Shrouded By Fog

“It was a dark and dreary day.”

Like a thin veil, this morning’s fog attempted to hide Miss Spring.

But instead, it revealed her nuances and enhanced her being as the birds sang and amphibians added their voices to the chorus.

As I listened, I peeked through the thinnest of openings to see what the world wanted to reveal.

Weaving all of life together were the silken lines of spider webs.

Beads of water enhancing their forms.

And the creator turned out to be the most minute of beings.

Flowing forth the remains of melting snow, the stream spoke of nourishment.

Its action creating frothy suds that cleansed.

And within its bubbles the world above was reflected.

The surrounding landscape was mirrored in the drips of raindrops.

Everywhere, there were treasures indicating what is to come . . . in the form of Hobblebush buds growing more global;

Trailing Arbutus showing a glimmer of new life;

And Beaked Hazelnut presenting its most subtle, yet exquisite floral presentation.

As I continued to look about, something different caught my eye.

A moth recently emerged from its cocoon* spoke to another form of new life.

What I learned today is that one needs to watch.

Wait.

And be ready.

Though she has been shrouded, her veil is slipping away. I was grateful to discover that Miss Spring surrounds us when we make the time to look–even on dark and dreary days.

*The moth–I knew it was such, but didn’t know what kind. Upon arriving home, I did some research and the best I could come up with was the worst–Operophtera brumata, or the invasive Winter moth. But . . . I wasn’t 100% convinced of my ID so I reached out to fellow Master Naturalist Anthony Underwood. This was his response: “Don’t panic yet, Leigh. I’ve seen this before. It’s a newly eclosed moth, yes, eclosed. Probably a Sphinx moth. I wasn’t familiar with the term until I encountered one for myself a while ago. Your vocabulary is likely more extensive than mine but just in case I’ll clarify by explaining that it means that it has emerged from its winter cocoon and is looking for a place to pump its blood into those wings and expand them for first flight. Good find!

Goodbye Spring, Hello Summer

Sometimes the words slide out with little effort and other times, they seem to hide in the wings, waiting backstage. So it is on this last day of spring.

Whoa. Maybe I’m not sure what to write because I’m not ready for spring to end. I’m not sure spring is ready either–it was 44 degrees at 6 a.m. and even now, sitting in the shade, I’ve got goosebumps from the breeze..

But say goodbye to spring I must. I’ve spent the past two days savoring its final moments and mosaic colors. Along the way, I’ve seen some cool things.

waspwasp 2

I came across this ichneumon wasp on the base of a hemlock girdled by a beaver. Because of the long, needle-like ovipositor (that looks like a nasty stinger, but usually isn’t–though she is a wasp), I think this is a female. She’s possibly searching for a place to inject her eggs, which will then feed on other insect larvae.

 beaked leaf

As the season unfolded, I’ve been training my eyes to focus on leaf characteristics. This one is easy to pass off as a beech. But, its saw-blade teeth tell me to check below the leaves.

beaked hazelnut

Beaked Hazelnut, a shrub that produces hairy husks containing the nut (think filbert) .

beaked hazelnut 4

Double beaked. They grow singly or in groups up to ten or so.

beaked five

Dangling like baubles, the fuzzy balls will entice squirrels, chipmunks, birds and yes, humans.

red pines

Sadly, not every part of the picture is pretty. The red pines at the summit of Pleasant Mountain are dying off. I spoke with a forester from the White Mountain National Forest about this today and his thought was that it might be red pine scale insects. Yeegads.

red pine 2

My first thought had been weather, but the trees below the summit have also been affected. It’s time for me to contact the state forester and ask his opinion.

cinn fern

The fertile fronds of the cinnamon fern have spread their spores and are now withering. Soon, I’ll have to search to find any evidence that they ever existed.

inter fern

The same holds true of the interrupted fern, though the gap that will be left once the fertile middle pinnae fall off will be rather obvious.

running club moss

Long white hairs top the tip of running clubmoss.

running 2

Candlelabras are forming, preparing to release numerous spores. Like the ferns above, it’s difficult for me to comprehend that this life form that creeps along the ground was once the size of trees. Mind boggling for this brain.

lady bug

On to simpler things. A ladybird beetle.

hawk 2

Orange Hawkweed, aka Devil’s Paintbrush.

dragon 1

I think this is an Eastern pondhawk dragonfly, but if you know better, please tell me. My other thought–blue dasher. Either way, like all dragonflies, there’s beauty in its venation and color. Plus, those dragonfly eyes.

blue flag iris reflection

The Blue Flag Irises

bf iris

are making a final statement,

heron

while a great blue heron forages for fish near an abandoned beaver lodge.

daisy 1

Daisies speak to the season to come.

another season

It’s only a day away . . . oops. A red leaf found today. What’s with that? Maybe the pine needle cast has all of nature confused.

mt washington

Thanks for joining me on this last peak at spring. I’m looking north now as the summer solstice is on the horizon.

Our Three Hour Tour

HP sign

One of our favorite places in town is a hidden gem–Holt Pond Preserve. We parked at the corner of Chaplin’s Mill and Grist Mill Roads, grabbed our snowshoes and backpack from the truck and walked on snowmobile tracks across the field to begin today’s Mondate.

Tingley Brook

Tingley Brook

At the field’s edge, we passed under the hemlocks, beeches and oaks and into the wild and delicate beauty that the preserve offers.

Tingley Brook ice 1

The midmorning light added subtle hints of aqua and pink as the water danced around an ice-capped rock in the brook.

mushrooms and hole

We saw lots of tracks from the mustelid family, as well as snowshoe hare, fox, squirrels, mice and voles. Also, turkeys and grouse. I’m not sure what made the hole and dirt trail beneath the mossy maple mushrooms near the base of this Red Maple. I would not have seen it if I hadn’t leaned in closer to take a photo. I do happen to know that gnomes frequent the area, so just maybe . . .

canoes

We continued on, crossing Tingley Brook and then making our way beside Muddy River, where the Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) leaves these canoes for anyone to use. Bring your own personal floatation device, paddles, and duct tape. I know where you can purchase duct tape, should you need more. 🙂

beaked hazelnut

Near the canoes–a lone beaked hazelnut. Inside this bristly tan husk is an edible nut. Doesn’t it look like a gourd? The name derives from that tube-like protruding beak. I couldn’t believe it was still there as the protein-rich nuts are favorites for red squirrels and chipmunks, as well as ruffed grouse, woodpeckers and blue jays. Humans too.

to Muddy River

We never actually wore our snowshoes today. I hauled mine around on my pole, while my guy stuck his between his jacket and sweatshirt. He said he didn’t need his back scratched for the entire trip.

River to pond

Looking toward Holt Pond from the boardwalk by the Muddy River.

There was only a slight breeze, so the low temp was modified by the brilliant sunshine. Another beautiful day in Maine.

Red Maple Swamp

I think one of my favorite features about the preserve is that the habitat keeps changing–from hemlock groves to red maple swamps to alder thickets to a quaking bog.

Quaking Bog

Though you can’t tell in the winter, the quaking bog is a thick mat of vegetation that formed over the surface near the edge of the pond. A board walk passes across it and one of the fun things to do with a group of people is to have everyone jump at the same time and watch the bog quake. This is also a great spot to visit alone–for quiet reflection.

Holt Pond 1HP South

Views at the pond’s edge–north and south

HP from southwest

We stopped at a rock in a sunny spot along the South Shore Trail to enjoy lunch al fresco. PB&J never tasted so good. Topped off with ice cold water and some Ghirardelli chocolates. 🙂 As we continued along, we paused to look back across the pond toward the Quaking Bog.

Sometimes we chatted and other times we were each lost in our own thoughts and moving at our individual paces. Similar to my NDD (Nature Distraction Disorder), my guy has his own syndrome–Destinationitis. But, he’s learned to compensate by pausing until I catch up . . . and then he’s off again. That’s OK–it gives me time to spend in my own world.

feathers one

At the edge of a field (we know it as “The Field” because it’s the end of a section of trail that we keep maintained for LEA), we both stopped to look and wonder. Under a hemlock tree and in the middle of the trail, we found these white feathers. Don’t you just love a mystery?

feathers 2

Here’s another look. Some had sheer cuts; others looked plucked. No great place to hang out above. If you know what bird this was or what happened here, please enlighten me.

horse

At least five miles later, we were back on Chaplin’s Mill Road headed toward the truck.

Thanks for stopping by again to wonder my way. I hope you enjoyed the three hour tour.