I love November. Maybe because the first snowflakes typically fall. Maybe because the air is crisper (except for last week, that is). Maybe because the days are shorter and I love being embraced by darkness.
Maybe because the color palette is all its own after the reds and oranges and yellows of October and before the white and gray and evergreen of December.
Maybe because we might have one last chance to visit this special place before the gates are closed on the forest road for winter.
Maybe because we get to see Mergansers swim and dive and fly and slide into a landing over and over again.
Maybe because if we look closely, we might just spy a Bullfrog tadpole swimming.
Maybe because in the middle of our looking here, there, and everywhere for a moose, or some otters, or even a beaver family, we may suddenly spy a little red flyer.
No maybes about it because this Autumn Meadowhawk took a while, but eventually let me coax it onto my hand today. Why is it still flying? Maybe because we did have a warm up this past week, though the past two mornings Jack Frost has visited. Whatever the reason, it certainly took us by surprise on this November day.
NOTE: previously, the latest I’ve seen a meadowhawk fly was Nov 4, 2019.
It was just after noon when my guy and I parked on Knapp Road to complete trail work along the Southern Shore Trail of Lakes Environmental Association’s Holt Pond Preserve. We should have completed such sooner, but prided ourselves on waiting until after last week’s Nor’easter because there were many trees and branches that needed attention.
Some were too big for us, but we did the best we could to make the trail enjoyable for all. And then, even though we’d completed our section, we continued the journey along the 5.3-mile trail, clearing as we went.
It was while in a sunny spot that I did the “I swear I’ll never do this” task–I took a selfie featuring me and my dragonfly pennant. It was my happy moment.
Another happy moment occurred once we’d circled around to Chaplin’s Mill Road and then down through the Emerald Field via the Muddy River Trail.
Beside the river I spied the makings of a fresh beaver mound, where bottom muck and leaves had been piled up and a certain scent, almost vanilla in odor, deposited.
Last April, LEA Education Director Alanna Doughty and I had discovered tons of beaver action in this area and the tree beside the water on the left-hand side still stands as a monument.
Other monuments included three to four-foot gnawed stumps scattered throughout the area that served as reminders of last year’s snow depth. Either that, or the beavers stand as tall as deer in these here woods.
This is an area that the giant rodents have known for many moons as evidenced by hemlocks they chose to girdle in hopes their least favorite trees might fall. Instead, the trees tried to heal their wounds and show the beavers who is boss of this territory.
All along the river, water flowed over beaver dams, much the same way it would have flowed over a mill dam in a different era and we loved the juxtaposition of man and nature. Or was it nature and man?
Onto the boardwalk system and through the Red Maple Swamp did we trek, and of course I stopped beside the Pitcher Plants because . . . just because. But notice the water. So, we’ve had a lot of rain, but also we suspected the beavers had something to do with the high level.
Out of curiosity, we stepped onto the boardwalk out to the Muddy River to check on some beaver lodges.
And there just happened to be an Autumn Meadowhawk upon the wood. I wasn’t sure it was alive, for it didn’t move as we stepped past it.
We made it almost to the end of the boardwalk, but eventually it dipped under water and so we stood still and gazed toward the lodges. Can you see them? 😉
Like a duplex, they were joined. But what was the best news was the sight of new branches and some insulation that had been added . . . in the form of mud. Though we hadn’t seen any new beaver works, we suspected that somewhere in this waterbody a beaver or two or family had been active.
Returning to the Hemlock Grove behind the boardwalk, I stopped to check out the dragonfly and it moved a foreleg as I watched–a sure sign of life.
And so, I did what I love to do, stuck my finger in front of it, and upon did it crawl. My heart stopped beating.
My guy had gone before, so he missed this opportunity. But chatting to it quietly, my dragonfly and I moved from the boardwalk to the much darker Hemlock Grove. He seemed not to mind, but did move about a bit on my finger and I wondered if the much cooler and darker grove might not be to his liking. Despite my concern, he stayed with me and I introduced him to my guy, who questioned the fact that I was talking to a dragonfly. And then he chuckled, “Of course you are.” I guess he knows me.
We followed him onto the next section of boardwalks that passes through the second section of the Red Maple Swamp. All along the way, I murmured sweet nothings and my little friend took in the scene. But . . . when we reached the next Hemlock Grove, he flew off. I couldn’t say I blamed him for it was much cooler and darker than the first.
By that point, my guy and I were by the Quaking Bog, so out to Holt Pond did we venture. And . . . I spotted more dragonflies to meet.
A few of his relatives were also in their meet and greet tandem form. Had they just canoodled and dropped eggs into the water or was she playing coy?
I don’t know the answer to that, but my new friend liked the view of the pond.
And then he began to do something that it took me a few minutes to understand. Notice how his wings are down.
And then hind up, forewings down.
Fluttering, they moved rather like a windmill, but never did he take off.
The speed increased.
And I finally realized he was just trying to stay warm in the cooler air by the pond. Wing-whirring they call it. Like turtles, dragonflies are cold-blooded or ectothermic. They can’t regulate their body temperature and must depend on sunlight and ambient air temperature for warmth, which is why we encounter them along the sunny spots on the trail. My little friend was trying to warm up by vibrating his wings. Knowing his need for sunlight, just before we returned to the dark grove, I left him upon a shrub leaf.
Oh, and the beavers, we never did see them, but finally, as we approached Holt Pond from Grist Mill Road, we found fresh beaver works. They’re out there somewhere and I can’t wait to see what they do next. I’m excited to know that I’ll have their antics to watch in the upcoming months for I suspect that my dragonfly days are about to draw to a close.
But today was most definitely a Meadowhawk Dragonfly Mondate and I gave thanks for the opportunity to travel with my guy and this guy, and one or two of his relatives.
It may not have been a hurricane, but the storm that began as Philippe, left its mark as it whooshed through New England. Along its path, the world darkened. We lost power about 1am, but it was restored by the time we awoke this morning. And yet, many may be without electricity for days.
Our tentative plan had been to hike, but we realized last night that we’d need to consider Plan B. And when the sun shone this morning, we were rather oblivious to the havoc caused by downed trees and flooding. We did check the weather report, however, and saw that there would be a few showers and the wind would continue to blow. So, Plan B it was–yard work between rain drops.
For my guy, that began with work on the back screen door for a bang we’d heard in the night turned out not to be the grill or furniture sliding off the deck, but rather the door banging against a bench. And after that, it wouldn’t shut properly.
While he worked on the door, I headed into the kitchen/cottage garden, which had become quite overgrown due to my lack of a green thumb. While my intention was to put the garden to bed, some flowers like the lavender needed to remain for they still invited visitors.
As I poked about, cutting some plants back, I made a few discoveries, including the sight of snow fleas or spring tails climbing a stalk.
And buried beneath, I unearthed bird’s nest fungus, which look like such for which they were named, only in miniature form for they are no more than a quarter inch in height or diameter. Nestled inside the nests, like a bunch of eggs in a basket, are the fruiting bodies that await drops of water in order for their spores to spring out and find their own substrate on which to grow.
And then I approached the beebalm, where a few blossoms still bloomed on this late date.
Most of the beebalm had long since gone to seed, and today one structure became a resting spot as the wind blew. A male autumn meadowhawk seemed to hold on for dear life.
Of course, I took advantage of his moments of rest to take a closer look at the divine body structure . . .
from a variety of viewpoints.
Gender determination is based on the terminal appendages. Male dragonflies have three, known as claspers, which they use to grasp and hold a female during mating. The upper or from this view, outer appendages, are called cerci, while the lower, or middle appendage, is the epiproct–meaning its the appendage situated above the anus. Females have only a pair of cerci, and I’m not sure of their purpose. That beebalm still stands–in hopes he’ll return again.
As I continued to work and observe the world around me, my guy found one project after another to complete–each of which required a trip to the hardware store. Hmmmm. And so, I too, decided to go for a trip–into the woods. Donning my blaze orange vest and hat, and knowing that I wasn’t going far, I took off. My first stop was at a branch below the quaking aspen that had fallen in the night. Though it had reached its end of life, the waxy bud scales and leaf scars were a sight to behold. The smiley-face leaf scar showed where the stem or petiole of this past year’s leaf broke from the branch. As the leaf pulled away, it severed the vessels through which water and food moved. The dots within the scar indicate where those vessels had been connected and are known as bundle scars.
In our woodlot, my trail was littered with pine cones and branches, but that was the extent of tree damage.
I found puddles that invited me in.
Some branches, decorated with a variety of lichens and jelly ear fungi also found their way to the puddles.
At last, I reached the vernal pool and was surprised to find it only partially filled.
Atop and within it, the mosaic of broad leaves and needles formed a tapestry of shape and color–in the moment.
Nearby, I paused by a goldenrod that sported a bunch, rosette, or flower gall, for really, it resembles all three.
The Goldenrod Gall Midge, which is a tiny fly, laid an egg in a leaf bud, hatched into grub form, and prevented the stem from growing, though the plant continued to produce leaves that formed a tight cluster.
I finally made my way home, and turned to other gardens on the eastern side of the house, where milkweed pods also needed to remain standing. I even left the sugar maple samara because I thought it was a fun place to land.
Also at home on the milkweed were a hundred aphids all clustered together.
But the best find of all–the delicate remains of a monarch butterfly chrysalis. I had no idea it was there, but presume it housed one of the monarchs that consumed my attention a few weeks ago.
Just after we headed in, my sister-in-law called to say her sump pump had conked out. Off my guy went again.
It wasn’t the hike date we’d hoped for, but our day was filled with power tools and powerful insects and power-filled love.