Framed by the Trees

Our journey took us off the beaten path today as we climbed over a snowbank at the end of Farrington Pond Road and onto the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge East. We began at a piece of the parcel neither Pam Marshall or I had ever explored before, which added to the fun. At first, we followed the tracks of a giant, and eventually decided they might have belonged to another human being. Might have. Always wonder.

And then we were stopped in our tracks as we looked up and recognized a Great Blue Heron–or so it seemed in the dead snag that towered over the edge of Farrington Pond. Except for one tiny area of water, the pond is still very much ice covered so it will be a while before this ancestor of the Greats sees her relatives return.

Standing beside the bird-like structure was another that helped us find beauty and life in death.

We peered in, and down, and up, and all around. With each glance, our understandings increased. So did our questions.

There were holes that became windows looking out to the forest beyond.

But those same windows helped us realize they were framed by the results of their injuries. You see, it appeared that a pileated woodpecker had dined on the many insects who had mined the inner workings of the tree. After being so wounded by the birds, the tree attempted to heal its scars as evidenced by the thick growth ring structure that surrounded each hole. Or at least, that’s what we think happened.

To back up our story, we looked from the outside in and saw the same.

We also noted the corky bark with its diamond shapes formed where one chunk met another.

And much to our surprise, we found one compound leaf still dangling. No, this is not a marcescent tree, one of those known to hold its withering leaves to the end of time (or beginning of the next leaf year). But instead, this old sage is one of the first to drop its leaves. So why did one outlast the race? Perhaps to provide a lesson about leaves and leaflets, the latter being the components of the compound structure.

Adding to the identification, we realized we were treated to several saplings growing at the base of the one dying above. By its bud shape and opposite orientation we named it Ash. By its notched leaf scars and lack of hairs, we named it White. White Ash.

Because we were looking, Pam also found a sign of life within. We suspected a caterpillar had taken advantage of the sheltered location, but didn’t know which one.

About simultaneously, our research once we arrived at our respective homes, suggested a hickory tussock moth. Can you see the black setae within the hair?

Pam took the research one step further and sent this: “I read that the female lays eggs on top of the cocoon and then makes a kind of foam that hardens over them so they can survive the winter. How cool is that?” Wicked Cool, Indeed!

We probably spent close to an hour with that tree, getting to know it from every possible angle.

And then it was time to stop looking through the window and to instead step into the great beyond.

We did just that, and found another set of mammal tracks to follow. Tracking conditions were hardly ideal and we followed the set for a long way, never quite deciding if it was a fisher or a bobcat, or one animal traveling one way and another the opposite but within the same path.

Eventually, we gave up on the shifty mammal and made our way into the upland portion of the property where I knew a bear claw tree stood. Pam’s task was to locate it and so she set off, checking all the beech trees in the forest.

Bingo! Her bear paw tree eyes were formed.

It was a beauty of a specimen that reminded us of all the wonders of this place.

From that tree, we continued off-trail, zigzagging from tree to tree, but never found another. That doesn’t mean we visited every tree in the refuge and so we’ll just have to return and look some more.

We did, however, find some scratch marks on a paper birch.

They were too close together to have been created by even a young bear, but we did consider squirrel. Wiping off the rosy-white chalk that coated the bark, we did find actual scrapes below. Now we’ll have to remember to check that tree again in a year or so and see what we might see.

What we finally saw before making our best bee-line out (don’t worry, our Nature Distraction Disorder still slowed us down) was the view of Sucker Brook and the mountains beyond.

At last we pulled ourselves away, but gave great thanks for that ash tree that framed our day and our focus and for all that we saw within it and beyond.

A’pondering We Will Go

August 3, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
A’pondering We Will Go: Get inspired by the beauty along the trail at the John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge East. This will be a stop-and-go walk as we pause frequently to sketch, photograph, and/or write about our observations, or simply ponder each time we stop. Location: John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge East, Farrington Pond Road, Lovell.
Degree of Difficulty: Easy.

j1-pickerel frog

That was our advertisement for this morning’s Greater Lovell Land Trust walk, but we weren’t sure the weather would cooperate. Docent Pam and I emailed back and forth as we looked at various forecasts and decided to take our chances. As it turned it, it did sprinkle occasionally, but we didn’t feel the rain until we finished up and even then, it wasn’t much. Instead, the sound of the plinking against the leaves in the canopy was a rather pleasant accompaniment to such a delightful morning. Our group was small–just right actually for it was an intimate group and we made a new friend and had a wonder-filled time stopping to sit and ponder and then move along again and were surprised by tiny frogs and toads who thought the weather couldn’t get any better, as well as other great finds. Here, a pickerel frog showed off its rectangular spots for all of us to enjoy.

j2-Sucker Brook

After a first 20-minute pause in the woods, we continued on until we reached Sucker Brook.

j3-Colleen

Each of us settled into a place to listen . . .

j4-Bob

photograph . . .

j6-Judy

and write.

j7-heron

I have no idea how much time had passed, but suddenly we all stirred a bit and then someone who was noticing (I think it was Ann) redirected our attention.

j8-heron

We were encouraged to focus on another who was also paying attention.

j9-heron

And narrowing in . . .

j10-heron and fish

on lunch.

j11-wings

When the young heron flapped its wings, we were all sure the meal was meant “to go.”

j12-securing the catch

But thankfully, the bird stayed.

j13-lunch

And played with its food.

j14-lunch making its way down

Ever so slowly, the fish was maneuvered into its mouth.

j15-gulp

And swallowed.

j16-down the throat it goes

Down the throat it slid.

j16-feathers ruffled

And then the feathers were ruffled–rather like a chill passing through its body.

j17-movement

Wing motion followed.

j18-searching

But still, the Great Blue Heron stayed.

j19-next course

And stalked some more.

j20-Isaiah

We continued to watch until we knew we had to pull ourselves away.

j21-the journalists

If we didn’t have other obligations, we might still be there. Gathered with me from left to right: Judy, Colleen, Isaiah, Pam, Ann, and Bob.

j22-owl pellet

On our way back, again we made some interesting discoveries that we’d somehow missed on the way in, including White Baneberry, aka Doll’s Eye, a bone we couldn’t ID, Indian Pipe, and this owl pellet smooshed, but full of tiny bones–vole-sized bones.

j22-Pam reading what she wrote

We stopped one more time, to share our morning’s observations.

j23-Judy reading her poem

Reading aloud is never easy, but because our group was small and we’d quickly developed a sense of camaraderie and trust, the comfort level was high.

j24-Ann's landscape sketch with heron

Sketches were also shared, including this one of the landscape that Ann drew–including the heron that entered the scene just before she quietly called our attention to it.

j25-stump and lichen

And my attempts–the first of a tree stump from our woodland stop, and then a lichen when we were by Sucker Brook.

A’pondering We Did Go–and came away richer for the experience. Thanks to all who came, to Pam and Ann for leading, and to Isaiah for his fine eye at spotting interesting things along the way.

 

 

Flying With John A. Segur

I never had the honor of meeting Mr. Segur, but it was my honor to be his eyes for a short time today as I wandered down the short trail off New Road in Lovell at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge. Upon his death, a bequest in his name was left to the land trust to preserve habitat for native wildlife to thrive.

The JAS Wildlife Refuge actually encompasses 592 acres and I only explored the .3 mile trail on the western section of the property, but on an extremely hot summer day my finds were enough. Follow me and I think you’ll see what I mean.

j1-Across from the sign and telephone pole

First off, you need to locate the small undefined parking lot. It’s about a mile beyond Foxboro Road, but I don’t pay attention to that. Rather, I look for the “No Thru Trucks” sign and turn on my left-hand blinker as soon as I spot it.

j2-trail and kiosk

Just beyond a couple of boulders placed to keep vehicles from driving down the old skidder trail, stands the kiosk where you can take a look at the trail map and check out some other GLLT materials.

j3-map

As I said, this is just a small part of the overall refuge, but it’s well worth an exploration, especially if you don’t have much time (though some of us have been known to spend at least three hours making our way down and back).

j3a-the trail mowed

Recently, the GLLT’s Associate Team and Intern mowed the trail, making it passable and not quite so tick-infested. But . . . still take precautions. Always! The trail is rather level, so it’s an easy one to travel.

j4-daisy and crab spider

This is a place where you’ll find the ordinary, like a daisy. And trying to decide if “he loves me, he loves me not,” you might see a small crab spider.

j5-sundews

This is also the land of the extraordinary–in the form of the carnivorous Round-leaved Sundews. Check out the glistening droplets at the ends of the hair-like tendrils that  extend from each round leaf. The droplets are actually quite sticky. Just like a spider sensing a bug on its web, the tendrils detect the presence of prey and then curl inward, thus trapping the prey.  The whole leaf will eventually wrap around the insect and in the process of digesting it, the plant will absorb the bug’s nutrients. Sundews tend to grow in areas that lack sufficient nutrients, so this is the plant’s way of supplementing its diet. And if that wasn’t enough–it was just plain beautiful.

All that being said, this is a tiny plant and right now preparing to flower. So, if you travel this way, about a tenth of a mile into your journey, look down at your feet for these minute gems, take a closer look, and then walk with care.

j6-sweet-fern

Further along the trail you’ll see a few species of ferns, as well as the fern that isn’t a fern. Sweet-fern is so named for it’s fern-like appearance, but it has a woody stem and is actually a shrub. It’s yellowish green flowers that first appeared in spring were giving way to greenish brown, burr-like nutlets. In any season, this shrub has such variation to offer, that like hobblebush, I can’t resist honoring it with a million photographs.

j8-raspberries

One of the sweet joys of this trail is that because of previous logging, early succession is taking place in terms of the plants and trees that grow beside the trail, including blackberries not quite ripe and these raspberries already offering a delightful reprieve on a humid summer day.

j14-the field

Eventually, the trail leads to the turn-around point, the old log landing, which also displayed signs of forest succession, for its there that some wildflowers and sweet-ferns grow in the center. At the perimeter, white pines, gray birch and blackberries crowd each other.

j10-four-spotted with food

And on the edge, the dragonflies fly. And dine. This Four-spotted Dragonfly settled on a dead red pine to consume an insect.

j11-4 spotted eating

Ever so slowly . . .

j12-feeding frenzy

the body disappeared into its mouth.

j13-4 spotted, back view

While it was busy eating, I was busied myself in getting as close as possible to enjoy all of its nuances, from the four spots on its wings, to the basal display on the hind wings to the placement of its eyes and colors on its thorax and abdomen. All of those details help in ID.

j15-old coyote scat

And then into the field I went, with a memory of a winter expedition when we noticed that a shrike had deposited a mouse in a tree. Today’s finds included a pile of old coyote scat probably also deposited this past winter that indicated a territory repeatedly marked.

j16-turtle?

I also spied lots of recently made depressions. While one might suspect dust baths by a turkey or grouse, feathers are usually left behind in the process. Instead, the ground was more disturbed and because the landing is close to Bradley Brook, I determined I was looking at recently dug holes made by turtles. Snappers and painted turtles have been depositing eggs recently and these may be the incubation nurseries for their offspring.

j16-racket-tailed emerald

As I turned back toward the trail, I noticed a dragonfly seeking shade, for so hot was it. Notice the bright green eyes of the Racket-tailed Emerald. Thank goodness for those emerald eyes that always help in narrowing down the choices.

j18-common dewberry:sphinx moth

I found it a bit more difficult to ID the sphinx moth that paid a visit to the Dewberries. There are only 1,450 species in the Sphingidae family, but my leaning was toward Nessus Sphinx, though I could be totally off on that one.

j20-Northern-bush Honeysuckle

I was much more confident about my ID of the native Northern-bush Honeysuckle with its greenish-yellowish-orangish flowers. The plant is actually a shrub with a woody stem, and one that moose and deer like. I’ve yet to see a moose print along this piece of the property, but I know its part of a deer yard.

j21-Spotted St. John's-wort

Also springing forth with yellow blossoms was Spotted St. John’s-wort, with its translucent spots on the leaves and tiny black dots outlining its petals.

j22-whorled yellow-loosestrife

And not to be overlooked, the Whorled Yellow-Loosestrife with its cheery flowers extended in a whorl from the stem by long petioles.

j23-hitchiker

My journey wasn’t long, but with all that I saw, I was thankful for the spirit of Mr. Segur that flies over this place.

Just possibly, he graced me with his presence today . . . in the form of Spangled Skimmer.

Tracker Tales

When I pulled into the Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library parking lot this morning I didn’t expect any of the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Tuesday Trackers to be waiting for me given that the temperature was at least -20˚. But, Jo Radner was ready and waiting. She joined me for the drive to the John A. Segur West property on New Road.

Standing in the small parking lot was Stephen Lewis, another diehard participant. And as  Jo and I fiddled with our snowshoes, Heinrich Wurm pulled in.

And so, we four intrepid trampers took off over the snowbank and immediately met some tracks. A little back tracking and attention to details helped us determine a bobcat had crossed the trail. There were red and later gray squirrel tracks, deer, and mice. Most were old for the animals, especially the squirrels and mice seemed to be hunkered down in their holes–certainly a good choice.

j-junco tracks and wing marks

By the time we reached the old log landing at the end of the trail, we noticed lots of junco tracks and their small wing impressions. Seeds aplenty were scattered across the snow. Our conversation soon turned from the little birds to an experience I had this past week when a saw-whet owl flew into a thick stand of hemlocks I was crashing through like a bull in a china shop. I had just finished saying that much to my surprise the bird flew in as I broke through the branches when one would expect a bird to quickly depart, when Steve pointed at something in our midst.

j-mouse discovery 1a

We all moved in for a closer look.

j-mouse discovery 2

A dead mouse splayed on the branch of a gray birch. My brain played with that sight over and over again. Yes, we’d seen numerous crazy mouse tracks left behind by either deer or white-footed mice–it’s difficult to determine which, for both have long tails that leave drag marks between their footprints. Jumping mice hibernate so they could be ruled out.  Jo asked if I could tell which of the other two it might be. I’m happy to say that even well-respected tracker Paul Rezendes, author of Tracking and the Art of Seeing, has this to say, “There are more than 120 different species of North American mice, and about half of them fall under the general rubric ‘white-footed mouse.’ The deer mouse is a type of white-footed mouse, and to me there is not perceptible difference in tracks. There are several anatomical differences, but these change from habitat to habitat. The white-footed mouse measures up to about seven and a half inches long (including its three-and-a-half inch tail) and weighs one-half to one ounce. Its color is gray or light brown to dull orange-brown above, with a white belly, throat, and, as its name implies, feet. The deer mouse is gray to reddish brown on its upper parts, including its tail, and white below, with longer hind feet and a tail usually longer than its body. Both animals have bicolored a bicolored tail.”

j1-mouse 1

Our next question was, “How did it get there?” My mind immediately went to a December 13 entry on page 419 in Mary Holland’s Naturally Curious Day by Day about butcher birds overwintering. Mary discusses how northern shrikes preferred food sources are other birds, mammals and insects. “This tundra-nesting bird comes as far south as New England in the winter, where it preys mainly on mice, voles, and small birds.” She goes on to explain that the bird often kills more than it can consume and leaves some food in the freezer for future feeding adventures. “The manner in which it stores this extra food is what gives it the nickname ‘butcher bird.’ It often impales prey on a thorn, broken branch, or even barbed wire, or it wedges prey into narrow V-shaped forks of branches, where it hangs until reclaimed by the shrike.”

Bingo! I think we figured out what we were seeing and in Mary Holland’s book we have my dear friend, mentor and former LEA and GLLT Education Director, Bridie McGreavy, PhD, to thank for the photo.

We could have turned around then, so thrilled were we, but we hadn’t even reached the wetland. And so, a quick check to make sure everyone was comfortable and on we trekked.

j-deer crossing Bradley Brook

When we found more deer tracks, we decided to follow them in search of beds. At that point we found no bedding areas, but did see that the deer had crossed Bradley Brook.

j-Bradley Brook frozen

It was the first time I’d ever seen the brook frozen over and we took advantage by making our way to the other side.

j-water on lungwort 1

We continued looking for tracks, but found other things as well, including dried lungwort. I mentioned that lungwort, like other bryophytes, will immediately photosynthesize when water is added. Jo wanted proof and so I had her pull out my water bottle and pour it over the leafy structure.

j-lungwort turning green

Within minutes . . .

j-lungwort magic

magic.

j-beaver works 1

As we crossed the wetland, we searched high and low for evidence of wildlife. Up high, chickadees and goldfinches sang from treetops. Down low–not a single track. We did find a few examples of beaver works.

j-beaver works 2

And we thought perhaps the lodges were active.

j-beaver works 3

We hoped.

j-checking the beaver lodge1

But our hope was dashed.

j-beaver lodge 2

No vent hole above and no evidence of life anywhere nearby. Perhaps they’d abandoned this for a second one we spied.

j-stone lodge

Only thing is that the second one also supported no mammal life at the moment, for it turned out not to be a lodge after all, but a boulder covered with snow.

j-beaver dam

Just beyond the boulder lodge, however, we found the old dam, which still stood strong.

j-sharing smiles at the dam

Our smiles were equally strong as we acknowledge what a fine day it had been and this would make the perfect turn around point.

j-Heinrich looking skyward

Jo and Steve took one last look at the brook below and Heiner turned his eyes skyward.

j-heading back

Heading back, we all did the same for we heard military planes flying overhead and could see their contrails.

j-looking north

But it was the cloud formation that really drew our attention.

j-clouds 2

Steve mentioned lenticular clouds and it seemed the perfect explanation given that these lens-shaped structures probably formed after the flow of air encountered Mount Washington.

j-mouse in tree crotch

Our journey back found us going off trail again, and we did find a couple of deer beds, but what will stand out in our brains for this day’s tramp–the mouse with the very long tail and tiny white feet. How it got there, we don’t know for sure, though the shrike story does make sense. What I am sure of is that it will become part of our tracker tales.

 

Moi–Bull in a China Shop

Several inches of fresh snow topped with freezing rain two days ago and the world is transformed. I couldn’t decide whether to wear snowshoes, micro-spikes or neither. I choose micro-spikes, which seemed a good choice at the start, but not long into my 3.5 hour tramp through the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge off Farrington Pond Road, I wished I chosen the snowshoes. At times the snow was soft, but other times it sounded as if glass was breaking as I crashed through it. Broken shards slide across the glazed surface. I was the bull in a china shop.

SB-sweet fern begin blue trailFrom the parking lot, I decided to begin via the blue trail by the kiosk. It doesn’t appear on the trail map, but feels much longer than the green trail–possibly my imagination. Immediately, I was greeted at the door of the shop by sweet fern, aka Comptonia peregrina (remember, it’s actually a shrub with foliage that appear fern-like). The striking color and artistic flow of the winter leaves, plus the hairy texture of the catkins meant I had to stop and touch and admire.

SB-bobcat1And only steps along the trail another great find–bobcat tracks. This china shop immediately appealed to moi.

SB-bob 3My Trackards slid along the glassy surface, so it was difficult to show the print size. But . . . it is what it is. The bobcat crossed the trail a couple of times and even came back out to explore squirrel middens.

SB-rocksWhen I got to a ledgy spot, I decided to explore further–thinking perhaps Mr. Bob might have spent some time here. Not so–in the last two days anyway.

SB-red squirrel printThe best find in this spot–red squirrel prints. A few things to notice–the smaller feet that appear at the bottom of the print are the front feet–often off-kilter. Squirrels are bounders and so as the front feet touch down and lift off the back feet follow and land before the front feet in a parallel presentation. In a way, the entire print looks like two exclamation points.

SB-bear 1As I plodded along, my eyes were ever scanning and . . . I was treated to a surprise. Yes, a beech tree. Yes, it has been infected by the beech scale insect. And yes, a black bear has also paid a visit.

SB-bear 1aOne visit, for sure. More than one? Not so sure. But can’t you envision the bear with its extremities wrapped around this trunk as it climbs. I looked for other bear trees to no avail, but suspect they are there. Docents and trackers–we have a mission.

SB-beech nut1And what might the bear be seeking? Beech nuts. Viable trees. Life is good.

SB-right on red maplesExactly where is the bear tree? Think left on red. When you get to this coppiced red maple tree, rather than turning right as is our driving custom, take a left and you should see it. Do remember that everything stands out better in the winter landscape.

SB-nest 2As delicate as anything in the china shop is the nest created by bald-faced hornets.

SB-nest 3Well, it appears delicate, but the nest has been interwoven with the branches and twigs–making it strong so weather doesn’t destroy it. At the bottom is, or rather was, the entrance hole.

SB-witch hazel flowersWitch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) grows abundantly beside younger beech trees. Though the flowers are now past their peak, I found a couple of dried ribbony petals extending from the cup-shaped bracts. China cups? No, but in the winter setting, the bracts are as beautiful as any flower.

I have to admit that I was a wee bit disconcerted when I reached a point where the blue trail and green trail split and it wasn’t at a point that I remembered. But I lumbered on and was pleasantly surprised when I reached the field I recognized–approaching it from the opposite side than is the norm. And later on, I realized that where the blue trail again joined the green trail was a shortcut. We need to get an accurate map made of this property, but I also need to spend more time familiarizing myself with it. At last I reached Sucker Brook.

SB-lodges and Evans NotchWith the Balds in Evans Notch forming the backdrop, the brook is home to numerous beaver lodges, including these two.

SB-lodge and layersLayers speak of generations and relationships.

SB-two lodges 1Close proximity mimics the mountain backdrop.

Old and new efforts mark return attempts.

SB-cove beaver treesAnd sometimes, I just have to wonder–how does this tree continue to stand?

SB-near outlet leatherleaf fields foreverLeatherleaf fields forever.

SB-leatherleaf budsSpring is in the offing.

SB-wintergreen 2Wintergreen offers its own sign of the season to come.

SB-hemlock stump et alIn the meantime, it’s still winter and this hemlock stump with a display of old hemlock varnish shelf (Ganoderma tsugae) caught my eye. By now, I was on the green trail.

SB-grouse 2But it’s what I saw in the hollow under the stump, where another tree presumably served as a nursery and has since rotted away, that made me think about how this year’s lack of snow has affected wild life. In the center is ruffed grouse scat. Typically, ruffed grouse burrow into snow on a cold winter night. Snow acts as an insulator and hides the bird from predators. I found numerous coyote and bobcat tracks today. It seems that a bird made use of the stump as a hiding spot–though not for long or there would have been much more scat.

On the backside of the stump, more ruffed grouse scat white-washed with uric acid.

SB-hemlock grouse printsApparently it circled the area before flying off.

Moments later I startled a ruffed grouse in a tree while I observed turkey tracks. Though their prints and scat appear to be similar–turkeys are soooo much bigger in all respects.

SB-sweet fern end of green trail

My trek ended in the same manner that it began–with sweet-fern offering a graceful stance despite my bull in a china shop approach.

 

Trending Blaze Orange

Donning our blaze orange, eight of the Greater Lovell Land Trust‘s docents joined me today for an exploration along the trail to Otter Rock at the Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve.

Our destination was the Otter Rock spur, not very far, but it’s amazing how long it can take us and we were impressed that we actually reached our goal.

grape fern 1.jpg

Along the way we stopped to admire the blunt-lobe grape ferns and their separate fertile stalks, some still intact.

4 birches.jpg

And then we looked up. We’d been talking about tree bark, and right before our very eyes were four members of the birch family.

paper birch

Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) features chalky white bark that often peels away in large sheets. The peeled bark reveals pink or orange tints, only partially visible here, but evident on other trees in the neighborhood.

yellow birch

To the left of the Paper Birch stands a Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), with its curly ribbon-like strips of bronze or yellowish-gray bark giving it a shaggy appearance.

black birch

And to its left the one that excited us most, Black Birch (Betula lenta), sporting gray bark with long, horizontal lenticels. All trees have lenticels, but they are more obvious on some than others. These slits allow for the exchange of gas so the tree may breath.

 

gray birch

Last in the family line-up, a Gray Birch (Betula populifolia) showing off its almost dirty appearance and chevrons below the former branch sites.

dragonfly nymph 1

At Otter Rock, we found dragonfly nymph exoskeletons still clinging to tree bark

df 2

and rocks.

shell remnants

Our discovery of shells made us wonder and smile about others who have passed this way.

wh b

Now that the leaves are gone, we delighted in the knowledge that there is so much more to see, including Witch Hazel.

witch hazel gall

We examined one of the few remaining ribbony flowers, the scalpel-shaped buds, fruiting bodies, asymmetrical leaves and a spiny gall all on one branch.

witch hazel Bob.jpg

Our very own Witch Hazel Expert, Docent Bob, demonstrated the way the seeds pop–referencing Henry David Thoreau’s discovery of this phenomenon.

docents 1.jpg

Before we headed back to the main trail, the group posed for a photo call. They all look so sporty in their blaze orange.

wild raisins

A few more finds as we walked back to the parking lot: remnants of a wild raisin (Viburnum cassinoides), so named because the shriveled fruits that remain look like raisins;

black cherry bark.jpg

Black Cherry bark (Prunus serotina), easily identified by the small scales that curl outward like burnt cornflakes or potato chips;

red oak leaves

and Northern Red Oak leaves displaying holiday colors.

Mill Stream

Though most of us parted company just beyond the mill stream, a couple of us continued on to the John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge off New Road.

Heal All

We focused our attention on winter weeds, a topic for our January 9th walk. On this old logging road, some of the Selfheal or Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris) stands at least a foot and a half tall. As pretty as it is in the summer, it’s still a sight to behold in its winter structure.

evening primrose

Another to look forward to is the Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennia). Its fruits are four-parted capsules arranged in a spike at the tip of the stem, looking rather like flowers themselves.

There’s more to see, but I don’t want to give it all away.

CS view 1

My last stop for the day was a loop around the Chip Stockford Reserve. I wasn’t the only one trending blaze orange. The glow of the late afternoon sun cast an orange hue across the beech leaves.

November in western Maine. We’re happy to don our blaze orange and get out on the trails.

 

Hanging On

To say the colors have been fantastic this fall is an understatement. Maybe they are just as spectacular as last year’s display, but I don’t remember. Or maybe it’s that the leaves turned at a later date than in recent history and the anticipation was rewarded by the brilliance.

morning view

All I know is that I can’t get enough.

Route 93 mtn view

Route 93 2

As I drove toward Lovell this morning, a break in the treeline beside the road forced me to back up and jump out of the truck. I recalled another October when the foliage caught my attention–I can’t believe I remember this, but it was either 1974 or ’75 when I often traveled the back roads with my high school cohorts–Carissa and Sarah. I only hope I remember this fall as vividly as that one has always stood out in my mind.

purple aster

It felt like rain when a couple of friends and I walked along the short trail at the GLLT’s John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge on New Road this morning. We didn’t get far because there were so many wildflowers to view, some still in bloom and others gone to seed. Like so many trails, this is an old logging road. It would be so easy to dismiss it as an ugly tangle of shrubs and weeds. But it’s hardly that. Gray and paper birch grace the border of the road, mixed with evergreens and a few red maples.

gall of the earth flower 2

But the flowers really caught our attention today. One Gall of the Earth displays its nodding head.

sundew leaves dying back

The round-leaf sundew is beginning to die back.

silverod

It seemed like in most cases only one plant of the species still had flowers, like this silverrod, our only white goldenrod.

Pearly everlasting

Pearly everlasting,

steeplebush

steeplebush and

aster seeds 2

asters are letting go.

witch hazel flowering

Meanwhile, the witch hazel is in full bloom.

wh flower and pod

Apparently, its ribbony yellow flowers bloom late in order to take advantage of pollinators at a time when everything else has finished blossoming.

baby woodfrog

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend at the property, but this little guy caught our attention–a young wood frog. He’ll need to find his way under the leaf litter soon.

Route 93

On the way home, another photo call.

Mount Washington

And later in the day, some work behind me, I stepped out the door again. It’s a compulsion a this point; a strong desire to catch every shade of yellow, orange, red and purple before it’s too late. I haven’t turned north on the snowmobile trail under the power line in a while, so today I did.

Mansion Road

My journey took me down a logging road that has become a super highway in the last two years. I think the operation is finally over.

log landing 1

The landing and beyond have been my destination for 23 years. I’ve watched the succession play out in this space. And now it will happen again. I have to look at it as a lesson–watching the species gradually take over this muddy lot. The land was probably last logged about thirty years ago, so I met it in its early stages. Now I will get to see it transform from the get go. And I have to say, it’s one of the cleanest log landings I’ve ever encountered.

logging road

Considering how wet it is in these woods, I’m impressed with the forester’s work.

ferns filling in

Ferns already grow in roads created a year ago.

grass filling in logging roads

Grass fills in others.

mud

But mud is predominate and I love mud.

bobcat tracks 1bobcat 2

Bobcat tracks were everywhere. It’s been my understanding that bobcats don’t travel trails like coyotes and foxes, but instead cross over them in a corridor that is about 40 feet wide. My observance, however, is that this isn’t always the case. Heck, I’d follow the easier trail as well. I did today. I started to return home via one of the trails I use when on snowshoes, but because this is a wet countryside, the slash left by previous loggers and the most current one makes that trail almost impassable until the snow flies (which may be soon–at least for a few flakes).

bobcat 3bc pattern

I’m curious about the number of tracks. Bobcats are solitary except during breeding season in February-March. Are these youngsters? Do they travel together? Or is this an individual passing through repeatedly?

bc and deer-opposite

Deer are among a bobcat’s prey and thus part of the reason this is such fertile hunting grounds. I love the view of both passing through this space in opposite directions. And the turn of the bobcat’s toe nails, which show clearly in the mud even though they are able to retract them. The deer also seemed to have slid into a turn. Though you can’t see my boot prints here, I love that the three of us passed this way side-by-side, at different moments. I looked for them, but am sure they were much more astute about knowing my whereabouts.

leaves in puddle

Puddles along the way were filled with fallen leaves

leaves in puddle & reflection

and reflections of trees to which they once clung.

old squirrel drey

Back on our land, I found an old squirrel drey that had fallen from quite high in a tree.

red maple leaf scar

And noted the red maple twigs–new buds already offering hope for next year, leaves still hanging on, and a bright green leaf scar from one that fell off recently.

fewer leaves

At the end of the day the leaf pile grows. I guess we can only hang on to the old for so long.