Since it’s deer hunting season in the Maine woods, we decided to host a walk one Sunday in November on a Greater Lovell Land Trust property because hunting is prohibited on this day. And today happened to be that Sunday. But first, this story begins with a few other events. On Friday, I had the honor of participating in a late afternoon program at New Suncook School. Before the young girls in the program, their leaders, and I stepped outside, one of them struggled with a Hannaford bag that was splitting apart because it was full of canned and boxed food. I helped her get the bag into her backpack before she dropped all its contents and the act drove home the need to make sure my guy and I attended the second event.
The second event was the Second Annual Bowls and Brews Chili and Chowder Challenge and Beer Tasting held at the Lovell VFW Hall last night.
The land trust was well represented by participants, including Executive Director Erika Rowland who created a delicious Black Bear Chipotle Chili.
Erika’s chili didn’t win, but she and GLLT’s Office Manager Alice Bragg were still all smiles.
The real winners of the event were the kids like the young girl I helped on Friday. For what she was trying to hold was a bag full of food as is provided to her family by the Sunshine Backpack Food Program. And the Bowls and Brews event was a fundraiser to support that program. Throughout the school district, elementary students in need go home with nutritious, non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food every Friday. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the fundraiser support the program.
That brings me to this afternoon’s walk first advertised as Sunday Beside Sucker Brook. Months ago I wrote this description: Let’s get a head start on Thanksgiving, and journey the trail at John A. Segur East where we’ll take in the afternoon views of Sucker Brook, its plants in their winter forms, beaver lodges, and mountain views.
And so we did. First we stepped off the trail and took in the view to the south where Sucker Brook empties into Kezar Lake’s Lower Bay.
And then we looked north to admired the hills that are reflected by three beaver lodges situated in a triangle. The one to the right had some mud on it and so we trusted the beavers had been adding insulation to the homestead.
It’s a good thing because a thin layer of ice had formed around the edges of the brook and we realized the next season is on the horizon.
Even within the Pitcher Plant leaves ice had formed. Some of today’s participants touched the downward pointing hairs that draw insects into this carnivorous plant, noting the difference between the easy slide down and much bristlier texture one encounters trying to climb back out.
Continuing along the green-blazed trail, one among us spied a Bald-faced Hornet’s nest. When we noticed part of it on the forest floor, we had to step off the trail and check it out.
In the summer we avoid these nests for fear of being stung by the aggressive workers who defend their territory. But by now the workers have all died and the queen has found a snug spot to overwinter under tree bark.
Being able to examine the nest drew our awe as we noted the individual hexagonal cells created by the queen who had collected wood and plant fibers, chewed them into a papery pulp mixed with her saliva, and built brood chambers into which she placed eggs. To enclose the chambers that housed her girls she then constructed a thin papery envelope. The fact that the cells were the same size and shape was worth our wonder as we thought about the queen’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Within the outer envelope, several suspended combs contained chambers for larvae. A two-tiered section had fallen to the ground and Miriam picked it up for further examination. Her findings: brood chambers were papery and the darker gray that glued the combs together was much firmer.
Pam gave the piece the sniff test. Her findings: the combs smelled like hay, but the glue offered a much more offensive odor.
Our examination also revealed a few grub-like larvae that didn’t have an opportunity to cycle through life.
After kinda, sorta, not really bee-lining to finish before darkness fell, we reached the scenic view that again included the brook and mountains beyond.
There was even more ice in our vision. Ripples made it look like the water flowed from south to north, but we knew it to actually be the opposite. The wind blew from the southwest and thus caused the current oxymoron.
Quietly we stood for a minute and then shared “thanksgivings” for the land, the air, the water, the people, and the place.
Before turning around, a short bushwhack revealed another beaver lodge in the offing.
It, too, was covered in the beavers’ form of Typar: mud. And topped with fresh wood. Construction continues.
With one final view of the brook, the clouds shifted and revealed the Baldface Mountains in Evans Notch.
On the way out, we paused for moths as we’d done on the way in. Linda’s eagle eyes spotted this tiny one: Bog Bibarrambla Moth.
All along we’d noticed male moths flying about, but again on the return trip one among us noticed a few males in one area. If we’re correct in our identification, they were Bruce Spanworms, but what was even more important was the realization that the female is wingless. Yes, these two are canoodling.
One last stop to make before continuing our “bee-line” to the parking lot was a bit of a scavenger hunt: A Bear-claw Tree Scavenger Hunt. Bingo. Brian made the discovery and everyone gathered ’round for a closer examination.
As I said earlier, when I first wrote the description for the walk, I said we’d get a head start on Thanksgiving, but I didn’t really define what that meant. And then a brainstorm a week ago revealed a plan. To offer thanks as we did by the brook, but also . . . to bring food for the Sweden Food Pantry, which serves Lovell, Sweden, Stow, Stoneham, Waterford, Fryeburg, and Bridgton. Our numbers were small today as nine of us traveled the trail at John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge, but our givings big (and we had some items from a few others who couldn’t join us.) We were equally glad to have Linda Bradley (she’s wearing the blaze-orange vest), president of the food pantry, along for the journey.
We’re grateful to all who either joined us or contributed to our offerings as we gave thanks beside Sucker Brook and helped fill the shelves in Sweden.
As we departed we made plans to repeat this event, but choose the following weekend next year so we don’t complete with the Third Annual Bowls and Brews fundraiser.