Today’s walk began with a mystery. I actually first saw this about a week ago and wondered about it, but then it slipped my mind–a bone found at the base of a pine tree along one of the trails in our woodlot. A vertebrae? Deer? Or something from the meat market? Our neighbors’ dogs have surprised us before, but I didn’t see any sign of their tracks near this. Maybe it had been under the snow for a while and they left it months ago?
Whatever it is and however it got there, it’s providing calcium to little brown things.
We decided to head north along the snowmobile trail. It follows the power line and is a major thoroughfare in this section. Some of the poles are a bit tipsy. Too much to drink? We know from experience that they have wet feet.
Speckled Alder love the wet soil and are prolific along this section of the power line. Today, their burgundy brown catkins were aglow in the late afternoon sun. The longer male catkins form in the fall. The females, which are much smaller and closer to the trunk, develop into dark brown cones. Alders are pioneers, meaning they’re usually the first species in the transition of cleared land back to forest. I’m trying to learn the differences of catkins among tree species so please hang in there with me (pun intended).
I couldn’t reach to get a better look even though the trees were arched over the trail, but these are the male catkins of Gray Birch (Betula populifolia), dangling near the tips of the twigs. While the males can grow to about three inches long, the erect female catkins will be found among the new leaves and are only about 1/3-inch long.
Like the Gray Birch, the Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), develops catkins in the fall, which remain dormant over the winter. As the leaves develop, they’ll mature. The male catkins seen here are in the typical arrangement of groups of three that droop from the tip of the twigs.
There were other things to see along the way, like this deer stand that has been beside the trail for as long as we’ve lived here. I assume it’s still used because it’s in good shape.
To me, it looks like a lifeguard chair. That reminds me–today was definitely not a beach day. Sunny, but still blustery and cold. Nothing some hot cocoa with Peppermint Schnapps couldn’t cure after our walk.
As the snow melts along the trail, more and more wintergreen appears. For the most part, the leaves are still showing their fall foliage red, but some greening is taking place. And I saw very few berries so I have to assume that they provided sustenance to the grouse, squirrels and deer that share this space.
One of my favorite finds today was nature’s flower pot.
And I’ve been looking for signs of moose in the area all winter. I usually find their tracks, scat and beds somewhere around here. We’ve had the joy of seeing them from our kitchen window during different seasons. But it’s been a while. Finally, today . . .
atop a barn where the trail intersects a road.
Thanks for wondering my way once again.
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