Spotlight on the Brownfield Bog

When I drove to the Brownfield Bog, aka Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area, this afternoon, my intention was to pay attention to the shrubs that grow there.

b-black swallowtail

But, as usual, the distractions were many and a black swallowtail landed as I stepped out of my truck.

b-ant on alder aphid

I did note a tremendous amount of wooly alder aphids coating the alder stems everywhere I walked. In fact, I’ve never seen so much fluff. And I found only one ant eager to milk the sweet honeydew produced by the aphids as they sucked the shrubs sap. Once in a while the white fluff danced in the breeze. Was it an aphid on the fly?

b-willow flowers

Or did it come from the willows that were in the process of sending their seeds forth into the future?

b-Northern Arrowwood

So you see, I was paying attention to the shrubs, especially those in flower like the Northern Arrowwood. There was another with a similar flowerhead, but different leaves and I need to return and spend more time studying it.

b-Pleasant Mountain 2

Because I was in the bog, I did pause occasionally to peer across its advance, usually with a view of my favorite mountain (Pleasant Mountain) providing the background.

b-chalk-fronted corporal 1

But the dragonflies live there. And the chalk-fronted corporals became my BFF, since as many as twenty lifted off with each step I took. They led me all the way down the trail and all the way back, usually a few feet in front.

b-dot-tailed white face 1

The corporals weren’t the only dragons of choice.

b-dot-spotted white face 2

Dot-tailed white face dragonflies were happy to pose.

b-calico pennant 1

And I even found a few calico pennants–happy to make their acquaintance again.

b-white gall on maleberry 2

Between dragon and damselfly opportunities, white globs and . . .

b-maleberry gall?1

green caught my attention. They were the size of apples and totally new to me. My thought right now is that they are galls, similar to the azalea gall, but these were on maleberry shrubs. If you know otherwise, I welcome your information.

b-bog view

The bog was swollen with water only a few weeks ago, but that story line has passed and life sprang from the spring like a fountain of youth.

b-damsel love 1

My noticing continued when I spied a couple of youthful damselflies . . .

b-damsel love 2

he’d attached himself below her . . .

b-damsel love 3

and ever so slowly advanced . . .

b-damsel love 4

until the circle of love was complete.

b-lady beetles canoodling

Canoodling of all kinds occurred.

b-dragonflies canoodling 2

Even the dragonflies tried to get in on the action.

b-dragonflies canoodling

She wasn’t very tolerant, however, and a couple of seconds later detached herself from her forward position and took off.

b-sedge sprite 1

I moved on, looking here and there and thrilling at the sight of the beautiful and iridescent sedge sprite damselfly.

b-river jewelwing

Following the trail to the Saco River, I found tracks galore in the muck below, and a river jewelwing–appropriately named.

b-Canada geese

As I headed out, I startled a Canada goose family that had been feeding along the edge.

b-ring necked and mountain

And then I paused for one last look at the bog and Pleasant Mountain.

b-ring-necked duck

That’s when I realized I was in the presence of a male ring-necked duck. If you like to bird, this is the place. I saw several but heard so many more. And even if I couldn’t apply a name to a song, I did enjoy the symphony that followed me throughout my adventure.

b-Kathy's bog sign

Though I said I went to look at the shrubs because I do want to learn them, my real reason for going was to see this new installment.

b-Kathy's sign up close

Maine Master Naturalist (and potter) Kathy McGreavy created this handmade and painted map of the bog for her capstone project. Her husband recently installed it and it’s a work of art worth looking at not only to appreciate Kathy’s talent, but also to learn more about the bog and those that call it home.

My hope is that the spotlight will continue to shine brightly on Kathy’s creation . . . made with love in honor of her bog.

Slog Through The Bog

She said she’d call a half hour before heading to the bog so I should probably sleep in my hiking clothes and boots. And she was right! I was just about to take a bagel out of the toaster oven when the phone rang. “We’re going to the bog at 9:00. Can you join us?” Thirty-five minutes later I pulled into her driveway, excited because it was a chance to explore Brownfield Bog with about-to-become Maine Master Naturalist Kathy McGreavy and her daughter, Dr. Bridie McGreavy.

b-bog from road

From there we drove to Bog Road and parked at the beginning since conditions were dicey, but also because it gave us a chance to walk and listen–almost immediately we heard a barred owl. And then the warblers greeted us.

b-sky and water

Brownfield Bog, aka Major Gregory Sanborn WMA, encompasses 6,000 acres of wetland. And on any given day, the sky tells its story above and below. Of course, we thought we were going to get poured upon when we first met, but the mist soon evaporated and sun warmed us enough that we shed a few layers.

b-common yellow throat 2

The initial stretch of our journey found us moving at a fast pace, but once we reached the second gate,

b-Bridie McGreavy

our inclination was to slow down.

b-Kathy

To stop, look and listen.

b-common yellow throat 1

The chestnut streaks on the yellow warbler matched the emerging red maple leaves.

b-oriole 2

And I can never spend enough time with a Baltimore oriole, forever wowed by its color.

b-oriole singing

And its voice.

b-catbird

Birds flitted about and flew overhead, but occasionally one, such as this catbird, paused and posed.

b-willows and birches

Most of the songbirds were feeding and perhaps nesting in the land of the willows, birch and maples.

b-willow pine cone gall caused by midge

Others also sought homes here, like the gall gnat midge that overwintered in a pinecone-like structure created with leaves by the reaction to a chemical released by the larva. I’m forever amazed about how nature works.

b-song sparrow

Eventually, we followed the song sparrows as they led us down the cobbled road.

b-road 1

The current was strong in places . . .

b-deep water

and water deep.

b-scenery1

But the views . . .

b-Pleasant Mtn and Bog

worth every step.

b-maple samara

Sometimes, our focus was upon the ground, where we spotted a few small red maple samaras.

b-coyote scat

And scat–including this double offering of coyote deposits.

b-coyote scat toenail

And among it–a toe nail first spied by Bridie. I chuckled to myself when we got down to look at this, for Bridie first introduced me to the finer qualities of scat when she worked at Lakes Environmental Association. She also taught me to track mammals. And . . . the crème de la crème–to sniff fox pee. Ah, the delights we have shared–they are many and having an opportunity to walk with her today brought them all flooding back.

b-ribbon snake

We decided to put our blinders on so we could continue without any pauses, but then Bridie’s eagle eyes zeroed in on movement. Her mom and I saw the movement as well, but we had to really focus in order to find the creator among the dried vegetation.

b-ribbon 2

And we did–a ribbon snake, who happens to be a great reason for preserving this property because its a species of special concern in Maine.

b-Pleasant Mtn

At times, Pleasant Mountain was the featured backdrop.

b-Canada geese

And Canada geese swam in the foreground.

b-beaver mound

Everywhere, beaver works were obvious and scent mounds growing in size.

b-oak 1 (1)

After a couple of hours, we reached our turn-around point at the old oak tree.

b-beaver lodge

As we looked across, one of the beaver lodges stood above the water level.

b-bog 3

But Kathy and Bridie both reminded me that another was still submerged due to this spring’s high water level.

b-cuckoo nest remnants

Finally, we did our best to bee-line back. But Kathy showed me one more great find that had been pointed out to her by Mary Jewett last year–the straggly stick structure of a cuckoo’s nest. Certainly worth a wonder. (The other wonder–when we first arrived at the bog this morning, Mary was just leaving.)

b-spoon jar 2

Our entire morning had been worth a wonder and then another occurred when we returned to Kathy’s house. While I said goodbye to Bridie, who is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Communication in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine, her mom slipped into the house. When Kathy returned, she handed me this spoon pot filled with daffodils from her garden. She’s a potter and owner of Saco River Pottery. Though I love to give her fine art as presents, I only own one other piece. This one now stands proudly on our kitchen counter, holding the utensils as it was intended. It will forever remind me of the McGreavys and the day I first saw a dragonfly emerge from its exoskeleton–at the bog with Bridie; and the day I spent with Kathy as I interviewed her for a magazine article about creating pottery–and she let me try my hand at the wheel; and so many other memories of time spent with these ladies, but especially today–for the opportunity to slog through the bog with the two of them.