest brother was the first to spot this fungi, the turquoise fruiting bodies of green stain fungi that I used to think was a remnant trail blaze. The fruits are minute but the color spectacular.

w-scaly vase chanterelle

And so our eyes began to focus on other fungi, the fruiting bodies of which are a result of all the rain we’ve received. Another great find today–scaly vase chanterelles. Our British docent, who is a fungi aficionado, reminded us, “It’s veys here, but back home I’d say vahz.”

w-ant pupa in heart shape

And then there was the heart that we had to love. One of our group had stumbled by a tree stump and some bark slipped off. Beneath it, the adults in an ant colony quickly went to work, moving their pupa to a safer location and we watched for a few minutes as they worked–the heart slowly losing form.

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All along the way, our interns took time to explain things to the younger set.

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And the younger set took time to practice what they knew,

w-poking a balsam blister

such as the fact that if you pop a balsam blister, the resin will ooze out. And your fingers may stick together. But it will smell like Christmas.

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It took us almost two hours to walk less than a mile and climb the “eagle nest” overlooking Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog.

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A few stayed below and made more discoveries.


We finally reached Horseshoe Pond Road, turned right and slowly made our way back to the kiosk where we’d parked. But still, we stopped periodically and took in the sights, including the pipsissewa in bloom.


And a spider that was dangling when first spotted by one, but on the dirt road when we all gathered round. Check out the design on its legs.


After all but one had left, she and I chatted over our brown bag lunches and then ventured across the street to the Bishops Cardinal Reserve in preparation for tomorrow’s  Lovell Rec Summer Camp Nature Hike. We offer two hikes–one for the younger set and another for the older kids, who wish we’d talk less and walk more. We can take a hint and so we do that for them. But still, there are cool things to see. We determined some fine stopping points today for the mammal theme, but the lungwort lichen also called out with its bright green coloration after yesterday’s rain.

w-Horseshoe Pond

Once we’d completed our reconnaissance mission, I decided to stop down the road at the Horseshoe Pond boat launch, ever in search of dragon and damselflies.

w-pickerel weed

It wasn’t warm or sunny enough, so I didn’t spy any of the odonatas.

w-pickerel and hoverfly 2

But I did notice hoverflies nectaring the pickerelweed flowers.

w-green frog

And a young green frog jumped into the water upon my approach. As I stood and looked at it, I heard rustling behind me.

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And in the grass, I spied the creator.

w-snake 9

Notice how thick its body was and the keels or ridges on its scales. Plus the coloration–dark brown to gray with reddish brown and even black splotches.

w-snake 1

It held its head up as if searching for me and I could see a variation of color on its neck.

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And then I moved again while it stayed still–the better to see it with.

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That’s when I realized that what I thought was a six-foot-long snake . . .

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turned into two three-foot-long Northern water snakes. Two? Why? They are known to be solitary. And mating season has since passed.

A few minutes later, a vehicle approached on the road above and slowed down. The driver reached out and grabbed a few blueberries from a high-bush shrub. We exchanged greetings and he told me he was stopping by for his daily dose on his way home from work. I asked if he’d seen the snakes, for I recalled seeing one in the same spot a year ago. As he jumped out of his jeep, he told me he’s caught water snakes in the pond while fishing, but he hadn’t seem them by the boat launch. And then . . . he said he wanted to pick one up and in a flash he did just that, catching one by its tail as the other quickly slithered into the water. I was a bit taken aback but the snake danced with such rhythm and force that he had to let go.

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It dropped into the water where we could admire its colors even more.

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And then it swung around–not necessarily to say hello. We noted a small frog nearby and commented on how still green frogs can be.

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Eventually, the snake moved off, all the while its forked tongue dashing in and out . . .

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and in and out some more as it snacked on insects.

So much for a lichen walk–instead, as always, everything spied on today’s adventure was worth liking.




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