Island Hopping

island 1

Off on a care-free holiday in . . . Lovell, Maine. What sets it apart is the variety of islands. And, I suppose, the ferry service between each.

island 2

A naturalist friend and I set off on our grand adventure at the John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge this morning. This is a 598-acre refuge owned and cared for by the Greater Lovell Land Trust. We hopped, more like sloshed on snowshoes, from one island to another as we discovered the highlights of each.

mushroom 1

Red-belted Polypore Fomitopsis pinicola

Like on any island hopping experience, we were quite taken with the breathtaking diversity of vibrant colors and textures. This is a red-belted polypore (if I’m right), Fomitopsis pinicola. I have another friend who is determined that I will learn my fungi, so I hope he’ll read this and correct me as I go along. He knows only the Latin names. I’m lucky if I can remember a common name. (Don’t tell Mr. Cretella, my high school Latin teacher.)

turkey tail

Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor) were hanging out, doing their thing on some dead wood.

witches butter

More than once we were greeted by Witch’s Butter (Tremella mesenteric). I love butter, so this must be the good witch. (My PB&J sandwiches always include slabs of butter)

birch polypore

No island tour is complete without seashells. In this case, I think this is a Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) growing on the Yellow Birch. I’m thrown off by that wavy rim. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful.

British Soldier

We didn’t just hang out with a bunch of fungi. British soldiers (Cladonia cristatella) were standing around, proudly inviting us to take a look at their red caps.

Kidney lichen

Yes, we took a liken to some other lichens as well. I believe this is Pimpled Kidney Lichen (Nephroma resupinatum).


Being in the islands, we are on the cusp of the rainy season and the Lungwort (Lobaria pulmonary), was saturated and bright green. We had hoped we’d see it on this tour, and it didn’t lettuce down.

Mealy Pixie cup lichen

Are you still with me? There were so many more sights to see, including the Green Pyxie Cups, aka Mealy Pyxie Cups (Cladonia chlorophaea).

spore capsule, hair cap moss

I should have paid better attention, but this hair-cap moss is either Polytrichum commune, (Common hair-cap) or P. ohioense. I’m thinking the former, which has a spore capsule that is no more than 1.5 X as long as wide, while the latter’s capsule is more than 1.5X as long as wide.

antler piece?

No matter where we looked, either on the islands or on the sea of snow between each, we found evidence that the deer had visited before us. Tracks, scat and beds everywhere. And then we found this. A bone fragment that had been nibbled on. Maybe a piece of an antler?

deer hair 1

And this–deer hair.

deer hair 2

And this. Lots of deer hair beside the plug of hair above. What happened here? We didn’t have a guide to ask, but the story unfolded before our eyes. A deer sat down to spend the night under the hemlock tree. Its body heat turned the snow to ice. And when it stood up the next morning, the hair stuck to the ice. Anyway, that’s our story and we’re sticking with it.

porcy scat

If you’ve stuck with me through these wonder-filled wanders, then you know that I may include a photo of scat. In this case, an island native made itself known by the debris on top of the island and snow–porcupine.

porky den

A few minutes later we came upon its den. Porcupines are the pig pens of the natural world. Despite that, we were excited to find this.

island 3

No need, however,  to stick around there. We bounded (hardly) off to another island, glad that we were able to stop at so many destinations in a single day. And the best part is that when we visit again, we’ll find other treasured spots to explore.

Thanks for stopping by to wander and wonder.

P.S. And take a look at my friend’s site–her photos are amazing and the map of our walk shows just how nature distracted we are.

Sit Spot and Beyond

sit spot

I promised myself I won’t write every day, but it’s addictive. And I promised myself that I’ll try to sketch tree buds this year–as the season begins to change. We’ll see how long this lasts. But today was the perfect day to spend some time outside at my sit spot. Sketching. Sunshine. Soft Snow.


A start.

birch trees

And then I took off on my snowshoes to get up close and personal with the birch trees.

Paper birch catkins

Paper (aka white) Birch catkins usually come in groups of three.

yellow birch1

Yellow Birch buds are long, pointed and hairy. Encountering these trees means it’s time for a scratch and sniff test–wintergreen.

gray birch

Gray Birch (which some also call white) is actually dull grayish-white. The lines or lenticels, which help the tree exchange gases, give it a dirty appearance. The bark doesn’t peel like a Paper Birch or Yellow Birch. And it often features those triangular-shaped chevrons at the base of its branches or branch scars. Gray Birches are known to lean and their short, slender branches bend toward the ground. In my brain, it’s easy to differentiate it from Paper Birch, but then again, there are hybrids. I haven’t figured that one out yet.

birch polypores

Birch Polypores doing what they’re supposed to do. I love how they’ve oriented themselves so that even after the tree snapped, they are parallel to the ground, thus allowing their spores to drop.


This is one of the most common bracket fungi. It looks like nothing else and only grows on birches. Though an annual, the fruiting body exists for several years.

vernal pool

Before heading home, I stopped by the vernal pool on our neighbors’ land. We were given the opportunity to purchase some acreage from them three months ago, including this special spot, but alas, it wasn’t in the cards for us. I worry about what will happen to this special place. For as long as I can, I’ll continue to visit it. Hard to believe right now, but it won’t be long before the wood frogs, salamanders and spring peepers return here to mate and deposit their eggs.

I don’t want to see winter go, but there’s always the next season to look forward to and wonder about.

Thanks for joining me again and I promise not to write every day. I wonder if I’ll keep that promise.