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.

w-Wes

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 lichen 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 received. Another great find today–scaly vase chanterelle. 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.

w-interns and young naturalists 2

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

w-interns and young naturalists 1

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.

w-docents 1b (1)

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

w-docents 3 (1)

A few stayed below and made more discoveries.

w-pipsissewa

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.

w-spider

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.

w-lungwort

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 Hikes. 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.

w-snake 8

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.

w-snake 3

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

w-snake 6

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

w-snake 4

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.

w-snake 11

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

w-snake 12

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.

w-snake 13

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

w-snake 14

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.

 

 

 

Embracing Quiet

If you are like me, you spend too much time racing from one moment to the next during this fleeting season of summer. With that in mind, I chose to slow down today.

m-stump islands

I know of few better places to do that than among the stump islands in the Upper Basin of Moose Pond. It’s been my place since I moved to Maine over thirty years ago.

Once upon a time, this was timberland–albeit prior to impoundment. A log sluiceway was built at the Denmark end in 1792 by Cyrus Ingalls, thus turning pastureland into the Lower Basin, so he could float logs to a nearby mill. In 1824, a more substantial dam was created and the height of that dam was raised by William Haynes in 1872 to create the current impoundment. While the Middle Basin of the nine-mile “pond” may be the largest at over 900 acres, its the 300-plus-acre Upper and Lower Basins that I like best to explore. And because the Upper is right out my summertime back door, I spend the most time there.

m-painted turtle

As I moved slowly, I greeted old friends like this painted turtle and even had the opportunity to pet a snapping turtle, so close to my kayak was it, but I paddled on.

m-newly emerged damsel 2

Actually, I didn’t paddle much once I reached the islands and stumps. Instead, I floated. And noticed. Before my eyes newly emerged damselflies pumped fluid into their bodies and wings, while their shed exuviae sat empty.

A family of three passed by in a canoe and I asked if they wanted to see something cool. When I told them about the damselfly, the father asked what a damselfly was and I told the family about its size and wing formation. They knew about dragons but had never heard of damsels. And didn’t want to stop and look. The mother commented on how magical it all was, but the father was eager to move on. I was sad for the son’s sake. He missed the real magic.

m-emerging damsel 3

Returning to my quiet mode, I found another, waiting as they all do, for the transformation to be completed. Do you see that the wings are not yet clear? I decided my presence was important, for I was keeping predators at bay.

m-orange bluet male

And then . . .

m-orange bluet 3

and then I met a new friend. An orange bluet–this being the male. I wanted to name him the Halloween damsel, but my field guide told me differently.

m-water shield and orange bluets 2

I kept waiting for him to meet her

m-orange bluets on water shield 1

and finally he did–

m-orange bluets mating

completing the wheel of damselfly love.

m-water shield 4

Because of the orange bluets, I also met the watershield flowers in their moment of glory. The flowers are described as being dull purple and inconspicuous. I found them to be various shades from mauve to muted red and lovely in presentation on day one of their life cycle.

According the US Forest Service Website, “On the first day the bud emerges above the water. Sepals and petals open and bend downward. Although stamens and pistils are present in each flower, on the first day of blooming, only the pistils emerge. Stalks of the pistils lengthen and spread outward over the petals. At night, the flower stalk bends and the flowers submerge beneath the water. On the second day, flowers emerge from the water again, but with the pistils retracted. The stamen stalks are lengthened and the anthers open. In this way flowers are cross-pollinated (Osborn and Schneider).

m-water shield old

Hardly dull, certainly unique. Even on day two.

m-newly emerged Hudsonian whiteface

Today, I also met a new dragonfly. And thought that I did it a favor, but I may not have. You see, when we first met, I noticed a web all around this immature Hudsonian whiteface (or so I think it is). With my paddle, I removed the web to free the dragonfly. But, um, it flew off and that’s when I realized it was several hours old and still drying its wings. Do you see how shiny they are? And the exuviae to which it clung prior to my “helping” hand? It’s best to leave nature alone. If it had been caught in the web, then good for the spider.

m-cotton grass 1

Speaking of spiders, I found some cotton grass gone to seed . . .

m-cotton grass with spider 2

and when I moved to photograph it with the sun behind me, I noticed what looked to be a camouflaged crab spider hiding in wait.

m-beaver lodge 1

Among the stumps, I’ve seen numerous beaver lodges over the years and know from the saplings they cut down on our property, that at least a few are active.

m-beaver scent mound 1

Today a recently visited scent mound added to that knowledge. Beavers pull aquatic plants and mud up from the bottom of the pond and create these mounds. They then secrete castoreum from castor glands beneath their tails to mark territory, deter predators, and say, “Hey baby, wanna check out my sticks?”

m-meadowsweet

The island flowers also grabbed my attention, including the fluffy heads of meadowsweet and . . .

m-grasspink orchid

grass-pink orchids now waning.

m-sweet-scented water lily

But . . . besides the dragons and damsels, I really went to see the aquatic flowers, like the sweet-scented water lily,

m-spatterdock

spatterdock,

m-pickerel weed 3

and one of my favs–pickerelweed.

m-pickerel weed

I love it for all its fine hairs and the way the flowers spiral up the stalk.

m-pickerel 2

I also love the coloration with two yellow dots on the upper lip providing a guide to the nectar it offers.

m-white face on leatherleaf 1

While I looked, another white-faced dragonfly, small in stature, kept following me. Finally, it paused on a leatherleaf shrub.

m-spatulate-leaved sundews with flower 2

And I paused beside the spatulate-leaved sundews.

m-spatulate--leaved sundew flower

I was about a week early, but one was in flower, with promises of plenty more to come.

m-pitcher plant 1

As I looked at the sundews, I realized that I’d never seen a pitcher plant in this place. As should happen, I was proven wrong, though I never would have noticed it if it didn’t have such a tall flower since its leaves were hidden by a mass of vegetation.

m-pitcher flower

Damselflies, dragonflies, and carnivorous plants–its an eat or be eaten world out there on the pond.

Bullfrogs bellowed from the edges, green frogs plinked, and fish splashed. I listened to Eastern kingbirds’ wingbeats as they dropped to the water to snatch insects, and red-winged blackbirds delightful conk-la-rees. I startled a great blue heron, the first I’ve seen on the pond all summer, and it flew off. In the midst of all the natural sounds and sights around me, I embraced the quiet on my four-hour paddle/float. And as Robert Frost might say, “That has made all the difference.”

 

I used to think

c-mayfly 1

I used to think mayflies emerged only in May.

Maybe I’ve seen them in other months, but I’d never really thought about it. Yesterday this mayfly greeted me in the morning. And in the evening, it was still there. So my May-only theory proved to be wrong.

c-mayfly 2

I used to think they had only one adult form.

c-mayfly molt 1

That all changed this morning when I spotted it again. Only, I also spotted something else an inch or two away. An exoskeleton or exuvia? From a mayfly? It certainly looked mayfly-like with the same narrow and segmented body plus long-tail cerci.

c-mayfly beside molt

When I looked more closely, I realized that the exuvia was about half the size of the true adult form. As for that cloudy-winged specimen I’d spied yesterday–it had been a teenager, aka a subimago. I let the wings trick me because I didn’t know better. Though it looked adult-like, it wasn’t sexually mature yet.

Mayflies are unique in that after the nymph emerges from the water as the subimago (that fishermen call a dun) like yesterday’s model, they seek shelter before shedding their skin for the final transformation. How lucky for me that this dun chose our porch screen on which to rest.

c-mayfly size difference

And so, I was gifted a second opportunity to look. It can take a few minutes to two days before a subimago transforms into a clear-winged imago or spinner, though the actual metamorphosis is quick. I wish I’d seen it, but at least I got to see the end result.

c-mayfly mature 1

I’m not sure my friend appreciated it, but I was glad for our opportunity to spend some time up close and personal.

c-mayfly no mouth part

While in an aquatic form for a year or two, it had done plenty of eating. But as an adult, eating became a thing of its past as it had no functional mouth parts.

c-mayfly eyes 1

It did have plenty of eyes, however. The better to find food when immature and later a mate, I suppose.  Like other flies, its two outer eyes were large and compound.  Between them were three simple eyes (ocelli).

c-mayfly clear wings

The two pairs of triangular wings were held upright like a damselfly, rather than flat like a dragonfly. When I compared yesterday’s opague wings with today’s, the clarity of the new wings defined by dark veins seemed an obvious difference and one I’ll need to pay attention to going forth.

c-mayfly aedeagi at base of abdomen

Male or female? That was the question, but only for a moment. Do you see the aedeagi or penis-like appendages at the tip of the abdomen and below the two cerci (tail-like appendages)? Meet Mr. Mayfly.

c-mayfly bird's eye view1

I know that because mayflies emerge in swarms, they can be a nuisance. But this was only one. And our friendship only lasted for a few hours total–though he spent about 24 hours in the same spot. By noontime he had disappeared–of his own efforts I hope . . . heading off to do some courting. His days are numbered, I know, for his main function is to mate and maybe mate again, before he dies.

But today he served another function as he taught me a lesson. My best learning comes from observation . . . and realizing that what I used to think isn’t always accurate.

My thanks to a mayfly.

 

The Magic of Maine

Our group was small but our experience enormous as five Maine Master Naturalists met in China, Maine, this morning to participate in a workshop about experiential learning presented by one of our own–the teacher of teachers, Anita Smith.

c-osprey 1

Upon arrival at the China School Forest where we met up, our nature distraction disorder (NDD) immediately kicked in for there was an osprey nest on a light post overlooking the ballfield between the middle and primary schools. The forest is a 50-acre tract behind the primary school that serves as a hands-on, outdoor classroom for grades K-8 and all of us really, for it is open to the public.

c-green heron 1

And then our attention was directed to the fire pond, where a stocky green heron displayed its streaked chest and dagger-like bill.

c-green heron crest

We watched him work the edge and loved when he showed off his crest–adding to our agreement about his ID.

c-trail map

At last, we pulled ourselves away and let Anita begin, starting with an overview of the forest’s history and a look at the map posted on the kiosk.

c-yellow rattle 1

We headed off down the trail to a pavilion, but again were easily distracted. This was a plant I didn’t recall meeting previously, but its bladders and yellow faces reminded me of  fish faces. Karen later ID it as yellow rattle for when the seeds form in the bladders later in the season, they rattle.

c-lady's galore

At last we arrived at the pavilion (only a few minutes walk down the trail if one wears blinders) where Anita had us help set up a work station and explained how she has students help cart the supplies. We started to help her, but within seconds Sally spotted the lady’s slippers and again we were distracted.

c-lady's by the dozens

They were so plentiful that we couldn’t resist admiring them.

c-pink lady's slipper

Most were princess pink.

c-white lady's slipper

But a few were pure white (not rare, just a form of the pink, but still . . . ).

c-lady's slipper pod

And even others spoke of transformation, with last year’s pods still standing.

c-nature journal

Again, she pulled us back to the subject of the day. Because we were there to learn about activities we might use in our work with children of all ages, Anita had us create our own nature journals. Stamps and markers and pipe cleaners and solar beads and fabric and we were happy campers–each expressing our own creativity in designing the covers.

c-phoebe babes1

While we worked, baby phoebes watched from above.

c-damselfly nymph1

Our next stop was the wildlife pond and bridge, where we did some pond dipping and were thrilled with our many findings, like damselfly larvae and tadpoles,

c-caddisfly larva and salamander

damselfly and salamander larvae,

c-water scavenger beetle larva and salamander larva

and water scavenger beetle larvae beside a salamander. There was so much more and we again had a difficult time pulling ourselves away.

c-examining aquatic species

It was the water scavenger beetle larvae that stumped us most, but we had fun identifying as many species as we could and were wowed by the variety available.

c-bird nest

Leave we did at last–only first we checked out a nest Sally had discovered. While it sat upon balsam fir branches, we thought it had fallen from above. And marveled at its construction–balsam fir twigs, fruticose lichen and balsam fir needles, all in their own layers.

c-twin flower

There were other things to see before we moved on, like the delicate twinflowers that bloomed.

c-pondweed and raindrops

An artistic display of pondweed.

c-fragrant water lily

And spadderdock,

c-fragrant water lily 2

whose flower reminded me of the inner formation of pitcher plant flowers.

c-Anita reading to us

At last, lunch time arrived. And so we returned to the pavilion where Anita shared some of her favorite books. And then she read to us All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan–warning us first that she would cry when she got to the end. Indeed she did, but we were touched for we got it.

c-board feet

After lunch, she took us on a tour to visit some of the seventeen learning stations, including the forest measurements station, where students learn about common measurements related to the forest and wood product industry, including board feet for dimensional lumber.

c-reading tree

Every time I visit the China School Forest, I’m in awe. And today, I knew others, like Kathy and Cathy, felt the same. The forest was full of diverse species and twenty years ago the Town of China and folks like Anita turned it into an incredible space for children and the child in all of us to learn. My favorite spot of all has been “the reading tree” built around a weeviled white pine. Even those in wheelchairs may access it and find a spot to read or watch or listen. After we climbed up, we climbed down, and Anita led us through several fun activities, the last ending with M&Ms. What’s not to love about a seminar that ends with chocolate?

c-Eastern forktail damselfly

On our walk back, our NDD was ever on alert. And so we’d not seen too many dragon or damselflies in the morning, perhaps given the cooler temp. But on our way out, an Eastern forktail damselfly drew our admiration for its green, black and blue coloration.

c-bridge classroom

We were beside the man-made pond when we saw it, where the bridge crosses and where we’d earlier done some pond dipping to observe the aquatic insects. It’s there that a bench sits in the midst of an outdoor classroom.

c-dedicated to Anita Smith

That very bench had been dedicated to our Anita.

c-baby robin 2

Back at the pavilion, we gathered all our gear and then followed the trail out. And that’s when Kathy called from ahead, telling us to watch our step. A baby robin sat on the path. We heard a parent nearby.

And wondered in the magic of the day. Another magical day in Maine.

 

 

 

 

Ain’t Lovell A Great Place To Be?

On my way to meet a few docents and the new interns for the Greater Lovell Land Trust this morning, a photo opp presented itself and I was forced to stop.

h-stan's sign

Stan Tupaj of Kezar Realty strikes me as the town cheerleader and I love to read his sign as I pass by. From time to time I’ve meant to photograph it, but somehow always seem to be in a rush to get to the next destination. But this morning I was a wee bit early and so this was the day.

h-heald sign

From there, I drove on to the Fairburn parking lot on Slab City Road where I planned to meet the crew.

h-green frog

Our goal was to walk to Otter Rock, not a far walk by any means, but it took us 1.5 hours to get there, such were the sights along the way, including a few green frogs in puddles along the trail. I know he’s a green frog and not a bull frog because he showed off a dorsal lateral fold along the sides of his back.

h-baby toad

While the green frogs were beside or in the water, the ground seemed to hop at our feet in dry places thanks to a kazillion baby American toads on the move.

h-Ellie and the baby toad

I noted that it seems the younger toads are in constant motion, while older and much chunkier ones pause and try to blend into their surroundings, allowing us to study them (and take photos–just saying). One of the younger members of our team, Ellie, proved me wrong as she charmed a young toad to stay still while she looked at it through her hand lens for several moments. It wasn’t until Ellie moved that the toad hopped away.

h-damselfly with eggs

While Ellie was the toad whisperer, her older brother Caleb wowed us with his ability to capture dragonflies and damselflies in a net, such as this one. As he held it high, he realized it was a she for there were eggs on her abdomen and so he gently released her–in hopes she’d find some vegetation on which to inject those tiny sacs.

h-keeping mosquitoes at bay

Their youngest brother, Wes, demonstrated the value of bracken ferns–which served as a fun hat to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

h1-Aidan

And it wasn’t until later that I realized I didn’t have a photo of Ellie’s other brother, Aidan, but I knew of one from a prior insect walk that showed his own curiosity.

h-grape fern

We looked at tons of plants as well and were all especially eager to re-greet the grape ferns that we knew grew there.

h-exoskeletons 2

At last we reached our destination, Otter Rock on Heald Pond, where we found what we had hoped for: exoskeletons decorated the landscape.

h-exoskeltons on shrub

Dragonflies lay egg clusters into sediments or tap small clumps directly onto the water’s surface. Each egg hatches into a small nymph, which grows until its ready to emerge as a flying adult. At that time, the nymph crawls to the surface, and ever so slowly, the adult pulls itself free of the exoskeleton. It’s the most amazing process to watch. But even if you don’t have that opportunity, just seeing the left over nymphal shells and knowing that the magic happened is worth a wonder.

h-exoskeletons on ground

We had to watch where we stepped, for the exoskeletons not only decorated the shrubs, but also the ground . . .

h-exoskeleton on tree

and even the trees.

h-widow skimmer

And then we began to notice newly emerged dragonflies like the widow maker on Otter Rock,

h-black-shouldered spinyleg

and black-shouldered spinyleg on the ground. We were afraid to step for everywhere our eyes focused, there was either an exoskeleton or a dragonfly drying its wings in preparation for a first flight.

h-chalk 5

As we looked about, Caleb spotted one struggling in the water, so he pulled it out.

h-chalk 4

Coated in a bit of pollen from the pond, it still clung to its exoskeleton.

h-chalk-fronted corporal 1

We watched for a few moments as it moved about, those wings slowly drying. I think my ID is right and this was a chalk-fronted corporal. At last it was time for us to draw our sense of wonder to a close and make our journey out.

h-meet the interns

But first, I asked our interns to pose–meet Hannah, Kelly and Dakota. Today was their first day of work and we probably overwhelmed the two guys a bit. Hannah was with us last year, so she knows our ways–that we walk slowly and look at everything. She gets it and we love that. We’re excited about the possibilities ahead. Join us for a GLLT walk or come to an evening talk and you’ll get to meet them.

h-heading out

Our walk out was much quicker, though we still stopped occasionally.

h-stan's sign

In the end, I have no doubt that we knew the answer to Stan’s question: Lovell IS a great place to be.

 

 

 

“Hey You!”

Shouts of “Hey You!” echoed across Long Lake in Naples, Maine, this morning as sixth grade students from Oxford Hills enjoyed a cruise sponsored by the Lakes Environmental Association aboard the Songo River Queen II, a replica of the famed Mississippi River Paddle Wheelers. For the past twenty years or so, LEA has offered this event to those who have completed the Living Connections Program in the Lake Region Schools and as a special program for students from several other districts, such as Oxford Hills.

l-Songo River Queen II

This culminating activity brings all the lessons students have learned about shoreland zoning and water quality to life in an engaging and interactive way.

l-Long Lake

After what seemed like months of rain, it was a beautiful morning as Captain Kent steered the boat away from the dock and onto the 11-mile-long lake.

l-Mary 1

As the tour began, LEA’s talented teacher/naturalist Mary Jewett, quizzed the kids.

l-prizes

They expressed their knowledge about watersheds, lake hydrology, phosphorus and other nutrients, chlorophyll, algal blooms, vegetated buffers, erosion control, thermocline, stratification and turnover, and received prizes for each correct answer. I’m always impressed by their responses.

l-vegetative buffer

They’re able to point out vegetated buffers . . .

l-grandfathered cabin

and recognize that some lakefront properties built within the 100-foot setback are older than the shoreland zoning law and therefore grandfathered.

l-station 1, sand 1

In the midst of it all, Captain Kent suddenly made Mary aware of a violation occurring on shore. Several women shoveled sand out of a wheelbarrow and spread it with rakes.

l-station 1, sand 2

Encouraged by Mary, the kids shouted, “Hey You!” The women continued to spread the sand so the kids shouted again—only this time they were even louder. On shore, the culprits looked surprised. Using the loudspeaker system, Mary explained that it’s illegal to add sand to the beach.

l-station 1, sand 3

The women quickly retreated, dumping the wheelbarrow in the process. The kids caught on that this was a role playing situation, but it created opportunities to discuss the implications–such as the fact that dumping sand can cause significant problems for the lake because it contains phosphorus, which contributes to decreased water clarity and algal blooms. Wildlife is also affected, e.g. decreased spawning habitat for fish, and increased opportunities for invasive aquatic plants like variable-leaf milfoil.

l-station 2, fertilizer and spray

Mary continued to question the kids as the boat poked along, until another “Hey You!” moment. One woman was spotted spreading fertilizer (flour in this case) with a flourish, while another sprayed what appeared to be weedkiller on the vegetative buffer. The kids were reminded that topical fertilizers often contain phosphorus and other nutrients that wash into the lakes.

l-station 2, cutting grass too short

At the same property, a man mowed the lawn using the lowest setting (or so it looked from the boat). Short grass is even more likely to allow those nutrients to wash into the water.

l-station 3, trimming vegetative buffer

The next violation involved a group of people trimming and removing the vegetated buffer. The students know the buffer is the last line of defense between a home and the lake because it provides a filter for any run-off, thus helping to keep excessive nutrients, sediment and storm water out of the lake. Native trees, shrubs, flowers and ground cover should be left in place.

l-station 3, running 1

Like the other offenders, this group hastily ran away . . .

l-station 3, hiding

and hid behind the trees.

l-Mount Washington
Following the third stop, the boat paused in the middle of the lake, where Mount Washington was visible. Students rotated through water testing stations where they practiced using such devices as a secchi disk, dissolved oxygen meter, Van Dorn water sampler, and core sampler. I was in charge of the core sampler and we talked about how the hose is lowered to one meter below the thermocline, that mid-point at which the temperature decreases and sunlight cannot penetrate. (Think about doing a cannon ball off the dock and hitting the spot where the temperature is suddenly freezing–or so it feels on a hot summer day.) We talked about how the water is tested in a lab for chlorophyll, phosphorus, pH, color and more. And then they tried gathering a water sample. One student lowered the weighted end of the clear, plastic hose into the water, while the others held onto the rest of it. When I said “Crimp and cover,” a second student crimped the hose and a third covered the far end. Quickly, the first student raised the weighted end, the other two let go and working together, all raised the hose high and tried to “walk” the water down it and into a container. Today, I think we gathered the most water I’ve seen in all the years I’ve volunteered for this activity.

l-pencils

Once students had rotated through all of the stations, Mary’s quiz continued as we traveled along the eastern shore. Volunteers asked questions, though I let Mary ask mine, and again the students who answered correctly were rewarded.

l-station 4, trees 1

Because they were on the lookout, one of the kids noticed people wearing hardhats and attempting to cut pine trees within mere feet of the lake.

l-station 4, Anne, who me?

They are quickly admonished by this now savvy group, though the “workers” couldn’t believe they’re being picked upon. Mary did remind the kids that shoreland zoning laws do allow homeowners to limb up to 1/3 the height of a tree in order to maintain a view.

l-station 5, Matt 2

Close by, a man washed his laundry—yes, in the water. Under state law, it is illegal to intentionally introduce foreign substances, including soap, into the water. (He was supposed to “bathe,” but the temperature is a wee bit chilly yet.)

l-party 1

It didn’t end there. As the boat passed by the Naples Town Beach, the kids noticed a group gathered on the dock drinking and then tossing empty cans.

l-party 4

You know by now what happened.

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Though one guy did run back . . .

l-party 8

to get the boom box.

l-Naples, church, marina

At last Kent steered the boat back toward the dock.

l-Rick's Cafe

The cruise had come to an end, but by seeing the volunteer actors on shore, students made the connection between their in-class learning and real life situations when it comes to water quality.

l-dragonfly exoskeleton

Oh, and before we had initially headed out, Mary spotted a huge dragonfly exoskeleton by the causeway and LEA’s Education Director, Alanna Doughty, climbed over the railing to fetch it. As Mary pointed out to the kids when she held the exoskeleton up, this is what it’s all about–clean water for aquatic species and for us.

Hey You! Think about your actions and be the difference.

June Dandies

It’s early June and our world is lush, given this past winter’s snow and now the spring rain. Areas that we remembered as being dry last year, are filled with puddles or streams right now ( I promise I’m not going the mention those pesky little buzzers that frolic about my face and sting my hands–and how much they’re loving the current conditions. I did spot some dragonflies yesterday, but today not a one).

r-lady 3

It’s those wet conditions that threw a friend and I off for a wee bit this afternoon as we tramped through the woods in search of a yellow lady’s slipper. Initially, we were about fifteen feet too far to the right as we tried to avoid the water.

r-lady 2

After wandering for a short bit, we finally found it on a bit of dry land–and then stood in awe–at our own ability to locate the flower, but even more so at the flower itself.  Yellow lady’s slippers are not rare, but uncommon and so we rejoiced with our find. They prefer mesic (moderately moist) nutrient-rich forests (as well as in bogs and swamps), thus the water (and mosquitoes–okay, so I broke my promise).

r-lady 7

Lady’s slippers are members of the orchid family.  I used to think orchids were flowers girls wore on their wrists for senior prom or grandmas coveted–though I never knew either of my grandmothers, but certainly it was an “old lady’s” flower. My, how my understanding and appreciation has changed because I am certainly NOT an old lady. Or am I?

Check out the reddish-brown dotted pathway–like landing lights at an airport runway. Their intention is to guide pollinators. If we remember to return in the fall and look for a seedpod, we’ll know that the dots worked. They often don’t.

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We could have gone home then, so tickled were we with our success of finding that pouch of a flower, but . . . as you might expect, we continued on, making several brook crossings as we went.

r-brook 2

Everywhere, mosses and liverworts offered forty shades of green. Oh wait–that’s Ireland. But right now, it’s western Maine as well.

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And because it was so damp, the forest we roamed was filled with Christmas ferns featuring young and old blades.

r-Indian cucumber Christmas fern

We even found one that sprouted an Indian Cucumber Root whorl as if it was a flower.

r-christmas fern gall

But what aroused our curiosity was another that seemed to have been affected by insects forming galls. Neither of us could remember seeing anything like this before, but then again, so many times when we see something we think of as new, we soon discover that it’s more prevalent than we realized. That being said, we only found the “galls” on a few of these ferns, all in the same area in a wet seep.

r-wild oat

Further along, we noted sessile-leaved bellworts, in flower a month ago, now sporting their seedpods or wild oats that speak to their other common name. And the leaf of at least this one had been visited by an insect–a leaf minor trail standing out in white against the green.

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r-cannoddling craneflies

And then we found craneflies canoodling. They didn’t seem to care that we watched.

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They weren’t our only wildlife sightings (besides the mosquitoes–did I mention mosquitoes?). A young American toad hopped by, pausing ever so slightly to show off its raised warts.

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And a frog slipped into the water–the better to escape our ogling.

r-land of the cinnamon fern

As we wound our way around a wetland filled with cinnamon ferns, we noted a few flowers in bloom or about to bloom.

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Yellow clintonia,

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Jack-in-the-pulpit (times two actually–and I’m not sure how we spied these for they hid like trolls under their leaves),

r-Indian Cucumber flower

Indian cucumber root,

r-Early coralroot 2

and early coralroot caught our attention.

r-round-leaf pyrola1

Not yet in bloom was the round-leaf pyrola, aka American shinleaf. Oh darn, another reason to return and see it blossom.

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And just past its blossoming stage–red trillium,

r-red trillium 1

its red leached to almost maroonish brown and stamen looking rather gray.

r-Pam taking a photo of pyrola

Despite the mosquitoes (what mosquitoes?) and a few raindrops, we shared a fun afternoon hike circling the path of the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Ron’s Loop by Five Kezar Ponds.

The journey was with my friend named Pam, not June. But June is the month and together we enjoyed numerous dandies that need to be enjoyed in the moment for soon we’ll not realize they ever existed.

June dandies indeed–worth making time to wander and wonder. (Despite the mosquitoes.)