Snowshoes were a necessity this morning as I wandered, but with them came the constant sound of breaking glass as the frozen layer of ice atop the snow crackled with each footstep. I doubted I would see anything amazing for so much noise did I make.
I was right, of course. It was all the usual suspects that show up ever more clearly now that the earth is draped with a snow coat. I only found a gazillion hemlock cones on the ground, most descaled and their seeds consumed by a certain red squirrel.
The hemlock cones were below trees near the squirrel cache I’ve been keeping an eye on. Curious thing about the cache–no tunnels to the goods within and one new snow-covered cone stashed atop. Did he decide the hemlocks were easier to deal with at the moment? Will he return to the pine cone cache for dinner? Of course, I’m assuming the work is that of one squirrel, but it could be more than one in the same area.
I did spy one that made me chuckle, for one of my pet peeves is when people call all cones “pine cones.” Pine cones grow on pine trees–whether white, red, pitch or jack. Hemlock cones grow on hemlock trees. And balsam cones grow on balsam trees. You get the idea. But what do you call a pine cone on a balsam tree? A tree topper, of course. Or . . . stuck. (And I’ve got the market on corny humor.)
Every which way I turned, there was nothing new to look at.
But the hoar frost . . .
added crystalized ornamentation . . .
wherever it gathered . . .
from the feathery rabbits-foot clover . . .
to Queen Anne’s lace . . .
and gray birch catkins. Oh my.
As the sun rose higher, my fascination with hoar frost melted away, but another ice sculpture begged notice–its formation called to mind hills and valleys of waves topped with white caps. And still, how does it do that?
I found goldenrod galls as well, this one with no opening, which may mean the gall fly larva was probably still sheltered within.
The other was a goldenrod bunch gall created by a midge. Looking like a mass of tiny leaves, it’s also known as a rosette gall for the shape at the top of the stem. In both cases, it’s amazing that insects can change a plant’s growth pattern so dramatically.
Even the tracks were of all the usual suspects from mouse to moose and I realized yet again how fortunate I am to share this space with them and know all their haunts.
At last I took the right turn toward home.
And under the hemlocks in our woodlot, I counted eleven deer beds and yet, I haven’t seen a deer in a while. This, however, has long been their frequent nighttime hangout.
As I often do when I spy several ungulate beds–I looked at their orientation and as usual each had its back to the other given the smooth curved line–with all eyes and ears on the lookout.
I also found a rather large print filled with a block of ice–actually, it’s a half block of ice for it fell off of only one of a moose’s cloven toes. I wondered if the moose felt like it was walking on tippy toes until that point.
I certainly did, so frozen were the balls of ice on my snowshoes. That’s what I got for working my way through a half-frozen wetland. But it was that same water I had to thank for the creation of the hoar frost.
As awkward as it was, it was certainly fun to observe the world from my tippy toes. And despite the sameness of it all, my mind and heart were filled with wonder.