Halting Beside Holt Pond

Halting–prone to pauses or breaks. I didn’t break, but I certainly was prone to pauses as I moved along the trails and boardwalks at the Holt Pond Preserve in South Bridgton this afternoon.

h-pitcher flower2

One of my first stops–to admire the pitcher plant flowers in their August form.

h-pitcher  flower up close

When I took a closer look, I realized that the seeds were developing–certainly a WOW moment in the world of wonder.

h-buttonbush.jpg

The global seed heads of buttonbush also demanded to be noticed. Upon each head are at least two hundred flowers that produce small nutlets. What strikes me as strange is the fact that this plant is a member of the coffee family. Maine coffee–local brew; who knew?

h-Muddy across

At the Muddy River, the water level reflected what is happening throughout the region–another case of “Honey, I shrunk the kids.” It’s downright scary.

h-speckled bug and speckles

Both by the river and on the way to the quaking bog, this wetland features a variety of shrubs, including one of my many favorites, speckled alder. Check out the speckles–those warty bumps (aka lenticels or pores) that allow for gas exchange. And the new bud covered in hair.

h-speckled alder catkins

This shrub is so ready for next year–as evidenced by the slender, cylindrical catkins that are already forming. This is the male feature of the shrub.

h-speckled cones new

It also bears females–or fruiting cones filled with winged seeds.

h-speckled old cones

It’s not unusual for last year’s woody cones or female catkins to remain on the shrub for another year.

h-cranberries

Whenever I visit, it seems there’s something to celebrate–including ripening cranberries.

h-cotton grass

Common Cotton-grass dotted the sphagnum bog and looked as if someone had tossed a few cotton balls about. Today, they blew in the breeze and added life to the scene. Note to self–cotton-grass is actually a sedge. And sedges have edges.

h-holt pond left

Just like the Muddy River, Holt Pond was also obviously low. Perhaps the lowest I’ve ever seen. At this spot, I spent a long time watching dragonflies. They flew in constant defense of their territories.

h-slaty skimmer, male

Male slaty skimmers were one of the few that posed for photo opps.

h-canoe on pond

As I watched the dragonflies flit about along the shoreline and watched and watched some more, I noticed a couple of fishermen making use of the LEA canoe. I don’t know if they caught any fish, but I heard and saw plenty jumping and swimming. Well, a few anyway. And something even skimmed across the surface of the water–fish, snake, frog?

h-rose hips.jpg

Rose hips by the pond’s edge reminded me of my father. He couldn’t pass by a rose bush without sampling the hips–especially along the shoreline in Clinton, Connecticut.

h-pond toward 5 Fields

The view toward Five Fields Farm was equally appealing.

h-pickerel frog

And then I moved down tire alley, which always provides frequent sightings of pickerel frogs. I’m never disappointed.

h-golden spindle

At the transition from a red maple swamp to a hemlock grove, golden spindles embraced a white pine sapling as if offering a bright light on any and all issues.

h-hairy woodpecker

In this same transitional zone, a female hairy woodpecker announced her presence.

h-green frog

When I crossed Sawyer Brook, green frogs did what they do best–hopped into the water and then remained still. Do they really think that I don’t see them?

h-hobblebush berries

At last, I walked out to Grist Mill Road and made my way back. One of my favorite surprises was the amount of hobblebush berries on display.

h-meadowhawk

Walking on the dirt road gave me the opportunity for additional sights–a meadowhawk posed upon a steeplebush;

h-chicken

chicken of the woods fungi grew on a tree trunk;

h-chipmunk

and a chipmunk paused on alert.

h-American Woodcock

But the best find of the day–one that caused me to halt on the road as I drove out of LEA’s Holt Pond Preserve–an American Woodcock.

Worth a wonder! And a pause. Certainly a reason to halt frequently at Holt Pond.

 

 

 

Embracing Splashes of Color

Walk in the woods any day of the year and you’ll find color, but nothing beats a day like today.

morning light red maple swamp

Early this morning, I waited at the Holt Pond Preserve parking lot for Jon Evans of Loon Echo Land Trust. Well, I didn’t actually wait. I walked off the trail, taking in the morning sunlight on the red maple swamp–knowing we’d return to it later. By the time I arrived back at the parking lot, Jon was waiting for me–we hitched a ride to Bald Pate, where today’s adventure began.

Jon, LELT

Together, we lead eighteen people, including six Boy Scouts from Troop 149, to the summit of Bald Pate and back down, where we connected with the Town Farm Trail and continued on to Holt Pond.

view from Bald Pate

As we climbed up Bald Pate, we paused to take in the western view. This week, the colors have popped.

Peabody Pond & Sebago Lake

The fall foliage was delayed because of September’s warm temperatures. Not only does less daylight trigger the chemical change in tree leaves, but a drop in temperature is also important. That being said, it doesn’t have to be cold enough to create a frosty coating.

splash of color

 The decreasing daylight hours and temps below 45˚ at night are signals to the leaf that it is time to shut down its food-making factory. The cooler night temps trap sugars made during the day, preventing them from moving to the tree. Once trapped, the sugars form the red pigment called anthocyanin.

Muddy River

As we witnessed along the Muddy River at Holt Pond, when the chlorophyll begins to break down, the green color disappears. This allows the yellows to show through. At the same time, other chemical changes may cause the formation of more pigments varying from yellow to red to maroon. While some trees, like quaking aspens, birch and hickory only show the yellow color, sugar maple leaves turn a brilliant orange or fiery red combined with yellow.

witch hazel flowers, Holt Pond

pitcher plants

button bush, Holt Pond

Not to be left out, the flowering witch hazel, pitcher plants and buttonbush display their own variation of colors.

Holt Pond Red Maple Swamp

Five hours and almost five miles later, we were back at the Red Maple Swamp I’d photographed at 7:30am.

The day was too beautiful to head indoors, so after a quick stop at home, I endured the Fryeburg Fair traffic and drove to the Gallie Trail at the Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve in Lovell. My intention was a reconnaissance mission for next weekend’s Greater Lovell Land Trust hike to the summit of Whiting Hill.

 bear claw 2 bear claw and nectria

On the way up, I scanned the beech trees, searching for bear claw marks and wasn’t disappointed.

 Mama Beech Whiting Hill

The beech leaves have yet to take on their golden-bronze hue that lasts throughout the winter and appears like dabs of sunlight in the white landscape.

color contrast

The maples, however, provide a brilliant contrast in the canopy.

whiting view 2

It’s beginning to look a bit like . . . autumn from the summit.

red maple splendor

One red maple was particularly dazzling.

red oak, subtle color

This northern red oak provides a much more subtle hue,

ash leaf

while a white ash shows off its magenta-colored leaves.

bees on goldenrod, Whiting Hill

A goldenrod continues to bloom and the bees know it. This one is doing a happy dance.

yellow-greens of striped maple

As I hiked down a different trail, the community changed and the striped maples dominated the understory

striped maple leaves

with their yellow-green leaves.

Indian cucumber root fading

Similarly, the Indian-Cucumber root’s leaves have taken on its lime-green color of fall.

splash of yellow greensplash of color2

Splashes of color. Nature on display. How fortunate I am to be able to embrace these moments.

Blue Gold Mondate

Thunder rumbles in the distance, while clouds mask the setting sun, creating a golden blue/pink/purple sky. We need a word for that. Just as I made up Mondate to describe the Monday dates my guy and I share, I feel obligated to describe tonight’s sky as golden blinkle.

After a rainy weekend, we awoke to another gray morning. But . . . there was a bright spot. Our yard was filled with mats of spider webs.

webs 1

OK, so maybe “filled” is an exaggeration, but they weren’t here yesterday.

web 2

My initial intrigue was with the water droplets sitting atop these finely woven blankets.

funnel 2

And then I spotted a hole in the center of one.

funnel 1

A look at the others, and I knew we had a yard filled with funnel weavers.

funnel 3

Imagine the industrious nocturnal work it took to complete this masterpiece.

spider 1

As I stood watching, one of the weavers appeared.

spider 3

I saw something land, I know not what, and he quickly scampered over to snatch it, and then moved into the funnel to dine. That reminded me that it was time for breakfast.

My guy had been out for a morning run and when I pointed out the webs scattered about the yard, he said he’d seen them all along his route. So . . . why today? Why so many? Will they be here tomorrow. As the day wore on, it became more difficult to see the webs.

spider web dock 2

This masterpiece, however,  has been gracing the dock for weeks. I keep waiting for Charlotte to leave a message.

We had some errands to run in North Conway and then decided to head off in the kayak. I wish I could take a selfie of our paddles as we work together in unison. It reminds me of our relationship–we’ve always prided ourselves on our ability to think things through and come to an agreement as one. Oh yeah, sometimes we get a bit out of sync and one paddle dips into the water ahead of the other or the water splashes one of us, but all in all, we lower and raise the paddles together–and as Robert Frost would say, “That has made all the difference.”

beaver mound

As we paddled along the edge of the islands, we discovered one large beaver scent mound–it had to be three feet high.

beaver mound disturbance

While this was probably created in the spring to mark a boundary, it appears to have been visited recently.

buttonbush

Numerous buttonbush plants bloom along the water’s edge. In all their manifestations, they are spectacular.

bluegold3

Spadderdock continues to offer a brilliant reflection of gold on blue

water garden

in the water garden.

female red-winged blackbird

But it’s the birds we follow today. Here, a female red-winged blackbird.

out on a limb

Her guy is out on a limb.

kayak

They don’t give us the exact information we want, but the catbirds are nearby. We hear their mews emanating from the shrubs and know that it’s time to abandon ship.

blueberries

This is blue gold. A happy afternoon spent foraging together. We made sure to leave some for the birds in thanks for their guidance.

And now, the thunder continues in the distance and occasionally lightening flashes  across the sky, but nothing can shine brighter than a blue gold Mondate.

Moosey Mondate

We finally moved to camp yesterday, and awoke early this morning to that hauntingly delightful sound–the cry of the loon.

loon

While I stood on the dock, wishing the pair would come closer, something else caught my attention.

suspendedsusp2

Suspended animation. I couldn’t see the web, but trusted it was there.

Black Mtn

Our Mondate began after we got some chores out of the way. A perfect day to hop in the tandem kayak and head north to Sweden. Thanks to our friends the Neubigs, who purchased the tandem for us years ago. They need to return and use it–just saying.

island shoreline

We love the upper basin because there are so many islands and stumps and inlets and coves and beaver lodges and you name it to explore.

tall weeds

The only thing that drove us crazy was the deer flies. Yeah. So we know insects are important for pollination and to provide food for fish, birds, dragonflies and others. But truly, what purpose do deer flies serve, other than to suck our blood? Mind over matter. Don’t scratch and the swelling will go down eventually. Note–like black flies, it’s the females that bite. I’d say, “Go Girls,” but hardly in this case.

dragonfly

Among the many dragonflies was this blue dasher, a common variety near quiet water. If only he would feast on those darn deer flies.

button bush

The buttonbush seems otherworldly with its pincushion styles protruding from each tubular flower.

spadderdock

The tight, waxy, petal-like sepals of the spatterdock, aka yellow pond lily or cow lily, stands upright above its leaf–featuring a small v-notch

fragrant water lily

On other ponds and lakes, I’ve seen the fragrant water lily in bloom already, but here it is just beginning to open. Its leaves are larger than those of the spatterdock and notched to the center.

pickerel

Pickerelweed is like no other. Though the upside-down heart-shaped leaves are long-stemmed and look similar to arrowhead, once the flower blossoms, there’s no mistaking it.

pick 2

The flowers are worth a second or third look. They grow in spikes along the pond’s edge. And each is covered in hair. Why?

pick 3

Not only that, but each flower is two-lipped. And each lip is three-lobed. And the upper lip has two yellow spots.

sundews 1

The pond was dammed a long time ago and stumps support a variety of life–including the carnivorous sundews beginning to flower.

sundews 2

At first glance, I thought they were the round-leaved variety, but I now think they are spatulate-leaved sundews. Love that name–for the spoon or spatula-shaped leaves that are longer than they are wide.

love is in the air

Love is in the air.

As it should be on a Mondate with my guy well spent on Moose Pond. I bet you thought I was going to post a photo of a moose.