Book of November: Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of New England

All month I’ve been thinking about which book to recommend and then a recent purchase came to the forefront. Finally. It’s a good thing given that this is the last day of November. 

Here’s the scoop: I was scanning book titles at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm Bookstore and happened upon Kaufman’s Field Guide to Nature of New England. Since I already had National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England on my bookshelf, I wasn’t sure I needed Kaufman’s guide. But my friend Karen Herold highly recommended it and said she preferred it to the other book. I’m am hear to state that I wholeheartedly agree. 

Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of New England was written by husband/wife team Kenn Kaufman and Kimberly Kaufman. Both are naturalists extraordinaire, he being the author of other field guides (which I don’t yet own) and she the executive director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio. 

The Kaufmans have color coded each section of the 7.75 X 4.75-inch book, making for easy reference. And though it’s a wee bit heavy (no heavier than the other book), it fits easily into the small pack I carry for explorations of the natural world. Of course, David Brown’s Trackards, accompany it. 

Speaking of tracks, the Kaufmans do offer a few identifying features of such, but they also recommend two other sources: the Peterson Guide to Animal Tracks and Paul Rezendes’ Tracks and the Art of Seeing.  I highly recommend both as well,

plus Dorcas Miller’s Track Finder,

which just happens to include me in the acknowledgements. But . . . 

my go-to guide in the field remains David Brown’s Trackards

Back to the Kaufman guide: I wish I’d had it with me this past summer when I encountered sulphur butterflies puddling on a dirt road in the western Maine town of Fryeburg. First off, the section on butterflies and moths begins with an explanation of their life cycles and the differences between the two, including an illustration of their antennae. 

In addition, a feature I really like is the view of the upper and underside of the wings since . . . 

 some butterflies “keep their wings tightly closed above their backs when at rest, 

showing their bright undersides mainly in flight,” state the Kaufmans on page 302. 

I could have fluctuated between Clouded Sulphur and Pink-edged Sulphur in my determination, but the description on page 302 reminded me that the latter prefers bogs and blueberry barrens and I was standing in the midst of a farm where milkweed, other wildflowers and hay grew. The other thing that supported my attempt at ID was that though my butterflies did have  pink-edged wings, the dots matched those of the Clouded in the book. 

And since it is now winter, the guide will be handy to pull out when showing others what a critter looks like–especially if we have the joy of spying one. 

Occasionally that happens, such as on one occasion last winter when a few of us saw this mink. Please forgive the fuzziness–a result of my excitement. 

And had I purchased the book sooner, I could have pulled it out as two friends and I watched an otter frolic in early summer. 

But . . . now I have it and it is the perfect addition to my pack, whether for solo hikes or with others when we question what we’re seeing. 

I think one of the things that I really appreciate about this book is the voice of the authors, which echoes my own thoughts. (And their sweet dedications to each other on page 4.)

In the introduction, Kenn writes, “Once a person goes outdoors with senses attuned to nature, the sheer diversity of living things is both delightful and maddening, both reassuring and overwhelming.” Just this morning, Alanna Doughty, education director of Lakes Environmental Association, and I exchanged an email conversation about the very same thought and gave thanks that we still have so much to learn. 

Kaufman continues, “If we try to look at everything in nature, we find so many things that we never get past the edge of the parking lot.” I chuckled when I read that because my peeps and I have said the same thing, whether I’m tramping with the docents of the Greater Lovell Land Trust or a group of Maine Master Naturalists

Does the book cover every single species to be discovered in New England? That would be impossible–or at least too heavy to tote along on a tramp. “Our intent has been to cover those things that people are most likely to notice, so we have exercised a bias toward the most conspicuous plants and animals.” With that in mind, my suggestion: purchase Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of New England and throw it into your pack. Then purchase any other guide books and refer to them when you get home. 

Book of November: Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of New England by Kenn Kaufman & Kimberly Kaufman, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.

Book of October: Writing My Will

Judy Steinbergh has fed me repeatedly. She’s nourished my body and soul with actual food, but also with her poetry and prose. And recently, she gifted me one of her books entitled Writing My Will.

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Though it’s her poems about Maine that I love the most in this collection, I feel honored not only to have been the recipient of such a gift, but also to be offered the opportunity to peek into her life and share the path that she’s walked through marriage and motherhood, divorce and death.

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I hear Judy’s voice even when she isn’t reading to me. And I covet her descriptions and command of lyrical language and imagery, especially as she captures the natural world:

“. . . after speculating on the slap of water, whir of wings,

out of the grainy dusk, some creature bursts

from the forest. Before we focus on its shape,

almost before it can be named,

it twists back, leaps, makes its escape.”

~ excerpt from “Wild Things”

or this one:

“. . . roughs the lake up like the wrong direction of fur

until it is leaping dolphins and whales in rows

until it is sleek stampeding panthers in droves

until we, in our small boats, are driven to shore.”

~excerpt from “The Wind”

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Each summer, she’s gathered her own poems, and those of other landscape poets, and shared them with an intimate group of writers through a workshop co-sponsored by the Greater Lovell Land Trust, Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library, and Hewnoaks Artist Colony at the Hewnoaks property overlooking Kezar Lake in Lovell, Maine. After talking about rhythm and form, and having us read her works and others, she sends us off to find a comfortable spot in which to contemplate and write.

1a

Poets young and old flock to her and she embraces all with a listening ear and mentoring manner.

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And sometimes we travel the path together, either hunting for mushrooms, looking at plants and any of the millions of other things that capture our attention, or spending time writing and sketching.

Judy has written five books of poetry, three poetry teaching texts, and recorded other works. She’s the Poet Laureate for the town of Brookline, Massachusetts. And she teaches and mentors students and teachers for Troubadour, Inc. throughout greater Boston and serves as Poet-in-Residence in various communities.

This particular book, Writing My Will, is an assortment of Judy’s treasures from her family, including her dying mother, to the natural world that embraces her. Based on the theme, she’s divided it into sections: Heirlooms; My Mother Comes Back to Life; What Memories Will Rise; Talking Physics With My Son; This Wild; Meeting the Birthmother; Long  Distance; The Art of Granddaughters; Working on Words; Elegies; Writing My Will.

And it ends with one most apropos for this month:

October Song

Wild asters and the birds whir over

in flocks, Queen Anne’s Lace curls up

by the docks, the tide runs out,

runs out like it hurts, our step

is so light on this earth.

I love these times alone, thinking

about how my children have grown,

and how I come into this age

illuminated, softened

as the marsh’s edge.

And the tide runs out, as forceful

as birth, as if nothing else mattered

but rushing away and rushing back in

twice a day. Our step

is so light on this earth.

We’re given October like a gift, the leaves

on the warp, the light on the weft,

and the gold drips through

like cider from the press; we know,

we know that our lives are blessed.

But the tide runs out, runs out like it hurts,

what were fields of water only hours ago

are meadows now when the tide

is low; our step is so light

on the earth. Wild asters. All

we are sure of is change, that maple

and sumac will turn into flame, this softness

will pass and the winter be harsh

till the green shoots push

up through the marsh. And the tide

rushes in like a thirst and will keep

its rhythm even after our time,

the seasons, too, will repeat

their design. Our step

is so light on the earth.

And so, dear Judy, as my thank you for the gift of your book, I want to now share a melody of photos from previous autumns, all taken during Octobers past in your beloved Maine locale when you can’t be here. (Well, maybe one is from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont–shhhh!)

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“Our step is so light on the earth”

Book of October: Writing My Will–Poems and Prose, by Judith W. Steinbergh, Talking Stone Press, 2001.

 

 

 

 

 

Detecting the Nature of Wilson Wing

Before heading onto the trail beside Sucker Brook at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve on Horseshoe Pond Road in Lovell, today, a friend and I walked down the road to the pond where we hunted for dragonflies and frogs.

1-Horseshoe Pond

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky on this first day of fall and a crisp day it was, bringing smiles to our faces and adding sweatshirts to our attire.

3-green frog

Though we saw a few darner dragonflies and even a meadowhawk, it was the green frogs that we spent the most time trying to spy for they blended in well with their grassy surroundings at the water’s edge.

2-bobber

A bit further out, and unfortunately beyond our reach, we spotted a bobber and fishing line. While it offered a picture filled with color and curves, the reality wasn’t so pleasant.

4-Common Loon

Nearby, this loon and a youngster swam and fishing line left behind is bad news for them as they could get tangled in it. Please, please, please, if you are near the Horseshoe Pond boat launch, and have the means to retrieve the bobber, do so. And if you are anywhere else in this world, do the same–for the sake of all birds everywhere.

7-Sucker Brook

At last, we pulled ourselves away from the pond and followed the brook that flows from it–Sucker Brook.

5-Jack in the Pulpit

Right away, we were in awe of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants with fruits still intact. Jack is actually a curious plant and sometimes channels its feminine side. While the plant starts life as a male, if the soil is poor, it turns female, flowers and bears seed. It could turn male again. In the case of what we saw today, meet Jill.

6-thin maze polypore

As our journey continued, we noted fungi everywhere. Some had rotted and added to the earthy smell of the woods. Others displayed their unique structures, colors, and lines, including the Thin-mazed Polypore.

11a-earth tongue

We also found at least one Black Earth Tongue, its common name reflecting its tongue-like appearance as it stuck up from the ground.

11-Dead Man's Finger

And in keeping with human body parts, we noticed a singular Dead Man’s Finger. But . . . its presentation offered questions we couldn’t answer. It was our understanding that on Xylaria longipes the young fruiting bodies would be covered with a whitish or gray powder in the spring. The powder isn’t really a powder, but rather the asexual spores of the species. So, did we find a confused youngster? Or was it an oldster parasitized by a mold?

10-Choclolate Tube slime

Speaking of molds, we stumbled upon a log featuring a feathery appearance reminiscent of antennae on a moth or butterfly. Well, maybe a collection of antennae. A huge collection.

10a-chocolate tube slime

Turns out it was Chocolate Tube Slime, a new discovery for me. In his book, Fascinating Fungi of New England, author Lawrence Millman describes it as “dozens of erect, brown tubes mounted on thin, seemingly polished black stems.” Bingo.

9-green frogin sucker Brook

Also appearing a bit chocolate in color was another green frog. And being the first full day of autumn, I began to realize that my time spent admiring amphibians and dragonflies will soon draw to an end. But . . . on the horizon . . . tracks and scat 😉

8-Conocephalum salebrosum

Because we were beside the brook, and we’d seen this species before, we searched each and every rock and weren’t disappointed. Conocephalum salebrosum showed off its snakeskin-like leaves.

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The conspicuous grooves of the thalli on this liverwort defined the surface and gave it that snakeskin appearance.

12-Moose Pond Bog

Continuing on, we finally reached the platform and climbed up to look out toward Moose Pond Bog. Of course, we hoped to see a moose. No such luck. We did spy one dog named Bella and her owner, Meg Dyer, the Lovell Rec Director, out for a Sunday walk in the woods. But they were on the trail below us and not in the bog. One of these days . . . maybe we’ll see a moose. When we least expect it, that is.

12-winterberry fruits buried

Back on the trail ourselves, our next great find–winterberries in a recently dug hole about four inches deep. Who done it? We poked the hole with a stick and determined that it didn’t go any deeper or have any turns, such as a chipmunk might make. Nor did it have a clean dooryard, which they prefer. Turkey? Perhaps. Squirrel?

13-winterberries among midden

We think we answered the question for on top of a tall hemlock stump that has long served as a red squirrel diner, some red winterberries appeared among the pine scales left behind.

14-liverwort?

Almost back to the road, we crossed the final bridge and then backtracked. We knew our destination was up the streambed it crossed over and were thankful that it held not much water. That meant we could climb up and take a closer look at the large boulders in the middle. And it was there that we made a new discovery.

14a-Peltigera aphthosa

You see, in the past we’ve not been able to get too close to the boulders and from a bit of a distance we were sure we had looked at more snakeskin liverwort. But our ability to get up close and personal today made us question our previous assumption. Suddenly, the gray-green leafy structure took on a more lichen-like appearance. Though its color wasn’t the same, it very much reminded me of rock tripe.

14c-Peltigera aphthosa

We studied its lobes and structure, including the tiny warts and questioned ourselves as we continued to examine it. I kept thinking it was an umbilicate based on the way it adhered to the rock substrate.

14b-Peltigera aphthosa

A little research and I think I’ve identified it correctly, but know some will alert me if I’ve assumed too much–Peltigera aphthosa, aka Freckled Pelt Lichen, also called Spotted Dog Lichen. The bright green center indicated it was wet. From borealforest.org, I learned that the little warts contain tiny colonies of cyanobacteria, which supply the lichen with nitrogen.

15-Racomitrium aciculare?

And right beside the lichen, we found a moss that also reminded us of a liverwort for it resembled Bazzania. But . . . if I identified this correctly, it’s Racomitrium aciculare. Some know it as Yellow-fringe Moss.

15a-Racomitrium

In his book, Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts, Ralph Pope described it as “common on wet rocks along streams and under waterfalls.” In watery seasons for this particular stream, that would be its exact location–under a waterfall.

16-dry stream bed

Today, the stream bed leading down to Moose Pond Bog and Sucker Brook was just about dry. But . . . because of that we were able to take a closer look.

In fact, it took us almost four hours to follow the mile or so trail, but it was all about taking a closer look through our 10X lenses and cameras, slowing down our brains,  and channeling our inner Nancy Drew as we paid attention to clues and tried to decipher the scene around us–all the while detecting the nature of Wilson Wing.

 

Book of September: wishtree

When Alanna Doughty, education director at Lakes Environmental Association, mentioned she’d watched a trailer about a book entitled wishtree by Katherine Applegate and immediately walked to Bridgton Books to purchase it and that night began reading it to her girls and thought I might like it as well, I listened and then drove to the bookstore and purchased it yesterday and here I am today to tell you that you should do the same.

wishtree

In fact, this should be required reading for every child and every adult. Every. Adult. You see, the story is about a northern red oak, but not an ordinary Quercus rubra, for Red, as it is known, can talk. And tell corny jokes. And philosophize, though not in a tedious or pompous way. And teach. All of us. About life. And tolerance.

On one level, it reminds me of our barn, which just happens to be painted red and is towered over by a red oak, and serves as a home, or at least a pass under, for skunks and raccoons and woodchucks and porcupines and red and gray squirrels and mice and the neighborhood cats and all seem to live in perfect harmony beneath it. Well, all except the mice that is.

But the book isn’t just about the animals that call the hollows of the tree home, it’s about the people who live nearby. And really, it’s about all people. In the neighborhood. In the town. In the state. In the nation. Across the globe.

The tale of tolerance is told in such a manner that each short chapter with its surprise ending could stand alone like delectable little nuggets. And maybe they should be read in such a way. One. Chapter. At. A. Time. I rushed through it last night, mesmerized,  but this morning I began reading wishtree again. And actually, I think it shall become a bathroom book, that place where many of my favorites end up so I can return to them frequently for short intervals. Wink.

Scientific terms are subtly introduced. And the sketches enhance the story.

Published in 2017, its a book that is written for our times, but should become a classic, much like The Giving Tree. I don’t want to give the story away, but I do want you to read it. You can learn more by visiting the wishtree website, where you can even add your own wish.

Or be like Alanna, read the story aloud to your children or partner or the air around you, find your own “Red,” and leave a wish and some yarn and snippets of paper for others to do the same.

But especially, don’t forget to take the message of wishtree with you everywhere you go. I hope I remember to do the same.

wishtree by Katherine Applegate, published 2017, Fiewel and Friends, an imprint of mackids.com.

 

 

 

The Perks of Perky’s Path

It’s such a sweet trail and so named for Juanita Perkins, a local photographer and naturalist who was an avid member of the Greater Lovell Land Trust. To follow in her footsteps is not an easy task, but today I journeyed along the path trying to see what Juanita might have seen.

1-lancet clubtail

Immediately upon stepping down the trail, a clubtail dragonfly landed in front of me. Identifying dragonflies has become one of my passions of late, but still I struggle. And go back and forth. Lancet Clubtail or Pronghorn? I lean toward Lancet only because I’m not sure Pronghorns are a Maine species. But it’s to Dragonflies of the North Woods that I turn, and the abdomen that I try to zone in on. The abdomen consists of ten segments. Lancet: segment 8 has a smaller top spot and segment 9 is all yellow on top, (except for the female’s top spot which is narrower). Pronghorn: segment 8 has a smaller top spot and segment 9 is all yellow on top. Segment 10 has a narrow stripe. The Maine Odonata survey does not include the Pronghorn and so I find myself deciding on the Lancet. Suffice it to say, this is a clubtail.

2-ebony jewelwing damselfly

A much easier species for me to ID is the ebony jewelwing damselfly. Several danced and posed by the brook leading from the wetland the path encircles to Heald Pond. I trust that when Juanita traveled this path, she too saw the jewelwings dance, their bodies as bejeweled as their wings–maybe more so. A female’s wings are smokier in color than the males and each is dotted with one white spot at the tip.

3-male ebony jewelwing

The male’s wings are more ebony in color and body more metallic. This handsome fellow had three ladies in waiting so he couldn’t pause for long.

4-trail sign

Though I refer to the entire loop as Perky’s Path, in reality I hadn’t even reached it by the time I encountered the “You Are Here” sign. I’d actually been walking along a snowmobile trail that is part of Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve.

5-perky's path

It was a couple of tenths of a mile later that I finally stepped onto the path blazed with orange.

6-bench

One of my favorite hangouts is the bench located along a short spur. Usually I spend moments on end, but today I was eager to move on.

7-Indian Cucumber Root

Along the spur trail, I did note one of my favorite fruits beginning to ripen–that of Indian Cucumber Root. And as it ripens, the base of the leaves turn red. All I could think of is that the red is a sign to birds–come dine at this table. You won’t regret it.

8-trillium fruit

Another red fruit stood upright above leaves of three–that of a painted trillium.

9-new stone bridge

It’s been six years since Juanita Perkins passed away and I don’t know when she last walked the path, but at that time, where the stream from Bradley Pond flows into a beaver wetland before continuing on toward Heald Pond, she probably crossed the water via a wooden bridge. Time and weather had taken their toll on the bridge and so at the beginning of this summer a group of volunteers and a couple of GLLT staff members pulled the wood out and placed flat rocks as stepping stones. It makes for a magical crossing, especially as it slows the wander and encourages one to notice the surroundings. Though we never officially met (I do remember her dropping off photographs at a local gift shop where I worked for several summers back in the late 1980s), I trust she would appreciate the change.

10-stream archs

Of course, I’ve always been one to enjoy water and all its variations. By the stepping stones (boulders), smaller rocks below the surface added to the overall arching effect, creating an interconnection. I felt a sense of Juanita’s time spent on the path woven into today.

13-jewelweed

By the water, there were a variety of flowers to note, including whorled asters and cardinal flowers, but it was the jewelweed that brought a smile to my face. I don’t understand why, but one of the sepals forms a pouch-like structure with a long spur. Jewelwings and jewelweed–indeed, a very special place.

11-Golden Spindle

Adding to the wonder right now due to recent and much appreciated rain are all the fruiting forms of mushrooms and this path has its fair share. I’m not great on my identification of boletes and others, but there are a few individuals that I remember from year to year. It’s the fact that their spores are everywhere and those spores form hyphae, that then forms mycelium, that then eats anything organic, that when mating is successful forms fruit, is wicked cool. We’re wowed by the fruit, but really, we need to honor the entire system. And so I honor the Golden Spindle,

12-white spindle fungi

White Spindle (which I don’t recall ever seeing before),

12b-scarlet waxy cap

Scarlet Waxy Caps,

12a-earth tongue fungi

and Earth Tongues.

14-into the wetland

And then I slip off the path and down to the wetland, wondering what else I might see.

15-cherry-faced meadowhawk

Instantly I am rewarded with numerous sightings of Cherry-faced Meadowhawks, their wings all aglow.

16-hobblebush leaves

They aren’t the only shade of red in the vicinity, for some of the hobblebush leaves have taken on their autumn hue already. (Say it isn’t so!)

16c-brook to wetland

I almost complete the loop and reach the bridge crossing just before the parking lot at the end of Heald Pond Road, when I decide to follow the stream bed back toward the wetland. I suppose I did so because I wanted to extend my journey and my time honoring Juanita.

16-green frog

Here and there, where pockets of water exist, green frogs either try to hide from me or make sudden leaps.

17-back to the wetland

I bushwhack back into the wetland, not wanting to let go, and forever thankful for Juanita. Every time I wander her way, I discover new perks along Perky’s Path.

 

 

 

Book of July: HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION

If you think I’ve promoted this book before, you are correct, for HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION by Marita Wiser was featured as the Book of October in 2016.

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But . . . I’m thrilled to announce that Marita has published the Sixth Edition, aka 25th Anniversary Edition, of her hiking guide and it’s available at local stores as you read this. Or you can order directly from her, and I’ll tell you how later in this review.

m2-signed copy

Before I tell you about changes since the Fifth Edition, let me say that I’m a bit biased for I’ve had many the pleasure of hiking the trails mentioned within with Marita, and sometimes her lovely daughters, and she once again offered me the kindness of letting me edit. She even paid me. How cool is that? And then gave me a signed copy.

m4-blaze orange

To top it off, I modeled blaze orange with her youngest, Marguerite! If you’d like me to sign your copy, I’d be happy to do so 😉

To keep things fresh, Marita recast her rating system with two green circles meaning easiest and one green equaling easy. That was to differentiate between those like Holt Pond or Pineland Farms, which have well-groomed and fairly flat trails (or boardwalks–just watch out when wet), from Pondicherry Park or Mount Ti’rem, where the terrain varies more, but still isn’t enough of an elevation change to meet her guidelines for a blue square indicating moderate such as Mount Will or a black diamond meaning hard like Mount Chocorua.

She also added some color photos as you can see from above, but I love that she kept some classics, including a few of her daughters that were taken twenty years ago.

The centerfold map is also in color and shows not only where the trails are located, but their degree of difficulty as well.

One of the final new additions is what she’s titled “The Lure.” What is there about a trail that might attract you to it? Marita spells out those keen features such as “wheelchair accessible,” “plenty of vertical for a cardio workout,” “interesting old foundation,” and “the Rock Castle.” There are more, but you’ll need to purchase the book to read them all.

r8-mount kearsarge 1

Among the new trails Marita recommended in this edition is the Red Tail Trail that leads to Black Cap Mountain in North Conway. My guy and I had the privilege of introducing her to that one fine day last fall.

s-Marita, Bruce and Gary 2 (1)

Together, she and I discovered the well-built trail that Bruce, the property manager, and his assistant, Larry, were building on Long Mountain in Albany.

l9a-teepee and islands in background

She’s also kept in the classics like Pleasant Mountain and . . .

c-heading up 1

Mount Chocorua and their varied trails.

I’d give away all the surprises if I told you more.

Oh, and one more thing I like about this book is that it’s an all-local effort with Marita’s writing, her mother’s sketches, an old friend’s work on the map, my fine editing skills, Laurie LaMountain of Almanac Graphics (and Lake Living magazine fame) on design, and production of the final product at Cardinal Press in Denmark. Denmark, Maine, that is.

m3-back cover

You may purchase a copy of HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION, which is printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink, at your local shop, including Bridgton Books where its long been a best seller. And if you don’t live locally, but still would like to buy a copy, the information on the back cover as seen above provides all the details you need.

HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION by Marita Wiser, designed by Almanac Graphics and self-published at Cardinal Printing, both of Denmark, Maine, 2018

 

 

Book of June: Dragonflies of the North Woods

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!

Big eyes, four wings, and an exoskeleton,

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!

Okay, so maybe I tweaked the words a bit to suit the celebration of my favorite season, but it’s what I do. And it’s a fun way to think about the body parts of dragonflies, those mini helicopters that have finally emerged and started dining on the pesky mosquitoes.

cover

I can think of no better way to honor this special season than to look at dragonflies (and damselflies) up close by purchasing a new field guide: Dragonflies of the North Woods by Kurt Mead.

Of course, his north woods is different from mine since he’s located in Minnesota and I’m in Maine, but our habitats are similar enough that we share many of the same species.

Before I say anything more about the contents of the book, I have to share the “About Kurt Mead” from the back cover because it may just be the top reason to own a copy: “Kurt Mead is a naturalist at Tettegouche State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. (He finally knows what he wants to be when he grows up.) He has also worked in a pea canning factory, as a garbage man, an animal control officer, an urban wildlife trapper, an aquaculturist, a security guard, an acid rain monitor, a substitute teacher, a waiter, a delivery driver, an elected township supervisor, a DNR Fisheries creel surveyor, a log home builder and carpenter in Sweden, a naturalist at environmental centers, an itinerant naturalist throughout the Midwest, an instructor at folk schools, was a stay-at-home dad for 15 years, and he founded the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project, which has since become the Minnesota Dragonfly Society. His scavenging habits lead his wife to believe that he is a reincarnated Turkey Vulture.”

The second paragraph describes his university credentials, wife and daughters, and ends with this line: “Kurt is also passionate about good donuts.”

Indeed, that’s why this guide flew off the shelf and perched in my hands at Bridgton Books not long ago.

immature chalk fronted corporal 2

The size of the book is 8.5 x 4.5 and it’s a half inch thick so it doesn’t take up a lot of space in my over-the-shoulder field bag. Like all good guides, Mead begins by describing a dragonfly–well actually, he begins with a Lewis Carrol conversation between Gnat and Alice, but you’ll need to purchase the book to read the quote.

In his explanation, he briefly describes the difference between dragon and damselflies, including the most obvious ones as demonstrated by a Chalk-fronted Corporal (Ladona julia) I saw at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Kezar River Reserve this afternoon: dragonflies have a stout build, eyes in contact with each other, and wings held flat when perched.

superb jewelwing male

Mead doesn’t devote much space to damselflies, which overall are easy to differentiate  within the order Odonata because their build is slight, eyes separate, and wings held over their backs when perched. I understand why he doesn’t include more than one page with photos of distinctive damsels because the guide would have been too long, but I had the pleasure of making two new acquaintances today . . . Mr. Superb Jewelwing (Calopteryx amata) and his mate.

superb jewelwing female

Meet the Mrs. Notice the white dots on her wings–that always makes for easy gender ID of the jewelwings. These two–superb indeed.

thorax and wings

Looking at the Corporal again, Mead includes an excellent diagram of the body parts, the head including those compound eyes, thorax with six legs and four wings, and segmented abdomen.

Four-spotted skimmer

Mead further describes the life cycle and behaviors of these awesome fliers. Before getting into the nitty gritty of specific species, he offers a Quick “In the Hand” Key to help viewers differentiate family traits. The family key is followed by a Quick Wing Pattern Key. As you can see from this Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata), some wings have spots and bands.

Lancet Clubtail

The main part of the book is divided by families and on the back cover colored tabs indicate those, making for easy reference. At the start of each family section, Mead devotes two pages to specific information that makes them unique. And he includes a sketch of the nymph stage, Within the family, the dragonflies are again divided by genus and two pages are devoted to each species. On each two-page spread, the reader will find photographs, habitat, descriptions and more. This Lancet Clubtail (Phanogomphus exilis) is described on pages 80-81.

American Emerald

Within the spread for this American Emerald (Cordulia shurtleffii), I read about its hunting technique: “Will feed on relatively defenseless and weak teneral (newly emerged) damselflies and dragonflies. Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Superb made it past the teneral stage. (I like that word.)

Calico Pennant

The end of the book includes a glossary, field checklist, dragonfly synonyms and names in languages other than English, phenology flight chart, and other info.

I never knew until I began to pay attention that there are so many beautiful species flying about in mosquito land. One of my favorite finds today was this Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa). If you’re curious about the species you encounter, then I highly recommend Kurt Mead’s Dragonflies of the North Woods. Again, I purchased my copy at Bridgton Books.

Dragonflies of the North Woods by Kurt Mead, Kollath+Stensaas Publishing, 2017.