Friends Pam and Bob Katz, whom I haven’t known forever but feel like it’s been at least a lifetime, invited me to join them to circle Mountain Pond outside Jackson, New Hampshire today. The trailhead is located off Town Hall Road that follows Slippery Brook.
At the sign we turned in to the parking area and began our journey on foot.
Only a few steps in, we were stopped in our tracks by the wooly growths upon the Speckled Alders. The soft, fluffy fibers could have been cotton plants. But then they moved. In a creepy sort of way.
As we looked more closely we began to see that some were winged in form, a sight new to our eyes and understanding. Meet the Wooly Alder Aphids.
Much more to our liking were the tracks we found in mud, including Bobcat and . . .
a small Moose. The Bobcat had crossed perpendicular to the trail as one might expect for its preferred corridor is about forty feet wide and doesn’t necessarily follow a man-made path. The Moose wasn’t so particular and we followed its prints for a while before it disappeared into the wildness of this place.
While we loved seeing the mammal tracks, it was the insects and flowers that really pulled us in, including a Flower Longhorned Beetle.
And the ever delightful and dainty Wood Sorrel that makes me think of the Candy Strippers who worked as hospital aides in the books of my youth.
If the Candy Strippers needed slippers, they’d come to the right shop for there were moccasins available nearby in the form of white Lady’s Slippers surprising us since they still looked a wee bit fresh.
At last we began to catch glimpses of the pond for which the trail had been named. But really, a Loon sounding a distress call pulled us toward the water’s edge. We only saw one in an aggressive mode, it’s body extended across the surface as it moved forward, but still heard the wild call of the other and assumed they were protecting a nest.
Our wildlife sightings continued as we continued and took turns spotting the wonders of the path, including a Garter Snake slithering away from us.
Once we were close to the water, our dragonfly sightings increased significantly, as did the bug detail and insect bites decreased giving us reason to celebrate these winged warriors, such as the Chalk-fronted Corporals that made a point of being our guides as they often paused in front of us and then flew a few feet ahead at our slightest movement.
The fact that I can occasionally sneak up on one and capture a close-up photo is always amazing.
Our next source of wonder, a lodge built by beavers beside the bank. It was one that didn’t appear to be currently in use, but had been mudded last fall.
Eventually we found a second lodge with a huge hole on the back side of it. The hole wasn’t necessarily a vent, but it did provide us a glimpse into the inner workings of the pond-side inn. This one hadn’t been mudded and so we suspected it had been abandoned, maybe due to the presence of parasites. Perhaps in the near future it will again host guests.
It was near the lodge that we began to spy Bullfrogs, their Ga-dunk voices every once in a while rising in a chorus.
Notice the tympanic membrane or eardrum located behind the eye–it was bigger than his viewfinder, thus indicating his gender.
Not too far away a few ladies-in-waiting hung out on a log.
And in the water, two year old tadpoles, their bodies extra chunky, swam.
And morphed. Can you see the hind legs that had formed?
At last we pulled away from the water and continued on our way, when the Fly Honeysuckle gave us pause with its flowers of orange and yellow.
We weren’t the only ones in awe of it, for we spent some time watching this Canada Tiger Swallowtail flutter in a rather drunken way from one blossom to the next.
Because the flowers had been pollinated, some had already turned to their shiny red fruit form.
The butterflies were numerous and all the way around the pond we saw White Admirals either in flight or on the ground puddling, the latter a way of seeking nutrients from the damp soil.
An Atlantis Fritillary also graced us with its presence.
Another flyer insisted upon being noticed and I handed Pam a field guide to determine its name. A second or two later she announced it was a Powdered Dancer Damselfly, based on the coloration of its eyes, thorax, and abdomen.
My favorite flyer of the day, however, was the Crimson-ringed Whiteface Dragonfly with its thorax so red and abdomen a combination of green-black.
Even when we paused to gaze upon the lake and mountains in the distance, the Crimsons flew.
And landed–showing off their white faces for which they were named.
One couple even chose Pam’s arm and bracelet upon which to land and canoodle, appearing oblivious to our gawking eyes and awe-filled conversation.
I travelled around Mountain Pond today with “old” friends Pam and Bob and recognized others I’ve met numerous times before like the Bobcat, Moose, Garter Snake, and Wood Sorrel, but new relationships were also formed and I hope I’ll soon move from being a Crimson-ringed Whiteface’s acquaintance to a life-time friend.