Black Friday Lit Up, Naturally

With a mantra of “Shop Locally,” I did just that on this Black Friday 2018. Thankfully the time to take advantage of the doorbuster sales wasn’t limited and so it was okay that I didn’t pull into the Flat Hill parking lot until 1pm. 

Turns out, as in any shop today, the aisles were a bit crowded with customers searching for items on clearance and other great deals. 

I paused for a bit in aisle one, where I contemplated the Made-in-Maine artwork and thought about those on my Christmas list. Perhaps a water scene for Marita  because she likes the gurgling sound of a brook. 

For Pam K., I decided on an ice sculpture to add to her winter home. 

And for Pam M., I was sure that an abstract piece would be just right–especially as it echoed the mountain range and transformed into a bird, only sorta/kinda M.C. Escher in style. 

There were others on the list to consider and the decisions became more difficult as the selection increased in aisle two. Mouse, vole, squirrel both red and gray, deer and coyote tracks all were on display and the sign indicated I could buy one and get one free. But which one to buy? And for whom? 

And then just like that, it became clear–the coyote track for Simon because he’d caught on quickly to the squirrel patterns and appreciated that the predator was hungry. 

For every one set of tracks, there were fifty others, especially those of the mice and squirrels. But I chose the porcupine trough as my “get one free” when I saw it on the climb up the hill. 

The trough with its pigeon-toed prints and sashaying tail would be perfect for Bob.

Of course, I could have mixed and matched the prints, but thought it best to keep them separate. 

Continuing the dash for more must-have gifts, I spied a mossy maple polypore on a lower shelf and thought immediately of my guy. He doesn’t like to consume mushrooms, but there’s something about the mossy maple that draws his attention. 

And then on an end cap I saw the kissing beech/maple out of the corner of my eye and turned to read the sign: Limited in Quantity. On impulse I purchased it. Maybe I’ll stick it on my guy’s bureau and he can wrap it up for me. I’ve done that before 😉

There were a few free surprises. Not all freebies are created equal, but I really liked the bronze ornament that would be a nice addition on our Christmas tree. 

At last it was time for a little break at the Flat Hill Cafe. Today, the view offered more bang for my buck as Mount Washington glistened white behind the other mountains. 

Also enjoying the view and the oxymoron of the name Flat Hill were fellow shoppers Bob, Pam K., Marita, Simon and Pam M. I made sure they didn’t see what was in my pack and visa versa. I do so hope they are as excited as I am about the gifts I purchased for them.

When the cafe got crowded, we decided to walk back down the main aisle together toward the check out. And then a few of us remembered we had coupons for the seasonal section. But . . . alas, we were too late. It was the only part of the store that was closed because everything had sold out. The stepping stones were  covered with water and ice to keep us from venturing any farther. We turned around, only a bit disappointed that our shopping adventure was about to come to an end, but understood that being a three-season section we had taken our chances by arriving so late in the day. 

No matter. The view from Perky’s Path thrilled us. All afternoon, we enjoyed the lighting, and especially the sun as it lowered–making this Black Friday light up, naturally. 

I highly encourage you to visit; the doors are open all hours and it’s a great place to shop in style. 

Today’s Black Friday Lit Up, Naturally experience was brought to you by the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Flat Hill, Heald Pond Road, Lovell. 

The Perks of Perky’s Path

It’s such a sweet trail and so named for Juanita Perkins, a local photographer and naturalist who was an avid member of the Greater Lovell Land Trust. To follow in her footsteps is not an easy task, but today I journeyed along the path trying to see what Juanita might have seen.

1-lancet clubtail

Immediately upon stepping down the trail, a clubtail dragonfly landed in front of me. Identifying dragonflies has become one of my passions of late, but still I struggle. And go back and forth. Lancet Clubtail or Pronghorn? I lean toward Lancet only because I’m not sure Pronghorns are a Maine species. But it’s to Dragonflies of the North Woods that I turn, and the abdomen that I try to zone in on. The abdomen consists of ten segments. Lancet: segment 8 has a smaller top spot and segment 9 is all yellow on top, (except for the female’s top spot which is narrower). Pronghorn: segment 8 has a smaller top spot and segment 9 is all yellow on top. Segment 10 has a narrow stripe. The Maine Odonata survey does not include the Pronghorn and so I find myself deciding on the Lancet. Suffice it to say, this is a clubtail.

2-ebony jewelwing damselfly

A much easier species for me to ID is the ebony jewelwing damselfly. Several danced and posed by the brook leading from the wetland the path encircles to Heald Pond. I trust that when Juanita traveled this path, she too saw the jewelwings dance, their bodies as bejeweled as their wings–maybe more so. A female’s wings are smokier in color than the males and each is dotted with one white spot at the tip.

3-male ebony jewelwing

The male’s wings are more ebony in color and body more metallic. This handsome fellow had three ladies in waiting so he couldn’t pause for long.

4-trail sign

Though I refer to the entire loop as Perky’s Path, in reality I hadn’t even reached it by the time I encountered the “You Are Here” sign. I’d actually been walking along a snowmobile trail that is part of Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve.

5-perky's path

It was a couple of tenths of a mile later that I finally stepped onto the path blazed with orange.

6-bench

One of my favorite hangouts is the bench located along a short spur. Usually I spend moments on end, but today I was eager to move on.

7-Indian Cucumber Root

Along the spur trail, I did note one of my favorite fruits beginning to ripen–that of Indian Cucumber Root. And as it ripens, the base of the leaves turn red. All I could think of is that the red is a sign to birds–come dine at this table. You won’t regret it.

8-trillium fruit

Another red fruit stood upright above leaves of three–that of a painted trillium.

9-new stone bridge

It’s been six years since Juanita Perkins passed away and I don’t know when she last walked the path, but at that time, where the stream from Bradley Pond flows into a beaver wetland before continuing on toward Heald Pond, she probably crossed the water via a wooden bridge. Time and weather had taken their toll on the bridge and so at the beginning of this summer a group of volunteers and a couple of GLLT staff members pulled the wood out and placed flat rocks as stepping stones. It makes for a magical crossing, especially as it slows the wander and encourages one to notice the surroundings. Though we never officially met (I do remember her dropping off photographs at a local gift shop where I worked for several summers back in the late 1980s), I trust she would appreciate the change.

10-stream archs

Of course, I’ve always been one to enjoy water and all its variations. By the stepping stones (boulders), smaller rocks below the surface added to the overall arching effect, creating an interconnection. I felt a sense of Juanita’s time spent on the path woven into today.

13-jewelweed

By the water, there were a variety of flowers to note, including whorled asters and cardinal flowers, but it was the jewelweed that brought a smile to my face. I don’t understand why, but one of the sepals forms a pouch-like structure with a long spur. Jewelwings and jewelweed–indeed, a very special place.

11-Golden Spindle

Adding to the wonder right now due to recent and much appreciated rain are all the fruiting forms of mushrooms and this path has its fair share. I’m not great on my identification of boletes and others, but there are a few individuals that I remember from year to year. It’s the fact that their spores are everywhere and those spores form hyphae, that then forms mycelium, that then eats anything organic, that when mating is successful forms fruit, is wicked cool. We’re wowed by the fruit, but really, we need to honor the entire system. And so I honor the Golden Spindle,

12-white spindle fungi

White Spindle (which I don’t recall ever seeing before),

12b-scarlet waxy cap

Scarlet Waxy Caps,

12a-earth tongue fungi

and Earth Tongues.

14-into the wetland

And then I slip off the path and down to the wetland, wondering what else I might see.

15-cherry-faced meadowhawk

Instantly I am rewarded with numerous sightings of Cherry-faced Meadowhawks, their wings all aglow.

16-hobblebush leaves

They aren’t the only shade of red in the vicinity, for some of the hobblebush leaves have taken on their autumn hue already. (Say it isn’t so!)

16c-brook to wetland

I almost complete the loop and reach the bridge crossing just before the parking lot at the end of Heald Pond Road, when I decide to follow the stream bed back toward the wetland. I suppose I did so because I wanted to extend my journey and my time honoring Juanita.

16-green frog

Here and there, where pockets of water exist, green frogs either try to hide from me or make sudden leaps.

17-back to the wetland

I bushwhack back into the wetland, not wanting to let go, and forever thankful for Juanita. Every time I wander her way, I discover new perks along Perky’s Path.

 

 

 

Petals and Wings: A Window of Opportunity

Spring ephemerals. Those species that take advantage of the short stretch of time between snow melt and leaf out. We celebrated such today at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve as we ever so slowly walked along the orange trail from the Flat Hill parking lot and then looped around on Perky’s Path.

S1-GATHERING

But first, we gathered in the parking lot where Docent Peter explained that he thought I was crazy when I suggested a May date for a flower and bird walk. He’d not been in Maine during May previously and only this week learned the joys of birding with minimal leaf cover. I think he’s hooked. And I’m still crazy.

S4-WILDFLOWER GUIDES

Our journey began with Docent Linda locating wildflowers that are opportunists who bloom early, get pollinated and produce seeds before the deciduous trees blanket the floor of the forest in shade.

S2-STINKING BENJAMIN

Among those early bloomers was one that stinks! And yet, it’s exquisitely beautiful. Stinking Benjamin is one of its common names because of the flower’s malodorous scent. Of course, you need to get down on your hands and knees to get a whiff.

S5-HAND LENS

Our focus wasn’t just on flowers and birds as we all soon realized, for it seemed that many things caught our attention, including the seeds of deer tongue grass. As a collective group, we suffered from Nature Distraction Disorder.

S6-WILD SARSAPIRILLA LEAVES

Because of such, we observed more than just the flowers that were in bloom. In one instance, the flower was yet to come, but the leaves in their early stage were worth noting. Linda pointed out that the color of wild sarsaparilla’s new leaves was reminiscent of poison ivy. But, poison ivy has leaves of three.

S7-BEECH LEAVES

And that reddish tint that we saw in the sarsaparilla, beech and other leaves? The various hues of color in leaves was caused by the presence of pigments called anthocyanins or carbohydrates that are dissolved in the cell sap and mask the chlorophyll. As our spring temperatures rise and light intensity increases, red pigment forms on a leaf and acts as a sunscreen to protect the plant from an increase in ultraviolet rays.

S8-BIRDING

We’d been looking down for a while, but then bird song pulled our attention to the tree tops. Without the use of my Cannon Rebel, which is currently enjoying what I hope will be a successful rice bath 😦 , I couldn’t capture the many warblers we spied. Some, as Peter, and his wife Molly, told us, were only in the area temporarily to fuel up on insects before continuing the journey to their breeding grounds in Canada.

S10-GARTER SNAKE

And looking at our feet once again, another in search of insects. We saw a garter snake who stayed as still as possible while we ogled it. Was it cold and trying to soak up warmth from the sun? Or did it stay still in hopes we wouldn’t spy it?

S11-PAINTED TRILLIUM

We finally left the snake in peace. And paused next to gaze upon a painted trillium.

S12-HOBBLEBUSH FLOWERS

Almost two hours after our start, we approached the wetland and overlooking bench. It was there that a hobblebush laden with blossoms caught our attention in the shrub level. The hobblebush bouquet was really an inflorescence or lacy cluster of tiny fertile flowers surrounded by a halo of showy, yet sterile bracts. Those larger, sterile flowers attract insects while the tiny fertile flowers do all the work of seed production. Nature has its way.

S13-BIRDING BY THE BENCH

It was at the bench that bird song again greeted us and we looked above the shrubs toward the tree limbs above.

S14-BIRDING

For many of us, we looked through our binoculars at birds we’d only heard of before, including a Bay-breasted Warbler. Peter explained that he’s participating in the citizen science project to update the Maine Birding Atlas and so he uploaded the 38 species identified today to the e-bird website.

S15-LINDA TURNS HER FOCUS UPWARD

Even though she’d spent a lot of time directing our attention to the beauty at our feet, Linda was also in awe of those who moved above, however, she was heard to comment that it’s a whole lot easier to ID flowers that stand still.

S16-BEECH FERN

As our journey finally continued, we found a patch of beech ferns with their own variation of today’s theme, for each leaflet attached to the rachis in a winged formation.

S18-FRINGED POLYGALA

Another that spoke to the theme was a flower that hadn’t quite yet bloomed–fringed polygala, aka gay wings.

S17-SPRING PEEPER

Despite all the flowers and birds, our NDD followed us right to the end–when we spotted a tiny spring peeper . . .

S21-GREEN FROG ON A LOG

and then a green frog.

S22-FEMALE WHITEFACE SKIMMER

While the frog marked the end of our journey, I moved on to the GLLT’s Kezar River Reserve, where another winged critter flew at the flower level–the first dragonfly of the season: a female whiteface skimmer.

Today was filled with petals and wings and all things ephemeral. I hope you’ll have a chance to take advantage of this short window of opportunity.

 

 

 

 

What the Bobcat Knows

As I drove down Heald Pond Road in Lovell today I wasn’t sure what awaited me. But isn’t that the point? Every venture into the great outdoors should begin as a clean slate and it’s best not to arrive at the trailhead with expectations.

f1-Heald Pond Road barn

And so I didn’t. Well, sorta. I really wanted to see a porcupine. And maybe an otter. And definitely an owl. But I knew better and so I passed the last barn on the road and then backed up and stepped out, captivated by the colors in the scene before me.

f2-trail signs

A few minutes later, I strapped on my snowshoes and headed up the trail. My plan–to climb to the summit of Flat Hill at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve and then circle around Perky’s Path upon my return.

f3-trail up flat hill

Breaking trail was my job in the rather deep snow given recent storms, but easy to move upon and so I sashayed up. What surprised me, however, was the lack of tracks left behind by the mammals that I know live in these woods.

f4-pine cone bird feeders

I did stop at the balsam firs decorated by a local 4-H club in December as part of the Maine Christmas Tree Hunt. The dangling pinecones once sported peanut butter and birdseed, but today that was all a memory so I knew birds and deer had stopped by in the last few months.

f5-bobcat 1

And then, as I neared the flat summit, I found tracks of a mammal that had checked out the base of every tree and under every downed limb. In fact, as I soon realized, it was more than one mammal that I followed as I went off trail. Bobcats. Indeed. Though typically solitary, these two traveled together. It is mating season and males and females will travel together during courtship.

f11-bobcat print

Though the prints were difficult to photograph given the glare, by the toes, ridge and overall shape, I knew them.

f12-bobcat scat and print

And scat! Filled with white hair. I have close-up views should you choose a closer look, but chose to give those who find scat to be rather disgusting a break. 😉

f6-porcupine and bobcat

And then I found another set of tracks and knew that besides squirrels and little brown things, the bobcats were also searching for a bigger dinner. On the left–a porcupine trough, and on the right, the bobcat trail.

f8-porky work

Ever since I’ve traveled this trail, I’ve seen the work of the porcupines at the summit. And sometimes I even get to see the creator. In winter, porcupines eat needles and the bark of trees, including hemlocks, birch, beech, aspen, oak, willow, spruce, fir and pine. And they leave behind a variety of patterns.

f7-porky work

If I didn’t know better, I could have been convinced that this ragged work was left behind by a chiseling woodpecker, but it, too, was porcupine work.

f9-porky work

All about the summit, recent chews were easily identified for the inner bark was brighter than the rest of the landscape. And below these trees–no bark chips such as a beaver would leave, for the porcupine consumed all the wood.

f10-flat hill view

While snow flurries fluttered around me, the summit view was limited and it looked like the mountains were receiving more of the white stuff. (Never fear–we’ll get more as our third Nor’easter in two weeks or so is expected in two more days. Such is March in Maine.)

f13-script lichen between pine lines

From the summit, rather than follow the trail down, I tracked the bobcats for a while, first to the north and then to the south. I had hoped to find a kill site, but no such luck. Instead, the writing on the page was found upon the pines where script lichen, a crustose, was located between the lines of bark scales.

f14-ulota moss and frullania

I also found plenty of Frullania, that reddish brown liverwort that graced so many trees. And among it, a moss I’ll simply call an Ulota. As I looked in Ralph Pope’s book, Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts , upon arriving home, I realized I should have paid attention to capsules for that would have helped me determine whether what I saw was Ulota crispa or Ulota coarctata. Another lesson for another day.

f15-beaver pond on Perky's Path

At last I reached Perky’s Path, which may not seem like a major feat if you’ve been there, but actually I’d explored off trail for quite a ways and it took me a while to get down to the wetland.

f16-maleberry

And because I was in the wetland, maleberry shrubs bordered the edge and showed off their bright red buds and woody, star-shaped seedpods.

f16a-bobcat across wetland

After focusing on them for a while, I looked down at the snow’s surface and the most subtle of prints appeared before my eyes. My two bobcats. The curious thing–at the summit the mammals had sunk into the snow and the prints were a bit difficult to decipher. I assumed those summit impressions had been made about two days ago. But on the wetland, the bobcats walked atop the snow–when conditions were firmer and I suspected they’d been created last night.

f17-brook toward Bradley Pond 1

I followed the edge of the wetland to the bridges that cross a brook that forms at the outlet of Bradley Pond, constantly on the lookout for the bobcat tracks again.

f18-more bobcat

And I found them! Beside the brook.

f19-beaver pond from bridge

What had they found on the wetland, I wondered?

f21a-beaver trail

Continuing on, I found that they’d checked on the woodwork left behind by another critter of these woods who had also moved about last night.

f20-beaver works

Beaver works. And their piles of woodchips. Unlike a porcupine, a beaver doesn’t eat the chips. Rather, it cuts down a tree for food or a building material. The chips are like a squirrel’s midden of cone scales–the garbage pile of sorts.

f22-beaver trail to water

I noted where the beaver had moved into the brook . . .

f23-beaver treats

And left some sticks behind. For future food? Future building? Stay tuned.

f27-brook to Bradley pond

Typically in other seasons I can’t move beside the edge of the brook, but today I could. The lighting kept changing and water reflected the sky’s mood.

f24-Diamesa sp. and snow flea

And because I was by the water, I kept noting small insects flying about–almost in a sideways manner. Then I found some on the snow–a member of the Diamesa species, a midge I believe. And do you see the small black speck below it–a snowflea, aka spring tail.

f25-Diamesa sp.:haltere

And do you see the two little nobs on the fly’s back, the red arrow pointing to one? Those are the haltere: the balancing organ of a two-winged fly; a pair of knobbed filaments that take the place of the hind wings.

f29-beaver pond wetland low

Eventually, I followed the eastern edge of the wetland back to my truck, wondering if there was any more action but found none. In fact, the water was low so I knew the beaver works weren’t to rebuild the dam. Yet. Nor did I find any more bobcat tracks. But I’d found enough. And I think I know some of what the bobcat knows.

 

 

Poking Along On Perky’s Path

Every Greater Lovell Land Trust trail is my favorite in any given moment and so it was that Perky’s Path received that ranking today.

p-beaked hazelnuts 2

I met my friend Pam in the parking lot and immediately our hunt for great finds began. We looked first at the basswood, but it was the shrub next door that heard us utter with delight–a beaked hazelnut showed off its fuzzy horned fruits.

p-hops on hop hornbeam

And then we walked back up the road a wee bit for at the entrance to the parking lot I’d spied a hop hornbeam also loaded–with hops.

p-striped maple sign

At last, we started down the trail, heading south where a self-guided tour begins. A small group of GLLT docents spent the winter months preparing signs for a variety of species along this route. It’s a task that requires choosing a particular trail one summer for the next, determining which species to ID, taking photographs, gathering and writing facts, creating and printing cards, laminating them, attaching them to posts, relocating the species and finally erecting the posts, which will be left in place until Labor Day. That’s a lot of work, so if you have a chance, take the tour. It includes trees, shrubs, flowers, ferns and more.

p-American toad

As we walked, the ground at our feet moved–in hopping fashion. We only saw one American toad, but plenty of frogs.

p-bloated female wood frog 2

All of them sported their camouflage colors, so after the ground moved, we had to focus in order to relocate them once they paused.

p-bloated female wood frog 1

This female wood frog’s robber mask was the only thing that helped us locate her.

p-young wood frog hiding under starflower leaf

You’ll have to use your own focus to find the baby wood frog that hid beneath a decomposing starflower leaf.

p-spring peeper

And another teeny, tiny one–a spring peeper with the X on its back.

p-common brown cup, Peziza varia

Because we were looking down all the time, we began to notice other things, such as the common brown cup fungi which looked rather like a wrinkled ear.

p-black trumpet Craterellus fallax

We also found a few black trumpets,

p-chanterelles 1

chanterelles (I’m leaning toward Cantharellus cibarius but don’t take my word for it–check with the Veitch brothers of White Mountain Mushrooms for positive ID is you are a forager.),

p-caesar's mushroom 1

and a couple of Caesar’s.

p-Indian cucumber 2

Though we found one Indian cucumber root that had been broken, its fruit continued to form.

p-round-leaf pyrola 3

Our hearts throbbed when we recognized that here and there hiding among the herb layer were round-leaved pyrolas.

p-round-leaf pyrola1

Their leaves were nearly round with petioles or stems no longer than the blade.

p-pyrola flowers 2

And their flowers–nodding.

p-pipsissewa flowers 1

Pam had shown me a photo of a pipsissewa that grew on her property and we then found a small patch just off the trail, their jester-hat flowers attracting small insects.

p-up close

What better way to admire those flowers than up closer and personal.

p-Pam's brackenfern hat 1

And then it was time to don a brackenfern cap for the mosquitoes were at times annoying–and biting.

p-Indian pipes 1

As we continued on, we noted that it is Indian pipe season. I asked Pam if she’d ever seen the pink version that occasionally occurs–and then we began to find several nodding heads . . .  all with a tinge of pink.

p-lichen sign

As we neared the platform overlooking the meadow and brook that flows between Heald and Bradley ponds, a sign of a different kind stood before a tree. Rather than focusing on one species, this one described the different formations of lichens.

p-lichen tree

And on the tree behind it–an example of all three, with several types of crustose (crust-like and look to be painted on), foliose (foliage) like the small ribbon lichen that is bright green and ribbony in the upper right hand corner, and fruiticose (think grape branches) of the beard lichens below the ribbon lichen.

p-lungwort 1

Behind that tree–another featuring lungwort lichen.

p-view to the south

For a few moments, we paused at the platform bench–taking in the sights . . .

p-looking north

and sounds as we wondered what may have passed through.

p-steeplebush

We also noted the difference in structure of the spireas, including steeplebush in bloom  . . .

p-meadowsweet 1

and meadowsweet not yet.

p-swamp candle, aka yellow loosestrife

Swamp candles added a tinge of color to the offerings.

p-blue bead lily1

Back on the trail, we were excited to find the porcelain beads of clintonia, one showing the transformation from green to blue.

p-dew drop 1

Dew drops shone white against their dark heart-shaped leaves covered in rain drops.

p-from the bridge

And further on by the primitive bridges that cross below the beaver pond,

p-tall meadow rue

tall meadow rue flowers presented a daytime fireworks display,

p-otter scat

while otter scat decorated a bridge slat.

p-end sign

We continued along, enjoying the offerings and quizzing ourselves on a variety of species, all the time pausing to read the self-guided tour signs. At last we reached the junction with the trail to Flat Hill and found our way back to the parking lot.

Perky’s Path is maybe a mile long, but it took us 3.5 hours to complete the tour as we poked along–rejoicing with each of our finds.

At a Snail’s Pace

The mosquitoes were thick. The ground damp. But the rain held off and so four docents and I met at the Greater Lovell Land Trust‘s Flat Hill parking lot at the end of Heald Pond Road.

p-beaked hazelnuts forming

From the getgo, our fun began as we spotted numerous beaked hazelnuts forming–the trick is to pay attention to them and watch their continued growth, for in a flash, or so it seems, they’ll mature and . . . disappear. The nuts those hairy beaks cover are favorites for wildlife and we human folk also like them.

p-red trillium

Our mission was to get reacquainted with the spring flowers–some being obvious to us like the red trillium, though the fact that it was still in bloom offered a delightful surprise. We chatted about the fact that its also known as Stinking Benjamin for its undelightful odor, but try as we might and we did again today, none of us have ever been offended by it. Apparently, they smell like rotting meat, but you can’t prove it by us.

p-fringed polygala

Here and there we were awed by the delicate fringed polygala, aka gaywings. They did remind us of birds with crazy head dresses taking off in flight.

p-false solomon seal

As we shared brains and practiced relearning species before the next season gives us even more, we felt proud to quickly ID a false solomon seal, aka wild spikenard, before it had fully flowered. It’s the cluster of flowers on the end branch, the arching, zigzag stem and long oblong leaves that stand out in our minds.

p-Rose Twisted Stalk or Rosybells

A seal of another sort, the rose twisted stalk, aka rosybells, also adorned the trail. Pam held the stalk up so we could look at the bell-shaped flowers that dangled below.  Notice how the leaves are green below and stalkless but don’t necessarily clasp the stem–as opposed to twisted stalk (white mandarin), which features greenish flowers dangling below and stalkless leaves that do clasp the stem. Plus the latter’s leaves have a white bloom on the underside. We didn’t see any twisted stalk, but were tickled with our rosybell finds.

p-raindrops all in a row

Periodically, we stopped to examine ferns, or quiz each other on the ID. But sometimes, it was just fun to notice presentations, including raindrops all in a row.

p-beech fern

And though a couple of our fern experts couldn’t be with us, Joan was and she loves nothing more than squatting beside them with the Fern Finder to determine a species, including the long beech fern.

p-clitonia 2

It was while looking at bracken ferns that Mary and Nancy spotted the greenish yellow flowers of clintonia. We were excited because we’d seen plenty of plants, but these were the first in flower, and they were well hidden.

p-clintonia flowers

Yellow clintonia is also called bluebead for the fruit that develops is a porcelain blue bead-like berry. Check out those pistils (she’s a pistil) dangling below the stamen, their anthers coated in pollen. Bring on the bees and the beads.

p-baby toad

Suddenly, we discovered movement at our feet and saw our first baby toad of the season. It’s diminutive size and obvious camouflage made it difficult to see, but unlike the adult members of its family who will freeze in position, thus allowing us to study them further, this little one wanted to escape as quickly as possible. Smart move on its part.

p-bench view

Only about two hours later we’d covered maybe a half mile and found our way to the bench that overlooks the swampy area surrounding the brook between the beaver pond and Bradley Pond.

p-red maple leaves

We sat below a red maple and listened to a chorus of birds–and gave thanks for the food supply. Let them eat bugs. We offered up a few mosquitoes.

p-red-winged blackbird

A red-winged blackbird flirted with us, showing off its bright red shoulder and yellow wing bar as it flew from shrub to shrub. The five of us swooned.

p-Indian Cucumber pre-flower

All along the path, we’d spotted Indian Cucumber Roots with their buds formed atop the second layer of their double-decker formation. When we finally stepped from the bench back to the trail, we noted a couple of the buds were beginning to dangle below the second story, meaning the blossoming season would soon be upon us.

p-Indian Cucumber flower 2

And just like that . . .

p-Indian Cucumber flowering

Voilà. I’m of the belief that if this flower doesn’t make you wonder, nothing will.

p-beaver pond view

Our next stop was at the bridges that cross below the beaver pond. We’d been looking for fresh beaver works all the while, but only discovered the work that had been completed over a year ago.

p-royal fern crown

There was still plenty to see, including the fertile crowns atop royal ferns,

p-jack-in-the-pulpit 2

a small jack-in-the-pulpit,

p-mayfly hitchhiker

and a mayfly that chose Pam’s jacket to rest upon.

p-foamflower 1

One of our many finds included foam-flower, with its cluster of star-shaped white flowers and conspicuous stamens. According to Mary Holland in her book, Naturally Curious Day by Day, “Its genus name, Tiarella, is the Greek word “tiara,” a word for a turban worn by ancient Persians which bears some resemblance to the shape of this flower’s pistil.”

p-foamflower carpet

Tiara or not, we were quite taken with a carpet of it.

p-snail

Those were only a few of the findings we saw as we moved at a snail’s pace during our three hour tour along Perky’s Path. Each time we visit, we say, “This is my favorite property.” That is . . . until we visit another one of the GLLT properties.

The Irish Colors

With so much snow still on the ground, it’s easy to see the landscape as a monochrome palette of grays. And so I set out on this St. Patrick’s Day to find some color.

f-bridge

My destination was the Greater Lovell Land Trust‘s Flat Hill trail and Perky’s Path from the end of Heald Pond Road. The parking lot is almost non-existent, so much snow do we have. And the bridge crossing tricky.

f-cherry bark

As I climbed upward, the thought that some see the world as black (cherry) and . . .

f-paper birch 1

white (paper birch) kept racing through my brain.

f-gray birch 1

And then there are those who accept that gray areas exist (gray birch–a brother of paper birch from another mother).

f-yellow birch bark

Textures visible in shadows reflected differences (yellow birch–a cousin),

f-hop hornbeam

even among family members (hop hornbeam–also a birch relative.)

f-mink tracks

It may have seemed there wasn’t much new to see and wonder about, but . . .

f-mink prints

the straddle (width from outside of one print in a set to outside of the other) and angle of these prints told a different story. A mink had crossed the trail. (My mitten had to hold the Trackard in place or it would have slid down the trail.)

f-porcupine trail

Nearing the top, I went in search of another mammal who has frequented this area for years–and I wasn’t disappointed. The porcupine trough was fresh.

f-view from Flat Hill

And then I reached the summit of Flat Hill (forever an oxymoron) and the whites, greens, browns and blues of mountains and sky opened before me. There was even a hint of red in swelling buds.

f-downhill from Flat Hill

The wind was cold, so I didn’t pause for long. Instead, I retraced my own tracks down the hill.

f-orange trail

And then I turned onto the orange trail that is Perky’s Path and realized the symbolism of the color and this day. My Scottish ancestors smiled down on me.

f-beaver lodge

I’m always drawn to the wetland and had to take a peek at the beaver lodge, which remained snow covered, indicating that no one was home. But there again, the sky enhanced my view.

f-wetland from bridge

The path leads to another set of small bridges, and there I stood for a while, taking in the peacefulness and beauty before me. Oh, and the warmth of the sun as its strong rays embraced me.

f-chickadee 1

While I stood and listened, a chickadee called and I watched as it entered a hole in the birch snag. This was a wow moment, for though I know birds use old pileated holes, I rarely see them come and go.

f-chickadee 3

Out he popped, giving a curious look–perhaps because I was pishing.

f-chickadee 2

He paused for a moment and then flew off, chickadee-dee-deeing across the bright blue sky.

f-brook view

I, too, took off, but not before enjoying a few more reflective moments.

f-ice swirls

The juxtaposition of snow, hemlock branches, water and ice created colorful swirls of artistic design beyond understanding.

f-wintergreen

And then I found a few wintergreen plants, their waxy leaves transforming from winter maroon to summer green.

f-beaked hazelnut

On my way out, I stopped to examine a few buds–and catkins, in this case. I love winter, but I am beginning to crave color and beaked hazelnuts will be among the first to flower.

f-striped maple bud1

A striped maple showed off its waxy buds, leaf scars and growth rings. The bud reminded me of hands in prayer–perhaps worshipping the patron saint of Ireland.

f-striped maple covered

One bud was sheathed in white. Even with my hand lens, I couldn’t figure it out. I’d like to think it was an angelic covering, but suspect it is a cocoon.

f-basswood 2

And then there were the bulbous bright buds on the basswood tree.

f-basswood lateral bud

Indeed, they were a sight to behold. Though winter reduced the color palette to the essentials, slowly the transition to spring has begun.

f-Irish flag in breeze

My journey was done, but I made one more stop along Route 5, where Irish flags flapped in the breeze to commemorate this day. The Irish color–where white signifies the truce between the Orange and the Green.

I always wear a hint of orange on this day in contrast to my Irish guy’s green. And I remind him that St. Patrick was born in Scotland.