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.”

 

Poking Along On Perky’s Path

Every Greater Lovell Land Trust trail is my favorite in any given moment and so it was that Perky’s Path received that ranking today.

p-beaked hazelnuts 2

I met my friend Pam in the parking lot and immediately our hunt for great finds began. We looked first at the basswood, but it was the shrub next door that heard us utter with delight–a beaked hazelnut showed off its fuzzy horned fruits.

p-hops on hop hornbeam

And then we walked back up the road a wee bit for at the entrance to the parking lot I’d spied a hop hornbeam also loaded–with hops.

p-striped maple sign

At last, we started down the trail, heading south where a self-guided tour begins. A small group of GLLT docents spent the winter months preparing signs for a variety of species along this route. It’s a task that requires choosing a particular trail one summer for the next, determining which species to ID, taking photographs, gathering and writing facts, creating and printing cards, laminating them, attaching them to posts, relocating the species and finally erecting the posts, which will be left in place until Labor Day. That’s a lot of work, so if you have a chance, take the tour. It includes trees, shrubs, flowers, ferns and more.

p-American toad

As we walked, the ground at our feet moved–in hopping fashion. We only saw one American toad, but plenty of frogs.

p-bloated female wood frog 2

All of them sported their camouflage colors, so after the ground moved, we had to focus in order to relocate them once they paused.

p-bloated female wood frog 1

This female wood frog’s robber mask was the only thing that helped us locate her.

p-young wood frog hiding under starflower leaf

You’ll have to use your own focus to find the baby wood frog that hid beneath a decomposing starflower leaf.

p-spring peeper

And another teeny, tiny one–a spring peeper with the X on its back.

p-common brown cup, Peziza varia

Because we were looking down all the time, we began to notice other things, such as the common brown cup fungi which looked rather like a wrinkled ear.

p-black trumpet Craterellus fallax

We also found a few black trumpets,

p-chanterelles 1

chanterelles (I’m leaning toward Cantharellus cibarius but don’t take my word for it–check with the Veitch brothers of White Mountain Mushrooms for positive ID is you are a forager.),

p-caesar's mushroom 1

and a couple of Caesar’s.

p-Indian cucumber 2

Though we found one Indian cucumber root that had been broken, its fruit continued to form.

p-round-leaf pyrola 3

Our hearts throbbed when we recognized that here and there hiding among the herb layer were round-leaved pyrolas.

p-round-leaf pyrola1

Their leaves were nearly round with petioles or stems no longer than the blade.

p-pyrola flowers 2

And their flowers–nodding.

p-pipsissewa flowers 1

Pam had shown me a photo of a pipsissewa that grew on her property and we then found a small patch just off the trail, their jester-hat flowers attracting small insects.

p-up close

What better way to admire those flowers than up closer and personal.

p-Pam's brackenfern hat 1

And then it was time to don a brackenfern cap for the mosquitoes were at times annoying–and biting.

p-Indian pipes 1

As we continued on, we noted that it is Indian pipe season. I asked Pam if she’d ever seen the pink version that occasionally occurs–and then we began to find several nodding heads . . .  all with a tinge of pink.

p-lichen sign

As we neared the platform overlooking the meadow and brook that flows between Heald and Bradley ponds, a sign of a different kind stood before a tree. Rather than focusing on one species, this one described the different formations of lichens.

p-lichen tree

And on the tree behind it–an example of all three, with several types of crustose (crust-like and look to be painted on), foliose (foliage) like the small ribbon lichen that is bright green and ribbony in the upper right hand corner, and fruiticose (think grape branches) of the beard lichens below the ribbon lichen.

p-lungwort 1

Behind that tree–another featuring lungwort lichen.

p-view to the south

For a few moments, we paused at the platform bench–taking in the sights . . .

p-looking north

and sounds as we wondered what may have passed through.

p-steeplebush

We also noted the difference in structure of the spireas, including steeplebush in bloom  . . .

p-meadowsweet 1

and meadowsweet not yet.

p-swamp candle, aka yellow loosestrife

Swamp candles added a tinge of color to the offerings.

p-blue bead lily1

Back on the trail, we were excited to find the porcelain beads of clintonia, one showing the transformation from green to blue.

p-dew drop 1

Dew drops shone white against their dark heart-shaped leaves covered in rain drops.

p-from the bridge

And further on by the primitive bridges that cross below the beaver pond,

p-tall meadow rue

tall meadow rue flowers presented a daytime fireworks display,

p-otter scat

while otter scat decorated a bridge slat.

p-end sign

We continued along, enjoying the offerings and quizzing ourselves on a variety of species, all the time pausing to read the self-guided tour signs. At last we reached the junction with the trail to Flat Hill and found our way back to the parking lot.

Perky’s Path is maybe a mile long, but it took us 3.5 hours to complete the tour as we poked along–rejoicing with each of our finds.

Orchid-Maine-ia

m-bald eagle 2

I took it as a sign when I first heard and then spotted a bald eagle on a white pine towering over Moose Pond. It seemed apropos that it should serve as a token of good luck, or at least a push out the door to spend some time wandering and wondering. And so I made the instant decision to drive to Holt Pond, where tomorrow I’ll join Ursula Duve and Kathy McGreavy as we lead a guided walk.

p-grasspink2

Our focus will be on orchids, such as the grass pink, which seems such a common name for this blooming beauty.

p-grass pink 1

The magenta flowers or Calopogons I spotted today are a wee bit off the boardwalk in the quaking bog, but even still I could see their showy formation with knobbed hairs on the upper lip. It is thought that the yellow crest on that lip imitates pollen, to attract pollen-seeking bees. But the real deal for orchids is that a collected mass of pollen grains are gathered together in a pollinium or anther lobe and thus deposited onto the bee’s abdomen.

p-rose pogonia 1

Rose pogonias were also blooming abundantly. In a way, their formation is opposite that of the grass-pink, with the fringed lower lip providing an attraction for pollinators.

p-pitcher leaf

Also on display as the water receded a wee bit despite a beaver dam on Muddy River–my favorite carnivorous pitcher plants with their urn-like leaves that serve as pit traps appeared quite robust.

p-pitcher flower

Carnivorous plants are orchid companions as they both prefer the bog habitat, like to fool their pollinators and are otherworldly beautiful. There is one aspect in which they differ–the orchids like to attract insects for pollination and the pitcher plants for nutrients. But first, the pitchers may use the insect as pollinators, thus fooling them into a visitation. Pollinators beware!

p-sundew

Equally seductive are the spatula-leaved sundews visible at the end of the quaking bog boardwalk. Until now, they’d been under water and difficult to see. The scent of sugary liquid on the leaf tips attracts unsuspecting insects who get stuck to the tentacles, which then curl inward and thus digest the nutrients from their prey. Again–beware.

p-trail sign

Orchids and their bog companions weren’t the only thing on view today.

p-painted turtle by Muddy River

When I stepped onto the short boardwalk to the Muddy River intent on hunting for dragonflies, I discovered a painted turtle sunning at the edge.

p-blue dasher 1

And then I found what I’d hoped–blue dashers dashed about, although occasionally one stopped so I could take a better look.

p-bluet love

And familiar bluets canoodled on a stem.

p-variable dancer

I discovered a female variable dancer damselfly on a small twig,

p-ebony jewelwing

a male ebony jewelwing fluttered and paused on red maple leaves,

p-flyby

and slaty blue dragonflies buzzed about Holt Pond in record-breaking speed.

p-slaty skimmer1

Finally, one stopped long enough for me to soak in its gray-blue color.

p-steeplebush

There were other flowers to enjoy as well, including the spirea,

p-swamp rose

swamp rose,

p-cranberry flowers

cranberry,

p-cowwheat

cow-wheat,

p-blue flag iris with hoverfly

and blue flag iris. If you look carefully, you may see a hoverfly following the runway on the left lobe.

p-blueberries ripening

I noticed blueberries beginning to turn blue,

p-cinnamon fern

cinnamon ferns with shriveled fertile fronds,

p-hobblebush leaves turning purple

and a few hobblebush leaves already taking on the fall shade of purple. Uh oh.

p-Holt Pond to the south

The wonders of Holt Pond . . .

p-Holt Pond west

never cease to amaze me.

p-quaking bog boardwalk

I hope that you can venture there yourself and discover your own Orchid-Maine-ia. Who knows what else you might notice along the way.

Swamp People

The phone rang as I was getting ready this morning and I don’t usually answer those with IDs such as “Private Caller,” but I did. And that made all the difference. Alanna Doughty was on the other end of the “line” and wanted me to know that this morning’s Lakes Environmental Association walk to explore the wetland plants at Holt Pond was still a go. She also asked if I wanted to borrow a pair of waders. Indeed, I did.

About 30 minutes later a group of eight had gathered at the preserve parking lot despite the raindrops. A few didn’t learn about the event until they read a description in this week’s Bridgton News, and so though they were prepared with raincoats and bug spray, they didn’t have Bogg boots or waders, but Alanna had brought along a few extra pairs and most made do. One gentleman had large feet and said he didn’t mind getting his sneakers wet. Such was the spirit of the morning.

p-red maple swamp

Without much further ado, we stomped down the trail and then slipped off it, through the woods and directly into the red maple swamp . . .

p-blue flag iris

where raindrops enhanced the dainty leaves of the blue-flag iris. Going off trail offers a certain liberating feeling.

p-pitcher plant

It also offers different species. Our movement was interrupted frequently by our findings, and as we stopped to determine the identification of a shrub that stumped us for a while, another plant drew our attention. Holt Pond is home to many pitcher plants, but this one cast its spell upon us for the curvy flower stems and new urn-shaped leaves. Most often, the stems stand stalwart.

p-pitcher spider

The otherworldly flowers protect friendly pollinators from accidentally being consumed. Unlike the pit trap below, aka the urn-shaped or pitcher leaves, the flowers are friendly and provide bees and other insects with nectar and pollen. This morning a spider wandered within, stepping on fallen anthers.

p-pitcher 4

I’ve forever found it a wonder that the extremely large style sits below the rest of the structure in order to capture pollen in its upside-down umbrella shape.

p-pitcher flower 1

Though those flowers have aged, their leathery sepals remained, fading from red to magenta. Below the sepals the large swollen ovary may house as many as 300 tiny seeds.

p-working our way through the swamp

After a long period of admiration, we finally pulled ourselves away and continued our tramp, finding our way through the swamp. And only briefly did we feel fake lost, but knew that wherever we came out, we’d recognize our position and continue the journey.

p-Great St. Johnswort

Among the sphagnum moss grew Great St. Johnswort not yet in flower.

p-slug

And slugs dined.

p-grasses, sedges and rushes

There were maples of course, and gray birches and speckled alders and royal and cinnamon ferns. But, there were also grasses and sedges and maybe even rushes. When at last we left the swamp and found ourselves on Tire Alley, about where we wanted to be, Alanna shared the ditty that helps us to maybe not name a particular species, but at least to know where to begin: Sedges have edges, rushes are round, grasses have joints all the way to the ground. Of course, she passed around examples so everyone could feel the edges of the sedge and see the joints on the grass.

p-Alanna describing hobbleush flowers

Then she stopped to describe the former flower of hobblebush, and I noticed the bouquet in her hand had expanded–her collection intended for further study later in the day.

p-slime mold on birch

We were about to head from the trail into the quaking bog by Holt Pond when Mary Jewett spied a growth on an old birch tree.

p-slime mold 2

My best guess was a slime mold for it looked like the Son of Blob had arrived. She and I both touched it and the outer coating fell off. It was rather creepy.

p-dark green fritillary caterpillars

At that point, we did a 180˚ turn and started out onto the quaking bog, literally, but a few in the front decided it wasn’t quite what they had bargained for since the water was especially deep. So, Alanna and Mary ventured that way and I joined the rest for a walk on the boardwalk, which was wet as well, but a bit more stable. Along the way, we spotted caterpillars actively consuming spirea leaves. Upon later research, I determined they were dark green fritillary caterpillars that will soon metamorph into those beautiful orange butterflies that we often mistake for monarchs. (Note: I spotted a monarch on milkweed not yet in bloom yesterday)

p-bog rosemary

Among the many plants growing on the quaking bog, the bog rosemary stood out with its bluish gray leaves.

p-bog rosemary 1

Newer leaves formed at the top, giving off a reddish hue and adding to their distinctiveness.

p-bog rosemary 2

The netlike venation on the leaves was also noticeable and though the blooms have passed, the pretty pink fruits hadn’t yet matured into brown capsules.

p-sundew with Mary

Since we’d seen the pitcher plants, Mary wanted to find the sundews that grew near the boardwalk. With the high water as a result of a beaver dam on the Muddy River, it’s been  hard to spot the sundews, but she persevered and located one, showing off its glistening tentacles intended to capture small insects. Should one land on the tiny leaf, the insect’s feet become ensnared in the sticky secretion and the end is eminent. Within mere minutes the tentacles curl around the victim and suck the nutrients out of it.

p-snakeskin 1

Meanwhile, Alanna continued to wander off the boardwalk and suddenly she discovered a shed snake skin. I had intended to join her, but I have to say that though I wore hip waders and my feet and legs were mighty dry, I could feel the bog quake with each step and I didn’t get far. Blame it on my camera, but I didn’t want to risk a fall. And do you know that squelchy sound of pulling a foot out of several inches of mud? That’s how it was when I tried to get back on the boardwalk. It’s not just a few plants that are carnivorous–it’s the entire bog.

p-snake skin 1

Never fear. We all survived and she brought the skin back for us to admire.

p-black chokeberry 1

We stayed on the boardwalk and trail as we finally looped back and still, there was much to see. The shrub that had stumped us when we first spotted the pitcher plant in the red maple swamp suddenly spoke its name and we knew we were looking at the fruits of the black chokeberry. Only a week or two ago we’d admired their flowers.

p-serviceberry 2

And then there was the berry that reminded us of a rose hip, as it should for it was in the rose family.

p-service berry gall?

Its ripening pomes will eventually turn purplish-black. But . . . we spied something we weren’t familiar with at all–do you see the growth on one? It rather reminded me of the Son of Blob slime mold we’d seen earlier and must have been a gall. Nature certainly provides as many questions as answers.

p-Northern Arrowwood

All spring and summer the flowers of the bog change by the week, or so it seems. This week, the Northern arrowwood was showing off its creamy-white blooms.

p-sheep laurel 2

And the sheep laurel, its fuchsia-colored blossoms.

p-bog monster web

For three hours we oohed and aahed and had great fun. We made one last stop before returning to the parking lot for the spirit in the hemlock called out to us–seemingly doing its own oohing and aahing.

Such were the offerings of the preserve this morning. And the people who gathered . . . I only knew Alanna and Mary before we began, but because of our shared experience the group was quite chummy by the time we were ready to depart. That’s what I love about walks such as this where complete strangers become instant friends, even if it’s only in the moment.

Swamp people . . . don’t mind rain or mosquitoes or wet feet. Swamp people . . . get to move where the spirit takes them. Swamp people . . .  find joy and wonder along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fawning with Wonder

Though fawning is most oft used to describe someone who is over the top in the flattery department (think old school brown nose), the term is derived from the Old English fægnian, meaning “rejoice, exult, be glad.”

I just knew it was going to be that kind of day when I drove toward Holt Pond Preserve this morning. First, on Route 302, a deer dashed in front of my truck–and I avoided hitting it by mere inches. (And being hit by the woman who was smack dab on my tail.) Then, as I drove up to the summit of Perley Road, a red fox crossed my path.

To top off my feeling of gladness, in the preserve’s parking lot I met up with the most gracious of hostesses, Lake Environmental Association‘s Education Director Alanna Doughty, and the ever delightful host, Loon Echo Land Trust‘s Stewardship Director Jon Evans. Those two dynamos had joined forces to lead a public walk that looped all the way around Holt Pond. Joining the group was a gentleman named Bob and two others–my dear friends Faith and Ben Hall. The Halls had arrived at their summer camp recently and this was my first opportunity to welcome them home. After intros and a discussion about how the two organizations have collaborated on projects including Holt Pond, along with an explanation of how they differ (LEA is about water science and protecting our precious lakes and ponds, while LELT is about protecting the uplands and lowlands that surround the watershed), we headed off on our adventure.

p-oak apple gall 1

Within minutes, a small, rubbery green ball, about the size of a ping pong ball, caught our attention. This was the result of an apple oak gall female wasp (yes, there is such a species) that crawled up the tree trunk of a Northern red oak earlier in the spring and injected an egg into the center vein of a newly emerged leaf. As the larva grew, it caused a chemical reaction and mutated the leaf to form a gall around it. The leaf provided the larva sustenance. Had we left it alone, once it matured into a wasp, it would have sawed its way out through a small escape hole.

p-oak apple gall 2

Because we were curious, however, Alanna split it open so everyone could see the spoke-like structure hidden inside, that provided support for the developing insect.

I shared with the group a little tidbit I learned last fall in Ireland. When working on the manuscript for the Book of Kells, monks used these galls for the color green, soaking them in beer or mead to create a dye.

p-Alanna and Jon

That set the stage and from there on, we paused periodically to wonder, though I think we said at one point that we wanted to get all the way around before 1pm. But there’s so much to see that we had to stop. And because the pitcher plants grow beside the boardwalk, it was hard to ignore them. Being Alanna, she got down on her knees to talk about how this carnivorous plant functions, enticing insects into its pitcher-like leaves that are filled with water and digestive enzymes. Because of downward-sloping hairs  on the leaf, insects can’t climb out and eventually they succumb–allowing the plant to break them down and absorb their nutrients.

p-pitcher plants flowering

Today, the pitcher’s flowers were beginning to bloom.

p-Indian Cucumber Root

As our journey continued, we stopped to admire other flowers including the Indian Cucumber Root,

p-jack in the pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit,

p-lady's 1

and pink lady’s slipper.

p-Faith on beech

To show off the contorted growth of a tree, Faith graciously took a brief break at the beech.

p-greater bladder sedge

While Jon shared a lot of information about South Bridgton’s historical past, Alanna enlightened us on the works of nature, including the bladder sedge with its inflated, teardrop-shaped sacs that enclose its fruit. Though common, like the pitcher plant flowers, it’s otherworldly in form.

p-nannyberry?

And then we got stumped by one shrub we should have known. Witherod (wild raisin) or Nannyberry? We decided on the latter for a couple of reasons–the petioles (stems) of the leaves were somewhat winged and the veins beneath the leaves were not scurfy. Scurfy? That was a new term for me–meaning rough to the touch or covered with scales.

p-Bob, Alanna, Faith 1

As our journey continued, we passed lots of hobblebush in the understory. But not to be missed were the witch hazels. And more galls, this time the witch’s cap that grows on their leaves and forms a cone-shaped structure much like a witch’s cap. How fitting that the Witch Hazel Cone Gall Aphid (Hormaphis hamamelidis) chose this particular shrub. Having caused the leaf to form a gall around her, mother aphid stayed inside, where she’s protected as she feeds and reproduces.

p-porky 1

During our journey, we shared brains and eyes. I’m thankful for others who thought to look up, and spotted a porcupine looking down.

p-grouse bath

We also looked down, spying the spot where a bird took a dust bath.

p-grouse bath feather

In this case, it was the work of a ruffed grouse that wanted to rid itself of lice and mites. A stray feather was also left behind. Do you see it?

p-fawn 3

But our best find of all–a young fawn curled up beside the trail. I was leading and talking at the time and didn’t even see it. Faith quietly called me back and I was sure she wanted to show me a snake. We paused quickly to take a few photos and this babe never flinched, obeying its mother’s order to stay put while she went off to feed. (I used to try that at the end of the aisle in a grocery store when my guys were young–but they did their fair share of flinching.)

We’d been blessed–and we all rejoiced while fawning with wonder.

 

 

 

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.

r-brook 1

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.

r-christmas fern 2

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.

r-cannoddling craneflies 2

r-cannoddling craneflies

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

r-toad 1

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.

r-frog 1

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.

r-clintonia 1

Yellow clintonia,

r-jack in the pulpit 1

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.

r-red trillium 3

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.)

 

 

Book of June: Bogs and Fens

My wish was granted when I asked for a copy of Bogs and Fens: A Guide to the Peatland Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada by Ronald B. Davis for Christmas.

b-bogs and fens cover

The idea for this book came from many years spent by Davis as a biology and Quaternary studies professor at the University of Maine and Colby College, plus his services as a docent at the Orono Bog Boardwalk in Orono, Maine.

Since I spend a lot of time tramping through a few favorite bogs and fens as well as visiting others, this seemed like the perfect guide to help me better understand the world of these special communities. And then I realized that on our own property grows some of the vegetation associated with these wetlands. With them right under my nose, what better way to learn?

Davis begins by describing the occurrence and indicator species of peatlands and then he goes on to give a lesson on the ecology of wetlands, including a description of peat, fens and bogs. A bibliography is provided for further reading and terms are defined.

What really works for me though, is the species descriptions, which he’s taken the time to divide into their various layers–trees, tall shrubs, short and dwarf shrubs, prostrate shrubs, herbaceous plants and ferns. Within each section, a specific plant is described, including its Latin name, common names, family, characteristics such as how tall it grows, number of petals, fruit, if any, etc., and its occurrence–whether in a fen, bog, dry hummock or other. All in all, he features 98 species, but also mentions 34 comparative species and includes an annotated list of 23 additional trees, shrubs, herbs and ferns that may grow in one or more community. And finally, the book ends with a description of pathways and boardwalks worth visiting.

b-sphagnum moss

And so this morning, I walked out back to look at our wetland, where the sphagnum moss’s pompom heads were crisscrossed by spider webs donned with beads of water.

b-sundew 2

It’s there that the round-leaved sundews grow, which I only discovered last year. Notice those bad-hair day “tentacles” or mucilaginous glands and the black spots upon the leaves. Dinner was served–in the form of Springtails or Collembola–their nutrients being absorbed by the plant to supplement the meager mineral supply of the sphagnum community.

b-sundew flower forming

And in the plant’s center, the flower stem begins to take shape. This summer, it will support tiny white flowers that will turn to light brown capsules by fall.

b-sheep laurel

Sheep laurel also grows in this place, its new buds forming in the axils below the newly emerged leaves. I can’t wait for its crimson flowers to blossom. Its flowers provide an explosion of beauty, and yet, danger lingers. This small shrub contains a chemical that is poisonous to wild animals, thus one of its common names is lambkill.

b-steeplebush leaves

Another short shrub is the rosy meadowsweet or steeplebush with its deeply toothed leaves.

b-steeplebush

Being only June 1st, it’s too early to flower, but last year’s steeple-like structure still stands tall in the landscape.

b-lowbush blueberries

Low-bush blueberries grow here as well and it’s only now that I realize I need to return and study these some more for Davis differentiates between velvet-leaved blueberries and common low-bush. I assumed these were the latter, but according to his description, the leaves will tell the difference. Apparently velvet-leaved, which I’ve never heard of before, feature “smooth-edged, alternate leaves, and bear fine, short hairs on the underside, edges and along veins of the upper side,” while low-bush leaves “have a finely serrate edge and a lack of pubescence, except rarely a sparse pubescence along the veins.” The next time I step out there, I will need to check the leaves to determine whether we have one or both species.

b-black chokeberry1

Of course, my favorite at the moment is the black chokeberry because the flowers provide a wow factor.

b-black chokeberry and ant

I’m not alone in my fascination.

b-water scavenger beetle larvae

Because I was nearby, I walked to the vernal pool, where a wee bit of sunlight highlighted another fascination of mine–my most recent discovery of water scavenger beetle larvae. Check out those heads and eyes.

b-tadpoles 1

Today, the tadpoles weren’t as shy as the other day and so they let me get up close and personal.

b-tadpoles 2

I’m holding out hope that the pool doesn’t dry up before they are able to hop away. Already, I can see their frog form beginning to take shape. This is a shout out to one of the Books of May: Vernal Pools–A Field Guide to Animals of Vernal Pools.

But back to the Book of June, and really the book of all summer months–Bogs and Fens by Ronald B. Davis. It’s heavy as field guides go and so I don’t always carry it with me, but it’s a great reference when I return to my truck or home. I appreciate its structure and information presented in a format even I get.

Bogs and Fens: A Guide to the Peatland Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, by Ronald B. Davis. University Press of New England, 2016.

My copy came from Bridgton Books, my local independent book store.