The Wonders of Kezar River Reserve

How many people can  travel a familiar route for the first time every time? I know I can.

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And so it was this morning when I ventured to the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Kezar River Reserve off Route 5 in Lovell. I went with a few expectations, but nature got in the way, slowed me down and gave me reason to pause and ponder–repeatedly.

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As I walked along the trail above the Kezar River, I spied numerous oak apple galls on the ground. And many didn’t have any holes. Was the wasp larvae still inside?

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While the dots on the gall were reddish brown, the partridgeberry’s oval drupes shone in Christmas-red fashion. I’m always awed by this simple fruit that results from a complex marriage–the fusion of pollinated ovaries of paired flowers. Do you see the two dimples? That’s where the flowers were attached. Two became one. How did they do this?

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After walking along the first leg of the trail, I headed down the “road” toward the canoe launch. And what to my wondering eyes should appear–fairy homes. Okay–true confession: As a conclusion to GLLT’s nature program for the Lovell Recreation Program this summer, the kids, their day camp counselors and our interns and docents created these homes.

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I was impressed that the disco ball still hangs in the entrance of this one. Do you see it? It just happens to be an oak apple gall. Creative kids. I do hope they’ve dropped by with their parents to check on the shelters they built.

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And then I reached the launch site and bench. It’s the perfect spot to sit, watch and listen. So I did. The bluejays kekonked, nuthatches yanked and kingfishers rattled.

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A gentle breeze danced through the leaves and offered a ripply reflection.

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And I . . . I awaited great revelations that did not come. Or did they? Was my mind open enough to receive? To contemplate the mysteries of life? The connections? The interactions?

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At last, I moved on and entered a section that is said to be uncommon in our area: headwall erosion. This is one of five ravines that feature deep v-shaped structures. Underground streams passing through have eroded the banks. It’s a special place that invites further contemplation. And exploration.

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One of my favorite wonders on the bit of stream that trickled through–water striders. While they appeared to skate on the surface, they actually took advantage of water tension making it look like they walked on top as they feasted on insects and larvae that I could not see.

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Lots of turtle signs also decorated the trail. Literally.

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In fact, I found bear sign,

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cardinal sign,

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and lady’s slipper sign . . . among others. Local students painted the signs and it’s a fun  and artistic addition to the reserve.

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Of course, there was natural sign to notice as well, including a blue jay feather.

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Asters and goldenrods offered occasional floral decorations.

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And hobblebush berries begged to be noticed.

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And then a meadowhawk dragonfly captured my attention. I stood and watched for moments on end.

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And noted that the red maples offered similar colors.

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When I reached the canoe launch “road,” I was scolded for my action.

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Despite that, I returned to the bench overlooking the mill pond on the river. Rather than sit on the bench this time,  I slipped down an otter slide to the water’s edge.

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My efforts were rewarded. Frogs jumped. And a few paused–probably hoping that in their stillness I would not see them. But I did . . . including this green frog.

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My favorite wonder of the day . . .

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moments spent up close and personal with another meadowhawk.

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No matter how often I wander a trail, there’s always something, or better yet, many somethings, to notice. Blessed be for so many opportunities to wonder beside the Kezar River.

 

 

The Need for More

Yesterday I stopped into our local independent bookstore, Bridgton Books, to purchase a title recommended to me by a friend (thanks D.B.), H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. While there, Pam, one of the proprietors, showed me Reading Rural Landscapes by Robert Sanford because she thought I’d be interested. Of course I was, and so for all of two seconds I debated about which to buy and guess what–I’m now the proud owner of both titles. I had earned a $10 credit (for every $100 spent, you receive $10 off if you belong to their book club and there is no book club fee–truly independent).

At camp, I was also reading another book (purchased at Bridgton Books a year or two ago). Well, actually rereading it because I like the author’s style/voice and maybe just a wee bit because she’s an Episcopalian. And she lives in Alaska–another draw for me. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from small-town Alaska by Heather Lende.

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Both last evening and this morning, I read from all three. Not simultaneously, of course. It’s always been that way for me. Skipping from one topic to the next. Easily bored? I don’t think so because being bored is not part of my makeup. More like an insatiable need to know more.

The bees and wasps and flies and ants and hummingbirds have the same insatiable need right now, as they flit and walk and crawl from one plant to the next, sucking nectar and exchanging pollen along the way.

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This busy bee was well-laden with pollen. Its bright orange sacs bulge on its hind legs like a kid wearing arm floaties in the water.

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Every time a bee visits flowers, the pollen sticks to its fuzzy body–its antennae, legs, face and body. Think pollen magnet!

The middle legs are equipped with comb-like hairs that scrape off the pollen and transfer it to the pollen presses located on the hind legs.

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Like our calves, the bee’s legs have a tibia or lower leg section. The tibia is shiny and surrounded by hairs, including some that are rather long and stiff. These form the pollen basket. Located at the lower end of the tibia  is another comb-like structure (ankle), and on the metatarsus (heel or foot) is the press. When it comes to pollen collection, the two structures work together like levers.

Nectar moistens the pollen, making it sticky. The pollen is transferred to the press, and then is manipulated between the press and comb until it sits flat on the bottom of the tibia. Each time a new batch of pollen is added, it’s pressed onto the bottom, forcing the pervious batches to move further up the tibia.  A full basket (think one million grains of pollen) bulges, but hairs hold the pollen in place as the bee flies from one plant to another before heading home to stock the nest.

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It’s not just hairy bees who are active in the gardens.

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Gathering for the family is important business.

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Thanks to the goldenrods and asters, there’s plenty of pollen and nectar still to be gathered.

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The mint seems to be the biggest hit among the variety.

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And there is other action as well. A funnel weaver tried to challenge the larger spider, but quickly retreated.

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Whenever I take a closer look at the crawling and flying members of the gardens, I’m in awe of their colors, patterns, hair or lack of, and overall body structure.

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You may have to look closer to find the visitor on this coneflower.

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This red-legged grasshopper tried to make itself invisible.

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The camouflage worked better once it climbed to the top of the fence. When grasshoppers fly, I can hear their wings make a rasping sound. But moving as this one was, there wasn’t a peep. The crickets and cicadas, however, I couldn’t see, but they’ve been contributing to a chorus all day.

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And then there is the hummingbird–ever swift and beautiful with its iridescent colors. Whether it is dining on nectar or insects attracted to the nectar, I don’t know, but it always returns, seeking more.

We all have the need for more. The frightening thing is that oftentimes we take more than we need. For the sake of the birds and insects, we need to think about that and how we might change our ways.