Flying With John A. Segur

I never had the honor of meeting Mr. Segur, but it was my honor to be his eyes for a short time today as I wandered down the short trail off New Road in Lovell at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge. Upon his death, a bequest in his name was left to the land trust to preserve habitat for native wildlife to thrive.

The JAS Wildlife Refuge actually encompasses 592 acres and I only explored the .3 mile trail on the western section of the property, but on an extremely hot summer day my finds were enough. Follow me and I think you’ll see what I mean.

j1-Across from the sign and telephone pole

First off, you need to locate the small undefined parking lot. It’s about a mile beyond Foxboro Road, but I don’t pay attention to that. Rather, I look for the “No Thru Trucks” sign and turn on my left-hand blinker as soon as I spot it.

j2-trail and kiosk

Just beyond a couple of boulders placed to keep vehicles from driving down the old skidder trail, stands the kiosk where you can take a look at the trail map and check out some other GLLT materials.

j3-map

As I said, this is just a small part of the overall refuge, but it’s well worth an exploration, especially if you don’t have much time (though some of us have been known to spend at least three hours making our way down and back).

j3a-the trail mowed

Recently, the GLLT’s Associate Team and Intern mowed the trail, making it passable and not quite so tick-infested. But . . . still take precautions. Always! The trail is rather level, so it’s an easy one to travel.

j4-daisy and crab spider

This is a place where you’ll find the ordinary, like a daisy. And trying to decide if “he loves me, he loves me not,” you might see a small crab spider.

j5-sundews

This is also the land of the extraordinary–in the form of the carnivorous Round-leaved Sundews. Check out the glistening droplets at the ends of the hair-like tendrils that  extend from each round leaf. The droplets are actually quite sticky. Just like a spider sensing a bug on its web, the tendrils detect the presence of prey and then curl inward, thus trapping the prey.  The whole leaf will eventually wrap around the insect and in the process of digesting it, the plant will absorb the bug’s nutrients. Sundews tend to grow in areas that lack sufficient nutrients, so this is the plant’s way of supplementing its diet. And if that wasn’t enough–it was just plain beautiful.

All that being said, this is a tiny plant and right now preparing to flower. So, if you travel this way, about a tenth of a mile into your journey, look down at your feet for these minute gems, take a closer look, and then walk with care.

j6-sweet-fern

Further along the trail you’ll see a few species of ferns, as well as the fern that isn’t a fern. Sweet-fern is so named for it’s fern-like appearance, but it has a woody stem and is actually a shrub. It’s yellowish green flowers that first appeared in spring were giving way to greenish brown, burr-like nutlets. In any season, this shrub has such variation to offer, that like hobblebush, I can’t resist honoring it with a million photographs.

j8-raspberries

One of the sweet joys of this trail is that because of previous logging, early succession is taking place in terms of the plants and trees that grow beside the trail, including blackberries not quite ripe and these raspberries already offering a delightful reprieve on a humid summer day.

j14-the field

Eventually, the trail leads to the turn-around point, the old log landing, which also displayed signs of forest succession, for its there that some wildflowers and sweet-ferns grow in the center. At the perimeter, white pines, gray birch and blackberries crowd each other.

j10-four-spotted with food

And on the edge, the dragonflies fly. And dine. This Four-spotted Dragonfly settled on a dead red pine to consume an insect.

j11-4 spotted eating

Ever so slowly . . .

j12-feeding frenzy

the body disappeared into its mouth.

j13-4 spotted, back view

While it was busy eating, I was busied myself in getting as close as possible to enjoy all of its nuances, from the four spots on its wings, to the basal display on the hind wings to the placement of its eyes and colors on its thorax and abdomen. All of those details help in ID.

j15-old coyote scat

And then into the field I went, with a memory of a winter expedition when we noticed that a shrike had deposited a mouse in a tree. Today’s finds included a pile of old coyote scat probably also deposited this past winter that indicated a territory repeatedly marked.

j16-turtle?

I also spied lots of recently made depressions. While one might suspect dust baths by a turkey or grouse, feathers are usually left behind in the process. Instead, the ground was more disturbed and because the landing is close to Bradley Brook, I determined I was looking at recently dug holes made by turtles. Snappers and painted turtles have been depositing eggs recently and these may be the incubation nurseries for their offspring.

j16-racket-tailed emerald

As I turned back toward the trail, I noticed a dragonfly seeking shade, for so hot was it. Notice the bright green eyes of the Racket-tailed Emerald. Thank goodness for those emerald eyes that always help in narrowing down the choices.

j18-common dewberry:sphinx moth

I found it a bit more difficult to ID the sphinx moth that paid a visit to the Dewberries. There are only 1,450 species in the Sphingidae family, but my leaning was toward Nessus Sphinx, though I could be totally off on that one.

j20-Northern-bush Honeysuckle

I was much more confident about my ID of the native Northern-bush Honeysuckle with its greenish-yellowish-orangish flowers. The plant is actually a shrub with a woody stem, and one that moose and deer like. I’ve yet to see a moose print along this piece of the property, but I know its part of a deer yard.

j21-Spotted St. John's-wort

Also springing forth with yellow blossoms was Spotted St. John’s-wort, with its translucent spots on the leaves and tiny black dots outlining its petals.

j22-whorled yellow-loosestrife

And not to be overlooked, the Whorled Yellow-Loosestrife with its cheery flowers extended in a whorl from the stem by long petioles.

j23-hitchiker

My journey wasn’t long, but with all that I saw, I was thankful for the spirit of Mr. Segur that flies over this place.

Just possibly, he graced me with his presence today . . . in the form of Spangled Skimmer.

Self-Guided Tour of Sabattus Mountain

As stories go, Sabattus Mountain in Lovell offers plenty of lore. For starters, there’s the name of the mountain. I’ve heard at least two tales and seen three spellings, but basically the legend is the same–about a Pequawket named Sabatos, Sabatis, or Sabattus, who guided hunters and one day killed a lynx, or was it a mountain lion, before it sprang upon him.

In a July 14, 2017 article, Ed Parsons of the Conway Daily Sun wrote: “Sabattus was born in St. Francis, Canada, and with the influence of French missionaries, was named for St. John the Baptist, shortened to Sabattus. When Roger’s Rangers destroyed St. Francis in 1759, Sabattus was about 10 years old. He was kidnapped and went south with the rangers. Later, he went to Fryeburg with one of them, and spent the rest of his life in the area.

Sabattus had two children with the well-known area healer, Molly Ockett. In 1783, an earlier wife of his returned from a long trip to Canada, and claimed to be his spouse. To settle the dispute, Sabattus took them to the house of Mr. Wiley in Fryeburg so there would be a witness, and the two women fought, “hair and cloth flying everywhere.” Mrs. St. Francis, as Molly Ockett called the former wife, was stronger and won out. Molly Ockett left and moved to Andover, Maine.

There’s also the Devil’s Staircase, but that’s for another day.

s1-sign

Two Land for Maine’s Future program grants, along with funding from the Greater Lovell Land Trust, enabled the State of Maine to purchase 177 acres on and around Sabattus Mountain, protecting hiking access to Lovell’s highest peak. The trail is a 1.6-mile loop to and from the 1,253-foot summit. Sabattus Mountain is now owned and managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands. The land trust, however, has taken a keen interest in upkeep of the trail system recently because there had been much erosion ever since Hurricane Irene and the State seemed to back off maintaining it. Last year, the GLLT’s three interns built numerous water bars, especially on the eastern trail.

s6-Brent's Loop Trail Sign

Last week, Brent Legere of Lovell Box Company and Western Maine Slabworks, installed new signs to guide hikers on the trail system.

s2-self-guided nature walk

Today, a team of docents, associates and this year’s intern, under the well-organized leadership of GLLT Docent and Maine Master Naturalist Joan Lundin, installed informational signage along the loop.

s3-explaining the plan

The morning began as Joan divided the team into two groups. First she instructed Intern Isaiah (in red) and Stewardship Associate Dakota (in plaid), to take one set of signs up the western trail and leave them beside examples of particular species on the way.

s5-all smiles to go

Then she prepped Associate Director Aidan, and GLLT Docents Nancy and Pam in the plan for the eastern trail.

s4-signs

All signs were laid out and ready to be hauled up the trails for installation.

s12-hi ho

And so, in true Seven Dwarf style, it was hi ho, hi ho and off to work we went.

s7-installing the first sign

Because she’d climbed the trail so often in order to prepare for today’s undertaking, Joan knew right where each sign belonged. At the start, she did most of the installing, showing off her muscle power on this steamy day, despite her petite physique.

s8-yellow birch

Each sign included common and scientific names, plus only a few key characteristics so not to overwhelm those who might stop to read them and look around to locate the particular species. It’s a technique decided long ago by the full team of docents who have undertaken this task each summer for years–always along a different GLLT trail.

s9-striped maple

The natural community along both trails on the loop system transitioned about two-thirds of the way up. For the lower portion, the community consisted of a variety of deciduous trees.

s13-hemlock

Suddenly everything changed. Light turned to shade. Dry turned to damp. Leaves turned to needles. And conifers showed off their unique characteristics.

s14-sphagnum moss

Even the forest floor changed from dried leaves and wildflowers to green mosses, including sphagnum, with its pom-pom shaped heads.

s15-loop trail sign at ridge

As we hiked up the eastern trail, Dakota and Isaiah swung along the ridge line and came down to find us for they had only placed their signs along the western trail as instructed by Joan, and hadn’t yet pounded them into the earth. We chatted as we moved upward, talking about the turn ahead to the ridge, and Dakota told us we’d be pleased with how obvious it was since Brent had installed the new signs. Indeed!

s16-glacial erratic

Of course, we were a group that failed at following directions, and so off trail we went to check on the glacial erratic that we knew stood just beyond a downed tree.

s17-porcupine scat

We also checked underneath, for who doesn’t like to look at porcupine scat. New and old, though not especially fresh, it’s been a winter den for at least 30+ years that I’ve been climbing this mountain.

s18-Canada mayflower

And then Joan redirected us, pulling us back into the mission of the morning and finding a place to post the Canada Mayflower sign–between the granite slabs at our feet.

s19-window on the world beyond

Making our way across the ridge, we paused for a second to look out the window upon the world beyond. It’s from heights like this one that we always appreciate how much of Maine is still forested. At a recent gathering with District Forester Shane Duigan, he said that the state is 85% forested–down from 90% not because of urban sprawl, but instead increased farming.

s20-main summit signs

A few minutes later we reached the main summit, where Brent had posted more signs. They’re nailed to a White Pine and mark the intersection of the ridge trail and western loop, with a spur to the western-facing ledges and scenic overlook.

s21-white pine

That very White Pine was also on Joan’s list as an excellent example, and so it will be noticed for a while.

s22-Keyes Pond and Pleasant Mtn

For a few minutes, we took in the wider view to the south–noting Keyes Pond in Sweden and Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton, both part of the great beyond.

s23-scenic view

And then a quick trip out to the scenic overlook, where the sweeping view included the Lower Bay of Kezar Lake and pyramid outline of Mount Kearsarge in North Conway.

s24-scenic view 2

Turning a wee bit to the north, the view also encompassed more of Kezar Lake, and the White Mountains.

s25-chipmunk

On the way down, we continued, or rather, the rest of the team continued to install the signs while I watched, and one quiet chipmunk with a piece of a leaf dangling from its mouth looked on with approval. We assumed it approved, for it didn’t chatter at us.

s26-teamwork

It seemed the signs on the western trail went into place far more quickly than on the climb up, but maybe it was because there weren’t as many. We did pause for a few minutes as Isaiah and Dakota changed out one sign for another because the species Joan wanted to feature wasn’t as prominent as hoped. But, she was prepared with extra laminated cards and quickly produced a description of an alternate species.

s27-plank

We were nearly finished with our morning’s work when we reached the new plank bridge Brent had placed across a small stream.

s28-white admiral

Back at the parking lot, we were wowed by the sight of pollinators upon the Staghorn Sumac, including a White Admiral Butterfly.

With that, our tour was done for the day, but we’d met several people along the way who were thrilled with the work we’d done. We hope you, too, will partake of the pleasant hike up Sabattus Mountain, and stop along the way to enjoy the self-guided tour. It will be in place until Labor Day weekend.

And be sure to stop by the office on Route 5 and make a contribution to the Greater Lovell Land Trust for we are a membership-driven organization and can’t do such work without your continued support.

P.S. Thank you Self-guided Tour Docents and GLLT staff, plus Property Steward Brent.

 

 

Summer Solstice Sweetness

My dear friend Carissa sent me an e-mail about this week being Pollinator Week and challenged me to write about it. Her inspiration came from an e-mail she’d received from Natureworks Horticultural Services in Northford, Connecticut–part of our old stomping grounds as babes, toddlers, tweens and teens. (She grew up in Northford, while I grew up on the other side of the tracks in North Branford–two distinct villages that formed one town.)

Part of the message included this passage: “Happy Pollinator Week. There really is a week for that? You betcha. Pollinators are vital to life on this planet. And, at Natureworks, we are teaching our customers to protect and help pollinators every single day. It all starts with an organic garden. It includes planting lots of pollinator-friendly flowers. It continues with the way you manage your landscape and the way your community manages their public spaces. Pollinators are in decline around the world. We need to take this seriously. Let me just say . . .  we have the plants for that!

f1

And then another friend, Pam, invited me to join her on a mini-hike to Foss Mountain today in Eaton, New Hampshire, and it all came full circle. To travel here with Pam was an incredible opportunity because she had some personal experience with the property and shared the local lore, including a story about a peddler who long ago repeatedly traveled a road that crosses the mountain and apparently spent some time canoodling with another man’s woman. And then, on one of those journeys, the peddler vanished into thin air–never to be seen or heard from again.

f2

Pam’s brother and sister-in-law had previously owned the land we were about to explore, but it’s now owned by the Town of Eaton and is protected in perpetuity by the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust. The property is managed by the Eaton Conservation Commission, which maintains the trail and blueberry fields.

f3

The blueberry fields were really a sign of early succession following a 150+ year history as pasture land. According to information posted on one of the three kiosks, there was a description of the farming heritage that included along the timeline the decade that the fields reverted to blueberries, juniper and gray birch, and the man who oversaw the blueberry crop–Frank French.

At some point along that timeline, the Brooks family homesteaded there, but not much was known about them. Pam and I wandered about the remaining cellar hole as we tried to interpret the scene, but didn’t quite understand all that we saw. (We sure wished our friend Janet had been able to join us and add her understanding of such historical sites.)

f4

We continued on the short journey upward, passing through a pleasant White and Red Pine forest along a well-defined trail with switchbacks to help eliminate erosion.

f6

Suddenly, the natural community changed and we entered an open area where White-throated Sparrows serenaded us with their “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” song. Sheep Laurel surprised us with its bright pink flowers, but . . . we spied no pollinators.

f7

We also discovered a cinquefoil growing abundantly among the rocks, and though it had a few pollinators, it was just that–only a few.

f7a

Now allow me to interrupt with an explanation of the common name for this cinquefoil or Sibbaldiopsis tridentata: it’s known as Three-toothed (tridentata) for the three teeth at the tip of each leaflet. Do you see them?

f8

Though we only saw a few pollinators among the cinquefoil, the abundance of blueberries suggested a lot of previous action. A few blueberries had already ripened. We conducted a taste test and suggest you totally avoid Foss Mountain this summer for we certainly couldn’t taste the sunshine in those little blue morsels. (And my nose just grew longer–Pinocchio-style.)

f13

As we reached the summit, we shifted our attention from flowers and pollinators to the 360˚ view that surrounded us.

f14

In every direction . . .

f15

we relished the sight . . .

f16

of blueberry plants . . .

f17

and mountains–including the Ossipee, Belknap and Presidential ranges.

f19

After a lunch break in the middle of this longest day, we started down and made more discoveries–including the sweet flowers of Blue-eyed Grass and its fruits indicating it had been pollinated.

f20

And nearby on a Red Clover . . .

f21

a bumblebee sought nectar while simultaneously filling its pollen sacs.

But in the whole scheme of things, we saw few pollinators and wondered–what’s up? This is an organic field and public space, as Carissa’s contact at Natureworks encouraged. And yet . . . Pam and I weren’t able to answer all our questions today.

f22

But . . . as we looked upon the abundant blueberry crop before us on this first day of summer, we gave thanks for those who had protected the land and those who had performed the mighty act of pollination despite adversity and we looked forward to the sweetness that will follow this Summer Solstice.

Meals-on-Wings

I wasn’t sure how I would spend the afternoon, until that is, the phone rang. On the other end of the line (what line?) Mary Jewett of Lakes Environmental Association excitedly told me about her adventures last evening exploring one of my favorite Lovell haunts. She’s an avid birder and is currently participating in the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Maine Breeding Bird Atlas.

For this citizen science project, Mary has chosen several areas of Lovell as her block and so she’s getting to know one of my favorite necks of the woods. Last night, she explained, found her kayaking with her boyfriend on a river that passes through a Greater Lovell Land Trust property. As she talked, she started listing off the birds they saw that are not on the species list for that property, thus nudging me to make sure it gets updated. One in particular pushed her excitement button, and that’s when I knew where I was going to spend the afternoon.

She also told me about a most unusual sight that she caught on film–a porcupine swam across the river, passing in front of their kayaks. Who knew? She surmised it had been chased to the water and just kept going.

k7-kezar river

Anyway, within 45 minutes of the phone call, I was at the water’s edge.

k8-canada geese

The bird life was immediately apparent in the form of Canada Geese, their youngsters growing bigger by the day.

k10-mallard duckling

What rather surprised me was that I watched two Mallard ducklings, but never saw their momma, unless she was hiding under some shrubs. I could only hope that was the case.

k21-kingfisher

There were Red-winged Blackbirds, the males displaying their bright shoulder patches, and even a Belted Kingfisher who sang his rattling song as he flew above the water looking for a meal.

At last I had dallied long enough, for of course I admired the dragonflies and damselflies, but it was time to bushwhack over to a viewpoint where I could stay hidden as my eyes and ears filled with the sights and sounds of . . .

k11a-rookery

a Great Blue Heron Rookery. It had been on my radar to get there, but other events took priority until Mary’s nudge. The moment I started down the trail I heard the chorus of croaks and knew I was in for a treat.

k12-food

Up high in the pines, those massive birds stood, most upon their large platform nests made of twigs and sticks, and apparently lined with moss and pine needles to soften the interior. If you looked closely at the adult upon the nest, its curved throat appeared to bulge a bit.

k13-food

Both parents are known to provide a meal of regurgitated food. Can you see the adult bending down, its beak meeting the youngster’s? Soon, regurgitating the food will stop and instead small fish will be deposited in the nest and the “little” ones will learn to feed themselves.

k14-next meal

After one was fed, another begged for its share of the picnic. It seemed to look up and say, “Hey, where’s mine?” in true jealous sibling behavior.

k15-sentry

By now you may have noticed that the youngsters have black flattop haircuts. Adult Great Blues have thin black plumes that are swept back of the tops of their heads making for easy ID until the young fully mature. And at least one stands sentry, ever on the lookout for predators like eagles and raccoons.

 

k17-double decker

Great Blue Herons nest in colonies near wetlands such as this. The group of nests is called a rookery–so named for the colonial nests of the Eurasian rook, a bird similar to a crow, but called a rook because of the sound it makes.

k18-birds everywhere

With my eagle eyes, I had to really focus in on the trees, for not all of the nests were obvious from my vantage point on the distant shore. It’s best if you are to observe to keep your distance and remain quiet and hidden so the birds aren’t disturbed during this fragile time in their life cycle.

k19-i'll be back

With the kids fed in nest one, the parent decided to chat with a neighbor before heading off to gather supplies for the next meal.

k20-don't forget us

And the kids next door waited expectantly–ever anxious for the delivery of their own meals-on-wings.

 

One Wing, Two Wing

Whether I look up, down, or somewhere between, all that fly have captured my attention lately.

l6-river jewelwing

My heart flutters when a female River Jewelwing, with her iridescent body flies into my space.

l26-female river jewelring

But it’s those two-toned wings with their white spots or stigmas (indicating it’s a female for male’s don’t feature the spots) folded over their backs that wow me the most. Though their wings may appear to be two different colors, and these were taken in two different river locations, they are really the same. It’s the very nature of being iridescent, where all colors of light are reflected, that makes them appear as either black or bronze. You know what else I like about this damselfly–it was eating an insect.

s6-four-spotted skimmer

And then I turned on my dragonfly eyes. Ever so slowly over the last few years I’m beginning to recognize some of the perchers by name, like this Four-spotted Skimmer. It certainly helps that they pause frequently and hold their wings out to the side, which is a dragonfly characteristic.

l12-four-spotted skimmer

It’s the wings that are the defining points for me. All four feature a beautiful amber patch on the upper or leading edge. Do you see the golden veins? And then there are the black spots. Those in the middle or elbow of the wing are referred to as nodal, while the stigma is at the leading edge, the same as the female damselfly’s. Why four-spotted and not eight? I don’t have an answer, but perhaps it’s just plain easier to quickly count the four spots on the forewings before the insect flies off.

s8-calico pennant

Last year it was the Calico Pennant that became one of my new species to recognize each time we met. This is a rather small skimmer with the most amazing wing pattern. Notice the dark patch near the tip of the wings, just beyond the yellow stigma. What I love most though is the stained-glass patch on the hindwings. This one was either a female or an immature for its coloration was yellow; the male stands out in red. I have yet to encounter a male this year, but trust it will happen.

s7-dusky clubtail

Sometimes it’s not the wings that are the showiest part, like on this Dusky Clubtail,

l27-green-faced clubtail

Green-faced Clubtail,

l25-racket-tailed emerald

and Racket-tailed Emerald, but there is beauty in simplicity.

l17-Large Flathead Pine Heartwood Borer Beetle (Chalcophora virginiensis)

Wings on other insects are also worth observing, like the purplish ones on a Large Flathead Pine Heartwood Borer Beetle, aka Metallic Wood Boring Beetle. Though it’s supposed to be a noisy flyer, I only saw it clinging to a leaf on a recently harvested hill–meaning there’s lots of dead pine heartwood nearby.

l18-click beetle

Only a few feet away, I had my first encounter (at least that I can recall) with an Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle. Click beetles get their names from the sound they emit when they flip themselves upright. I didn’t have the opportunity to hear that sound for I’m actually sharing these two photos out of order.

l19-click beetle

When I first met him, he was upright and may have flipped over to pretend to play dead. So I saved this photo to show second because of those “eyes” on the thorax and then the mottled black with white specked wings. The “eyes” are intended to frighten away predators. As an adult, the click beetle doesn’t dine on much, though occasionally it feeds on the larva of wood-boring beetles–thus there existed the possibility of an interesting intersection.

s21

When a Canadian Swallowtail flew in to my range, backlighting by the sun helped me see the overlap of its fore and hindwings as evidenced by the deeper yellow arch. I also noticed a tattering on one forewing. Butterflies are so beautiful and take such a beating both from their surroundings and any predator.

l21-luna moth wing

The same can be said for Luna Moths and by a hindwing left behind, I wondered when this one met its demise for so faded was it. But the “eye” on the wing was still evident, as well as the downy coating of this giant silkmoth. Of course, I would have preferred to see it alive, but was still thrilled with such a delicate find.

s13-yellow-bellied

Another great find was the discovery of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker who has been feeding its young throughout each day. Do you see the hole in the tree right beside the bird’s breast? I could hear the young located inside and have spent more minutes than I should admit to watching the parents fly in and out.

l22-veery eggs in nest

Soon the baby sapsuckers up in the tree will prepare to fledge.  Likewise, if all goes according to plan, these four Veery eggs found in a ground nest (mom and pop were accidentally flushed out, but we trust they returned) will hatch and four more sets of wings will take to the airways.

One wing, two wing, clear wing, metallic wing, butterfly wing, beetle wing–so many wings worth noticing.

 

 

 

Prehistoric Lovell

It only takes a few minutes of time to realize that Lovell, Maine, like all other New England towns, is rich in history–both human and natural. And though we may be able to assign dates to certain events that shaped the town, there are reminders in our midst that predate our understanding.

p3-white admiral

Think about it. According to the American Museum of Natural History’s website, our knowledge of “Butterfly origins is based on the study of living Lepidopteran species. We can often learn about evolution from the fossil record, but there are relatively few butterfly fossils. Those that do exist, like the 40-million-year-old Prodryas persophone, are remarkably similar to modern-day forms—so the fossil record sheds little light on the origin of today’s butterflies.

Many scientists think that the specialized association between today’s butterflies and flowering plants suggests that butterflies developed during the Cretaceous Period, often called the “Age of Flowering Plants,” 65 million to 135 million years ago—a time when dinosaurs also roamed the earth.”

And there I was this afternoon at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve admiring a White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis.

p4-white admiral

In quiet reflection above Heald Pond, one seemed to contemplate life. A cool fact about this butterfly is that rather than seeking nectar, the White Admiral is known to extract much of the water and nutrients it requires from mammal scat. Though I didn’t see one on scat today, I knew that the we shared a special connection–scat, after all, happens and has done so since the beginning of time.

p7-dragonfly exuvia

And then there were the dragonflies that may have been older than even the dinosaurs. Certainly by the structure of the exuvia left behind once they emerge, one gets a sense of that ancient time.

p5-chalk-fronted

Today’s great finds at H&B included male Chalk-fronted Corporals that followed me everywhere,

p9-female chalk-fronted

and their occasional female counterparts.

p4-lancet club

There were plenty of Lancet Clubtails,

p6-racket-tailed emerald

and even a Racket-tailed Emerald.

p10-female common whitetail

In keeping with the same theme at the Kezar River Reserve, I spied a female Common Whitetail–which was anything but common,

p11-female and male ebony jewelwings

and atop bracken ferns a female (note her white dots) and male Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly.

Again, the earliest fossils of the Odonata so far discovered come from Upper Carboniferous sediments formed about 325 million years ago. The group of fast-fliers represented by the fossils went extinct about the time of dinosaurs, and yet today we have their relatives to admire.

Even the bracken fern on which the jewelwings paused spoke to an earlier time when it stood much taller than today’s three feet.

p12-snapping turtle

And then on my way home it was a dragon of a different sort that made me stop on a bridge, put the truck in reverse, park it and hop out. The snapping turtle may look much older than all the other species I encountered today, but it has haunted our wetlands for only 90 million years. A young’un in this neck of the woods.

p13-snapper's nails

These critters were the most intimidating, however, as noted by those claws,

p14-snapper's tail

that tail,

p16-snapper's face 1

and its snout.

p16-snaper's wink

Despite that, we shared a wink . . .

p15-snapper's face

and then each went our own way.

The next time you step outside, whether in your backyard or on a land trust property, be sure to pay reverence to those that have brought a prehistoric time closer to home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.