It’s Tuesday, which means time for a tramp through the woods–especially if you are a docent for the Greater Lovell Land Trust. We take our job seriously, filling our bags with field guides, hand lenses, binoculars, cameras, water, humor and wonder. The latter two are the key components and thankfully we’re all comfortable enough with each other to tell corny jokes and laugh at our misidentifications as we explore the natural world through curious eyes and minds, while sharing a brain.
And so today, though our intention was to look for fall wildflowers, we had much more to notice along the way, like the white spores of mushrooms decorating the surrounding haircap mosses.
And there were funnel sheet webs to examine, given that the morning fog left them dew covered and easier to spot.
Though we wanted to take a closer look at the creators of such fine work, and tried gently touching webs with pine needles, our antics obviously vibrated more than your ordinary bug might, and the spiders ran into their funnels to hide.
As we’d driven to the Long Meadow Brook Reserve, we’d spotted a field of medium-sized white pines decorated with webs and were thrilled to find the same on saplings.
The bowl and doily spider is another member of the sheet species, and it builds webs that consist of two intricate parts. Above is the bowl, an inverted dome, and below, the lacier doily. The spider hangs upside down beneath the bowl, but above the doily, waiting for dinner to drop in.
Trying to see the tiny bowl and doily spiders requires getting down on all fours and looking through a hand lens for they are only about 3-4 millimeters in length. We did and were successful in our efforts.
It seemed today that nothing escaped spider activity, including the gone-by fruits of bristly sarsaparilla.
Equally delightful in the making was an orb web outlined in dew, larger droplets highlighting each spoke, with smaller ones on the sticky silken spirals.
In several openings, pilewort grew in abundance.
Like a field of cotton, its dandelion-like seedheads were prolific.
But really, I preferred the seed display to the petal-less flowerhead that emerges from the cylindrical cluster.
Also prolific were the female cones atop the white pines, their brown color indicating they were in their second or third year of development, having been wind pollinated by tiny male cones. The pollen cones fall of trees within a few days of decorating our vehicles, outdoor furniture, and naked female seeds with yellow dust. If you think back to spring and all the little rice krispies that decorated the ground below white pines, you’ll know that you were looking at male cones. The seed cones typically form on the uppermost branches, so that the tree won’t pollinate itself from below, but can receive pollen blowing in the breeze from another tree.
We’d looked high to see the cones, and then drew our eyes lower and thrilled with the sight of one of our tallest perennials.
At first we only spied one pokeweed growing in an opening, but then began to spot others in flower and . . .
Another one of our surprises–still flowering blueberries. The plants themselves didn’t look too happy . . .
and we wondered if there would be enough energy or time for the fruit to form.
As we ambled along, we found cinnabar-red polypores,
and polypores know for their . . .
underside labyrinth of pores that look like gills.
And we found another type that had spread brown spores.
Making our way down to the brook, we were stumped by a pile of dirt, small hole about one-half inch across and chewed mushroom. We remain stumped, so if you have a clue, we’ll listen. It was a messy dooryard so we didn’t suspect a chipmunk, plus the hole wasn’t wide enough. Voles eat vegetation. Could it be? Was it even made by a mammal?
Along the same route, we made another fun find. White oak saplings.
White oak grows in surrounding towns–Fryeburg, Sweden, Brownfield, Waterford, but not in Lovell or Stow, where this property was located. So, how did it arrive? Two theories–it was on a skidder trail, so could have come in on a machine; or perhaps via airmail from a bird. Long ago, white oaks grew in this area, but were used for barrel making. And because their acorns contain less tannin than that of a Northern red oak, mammals devour them quickly, thus making it more difficult for the trees to regenerate.
It took us a while, but finally we reached the old beaver dam and culvert by the brook, where the fall foliage was subtle at best, but still beautiful. We walked (if you can call it that) for 2.5 hours and covered all of .95 miles. It was hot and muggy, so we felt like we’d covered 9.5 miles, but as always were thankful for our time spent lingering at Long Meadow Brook.