Mustelids, Oh My!

kiosk sign

This morning I drove to the Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve on Sucker Brook in Lovell. This is a Greater Lovell Land Trust property.

Station !

My mission was to photograph the eight station signs along the nature walk so another docent and I can spend some time this spring updating them.

station 2:a

Before I even reached Station 2, I realized I had a bad case of NDD. Nature Distraction Disorder. OK, so I think I just coined a new term and acronym, but maybe I heard it somewhere else and had it tucked away in my mind. (NawDee for short?–corny joke alert and I might be the only one who gets it) Anyway, what it boiled down to was what you see on this sign and then some.

Fisher

Fisher tracks were all along the brook and through the woods. I’m almost certain these are fisher. I was beginning to question my “I’m always 100% correct when alone” statement. These were quite fresh.

mink1mink slide

Mink tracks and slides were also visible, especially in and out of Sucker Brook.

otter

And then I found these. River Otter.

Silent and graceful are the weasels. From them I should learn so many lessons as they move about quietly observing and discerning what is important. I always think of them as fun loving with all the sliding some of them, like the mink and otter, do. But . . . they are carnivores who have to consume a lot of food to keep warm in the winter.

hole activity

This hole was one of several that I saw. It was across the brook, so I don’t know who entered here. Perhaps they all checked it out. Or maybe it’s a sleeping space for these nocturnal animals.

little brown thing hair

And I found what remained of hair from a little brown thing–either a deer mouse or white-footed mouse. There were tracks leading up to it, but it’s difficult to discern the difference between the two. Who had dinner here? The fisher, I believe.

pinecone tracks

It wasn’t only mammal tracks that I found. Look at the trail left behind by this pinecone.

morning lightbrook 1brook 2

The morning light was beautiful–the beginning of a crisp, clear day.

water and ice 2

Movement frozen in time. water and ice 3

tranquility

And then the brook calms down. Chickadees sing their cheeseburger song while white-breasted nuthatches call, “Yank, yank,” over and over again.

platform

Finally I reached the platform–a hidden oasis that encourages us all to take time to pause and wonder.

bog

And search the brook and bog for signs of wildlife. One of these days, I’m going to see a moose. I think I heard a river otter here either last summer or the previous one. And I’ve been on owl prowls to this very location–occasionally even heard them respond to our calls.

false tinderhoof

Now for some other fun stuff I saw along the way–false tinder polypore. I love that I can now identify this one by its hoof-like appearance on top, but also the way the pore surface angles down toward the tree’s bark. And it’s a perennial, growing taller with the years. I sound so smart, but I’m only just beginning to understand woody fungi. Only a very wee bit.

Some signs that spring is around the corner . . .

wintergreen

Wintergreen appearing where the snow is melting. You may know it as Checkerberry and Tea Berry. We used to chew teaberry gum when we were kids. You can purchase it at Zeb’s General Store in North Conway, New Hampshire. Today, however, the wintergreen extract is produced synthetically.

Hobblebush 2Hobblebush

Hobblebush! While most of the buds we see in the winter landscape have scales to protect them from the weather, hobblebush buds are naked. How do they survive? They are hairy–maybe that helps. I can’t help but wonder. I do know that it won’t be too long before the flat heads of flowers the size of my hands will bloom.

One last thing to share about today’s wander. I thought I was seeing the tracks of this true hibernator and then I saw the real McCoy.

chipmunk

Actually, I saw two of them. It may snow tomorrow, but methinks spring will make  an appearance this year.

Thanks for wondering along beside me on today’s wander. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Mountain Mondate

Sabattus Mtn sign

Our Monday date took us to Sabattus Mountain in Lovell this morning. It’s an easy trek offering great views, lots of wildlife activity and a decent workout in a short amount of time.

trail sign

Which way should we go? I ask myself that question over and over again. Habit took us up the right-hand trail, but in hindsight, maybe we should have mixed it up this time. A life lesson?

burl

Check out this burl. Over and under and around, oh my!

transition 1

I stood at this spot on the trail and looked down–Lots of beech, hemlock, birch and maple in the mix.

transition 2

And then I turned to look up the trail. Oak, pine and hemlock dominated the scenery. A transition point.

growing apart

Speaking of transitions, this hemlock grew apart after a couple of years. With two rather than one terminal leaders growing side by side, they eventually found their way back together.

and together again

Here they are woven back together–it’s almost difficult to tell that the two have become one. It made me think of our relationship as we trekked up the mountain. Maybe this tree didn’t really grow apart, the two parts just respected each other as their life together began and they allowed each other to continue growing in their own way, knowing that they needed to stay together ultimately because being united and supportive is what it’s all about. And maybe I’m reading way too much into a natural occurrence.

porcupine 1

A porcupine tree. Lots of porcupine activity in the hemlock grove both on this trail and on the way down.

porc trail

A well-traveled porcupine trail.

fire tower

The concrete stanchions that once supported a fire tower. Apparently, the tower was removed in 1963.

bench 1

Perfect spot for a hot cocoa break.

oake and pine

Eastern White Pine and Northern Red Oak–looks like the oak is ahead in the race to the sun right now. I wonder if that’s how it will play out over the years.

buried bench

And then there’s the other bench at the summit. We couldn’t actually sit on this one.

bobcat 1

Heading along the ridge, we found these prints that always excite me. This critter had traveled to and fro before going off trail. Notice the “C” shape between the toes and the pad. C is for cat. Yup, a bobcat. And it was at some point in the last six hours or so, because we’d had a dusting of snow. These were fresh. Yippee!

bobcat2

A bobcat is a “perfect” walker. Ah, perfection. But really, it places a front foot down, and as that foot moves forward, the hind foot steps into its place. I think you can see that here–it looks like it might be two feet sharing almost the same space.

bobcat dinner?

Breakfast? The bobcat obviously snatched some little brown thing–or tried to. This was just off the man-made snowshoe trail and right by the ledge. I was a bit surprised that the cat had followed the trail for as long as it had. They usually cross our trails and have their own corridor. But, it sure makes for easier traveling to follow where others have gone before.

old oak

This old oak has seen better days. Amazing that it’s still standing.

support of a friend

But then I looked up. We all need the support of a friend. In this case, the friend is a white pine. They may compete for sunlight, but apparently they can count on each other occasionally.

heading down

Heading down. Transitioning again. There were a zillion snowshoe hare trails. And  mice. And squirrel. Good feeding grounds for a bobcat.

lunch 3

We finished up our trek before we were hungry for lunch. But, when hunger struck we ate PB&J sandwiches beside Kezar Lake.

Thanks for wondering along on this wander through the Maine woods.

Wondering Among Giants

Robinson Woods

It’s not every day that I get to wander and wonder among 300-year-old giants, but such was the case today. A friend and I met at Robinson Woods in Cape Elizabeth. It was a reconnaissance mission for me as I’ll be leading a senior college class there next month. And for both of us, it was a delightful way to spend three hours snowshoeing on and off the trail, with frequent pauses to look, listen, touch, smell and learn.

Because the land was not suitable for farming (terrain rocky and uneven), it was left unchanged for all these years. Actually, we met the executive director of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust along the way, and he told us that the Robinson family was a paper company family, but they left this piece untouched. Thanks go to them. And to the land trust for preserving the land so that it will remain in its natural state.

feeding cone

We could hear the birds sing and call as we moved along. Someone apparently wanted to make sure they have enough to eat as we found a couple of these “bird-seed” pine cones dangling from trees. (Separate note: back at home, for the second day in a row, I’ve had chickadees landing on my mitten to eat crushed peanuts–well, they don’t actually eat them on my hand, they just grab and fly to a nearby branch, where they use their feet to hold the nut or seed and then peck away at it.)

porcy trail

We followed this porcupine trail for a bit. As we backtracked our way toward the people trail, something caught our attention:

bear claws

Yes, even in Cape Elizabeth, and only steps from the ocean, you can find bear claw sign on beech trees.

bear claws2

We showed these photos to the executive director of CELT–he had no idea they were there. I’ll be curious to see if he adds black bears to the list of mammals that frequent the property. I did see that they have pine martens on the list–that surprises me.

gnarly tree

I know I’ve spent a lot of time writing about beech trees, but this one looks like a totem pole of gnarly faces. Think gargoyles. Was the beech scale disease initially responsible for this? I wonder.

gnarly face

more gnarliness

Very gnarly indeed. In the center, you can see where a branch broke off.

burls on a maple

This Red Maple had some serious burls. Perhaps they were caused by stress or injury, though researchers don’t know for sure why they occur. Despite the bumpy, warty growths, the tree appears to be healthy. You can see that there is new growth–young red branches sprouting from the burls. Removing a burl causes a large wound that could eventually harm the tree, so they’re best left alone–though I know woodworkers covet them.

walnut?

We were almost back to our trucks when we came across this tree. It’s a young tree and we tried to key it out. We’re pretty sure it’s Shagbark Hickory, but if you know otherwise, please enlighten me.

Thanks for wondering along with me on today’s wander through the woods.