Summer Falls

Today dawned the chilliest in a while with 29˚ registering on the thermometer at 6am. But as these September days do, it warmed up a bit and I didn’t need my gauntlet mittens, aka hand-made wrist warmers, for long.

As I ventured forth, I noticed, however, that the fairies had worked like crazy and prepared for the temperature and their beds were well covered.

Further along, Cinnamon fern fronds curled into themselves as is their manner at this time of year, but really, it looked like they had donned caterpillar coats in an attempt to stay cozy. So named cinnamon for the color of their separate fertile frond in the spring, the late season hue also sings their common name.

Upon another stalk that also appeared cinnamon in color, paused a Swamp Spreadwing Damselfly, its days diminishing as its a summer flyer.

For a while, I stood in an area where Bog Rosemary and Cotton Grass grow among a variety of others. One of those others blooms late in the season and added a tad bit of color to the display.

As I wandered, I wondered. Where are the pollinators? For the early hours I suspected they were tucked under the flowers, but eventually the day warmed enough and the action began and no one was busier than this Bumblebee.

Maybe that’s not entirely true, for Hover Flies did what they do: hovered. And occasionally landed.

Notice the hairy fringe? Hover or Drone Flies as they are also known, mimic bees in an attempt to keep predators at bay. Perhaps the hair also keeps the cold temp from tamping down their efforts?

Crossing streams more than several times, Water Striders skated while the tension between feet and water created reflections of the still green canopy and blue sky. And do you notice the tiny red water mites that had hitched a ride on the strider?

Meandering along, the natural community kept changing and so did the plant life. One of my favorites, Hobblebush, spoke of three seasons to come: autumn’s colorful foliage, winter’s naked buds a bit hairy in presentation, and spring’s global promise of a floral display forming between the buds.

One might think this was a serene hike in the woods and through the wetlands. One would be slightly wrong. Ah, there were not man-made sounds interrupting the peace, but the grasshoppers and cicadas did sing, birds did forage and scatter and forage some more, and red squirrels did cackle. A. Lot.

Perhaps their dirty faces indicated the source of their current food source: white pine seeds. It certainly looked like sap dripped from facial hairs.

And I’m pretty sure I heard a request for sunflower seeds and peanuts to be on the menu soon.

I wandered today beside a muddy river,

through a Red Maple swamp,

and into a quaking bog.

In each instance it was obvious: Summer falls . . . into autumn. It’s on the horizon.

Into Focus

Sunshine. Spring sunshine. Need I say more. No, but I will as I bring the focus to two of my favorite watering holes.

h-Mount Wash

Of course, a visit to my first pond isn’t complete without a pause to recognize the power and the powerful.

h-wood frog eggs 1

As I approached the vernal pool, I heard not a sound. But, my heart filled when I spotted a clump of wood frog eggs.

h-wood frog 1

When our sons were youngsters, we always called it the frog pond rather than the vernal pool. And so it is . . . both.

h-willow pollination

After an hour spent in the pond’s midst, I drove to another–Holt Pond–where I decided to park on the corner of Perley and Grist Mill Roads. I wasn’t sure of the conditions on Grist Mill Road and figured that provided the perfect excuse for a walk and an opportunity to take in the sights along the way. Stepping out of the truck, pussy willows called to me . . . and to their pollinators.

h-queen anne's lace

And on the corner, a dried Queen Anne’s lace displayed its fireworks formation.

h-sensitive fern frond

There were sensitive fern fronds, their beads still encapsulating many cases containing dust-like spores.

h-beaked hazelnut

And I even found a few beaked hazelnuts still showing off their minute magenta flowers.

h-Grist Mill Road

I knew by my observations that I’d made the right decision to walk in–both in my findings and in the road conditions.

h-beaver works1

After following the initial trail and climbing over the stonewall, I was about to step onto the first boardwalk when I realized the beavers had been busy.

h-board walk-first section

The water was high as I quietly moved along the board walk, but not too high.

h-pitchers under water1

Although in some cases pitchers were submersed in the wet goodness.

h-speckled alder 1

The speckled alders didn’t mind for they love wet feet.

h-Muddy River

I stepped out to the Muddy River and listened to the chickadees sell cheeseburgers galore.

h-beaver lodge

And then I turned in the opposite direction to admire the beaver lodge and winter feeding pile beside it.

h-Boardwalk through red maple swamp 1

On the next boardwalk, the beauty of the red maple swamp surrounded me again.

h-Red Maple Swamp 1

Layers and colors spoke to the community and season.

h-red maple in swamp

And standing like sentries were the red maples for which it is named.

h-moose scat

It was here that I found evidence of another visitor, albeit this past winter–moose scat.

h-blueberry bud

And noted the swelling buds of highbush blueberries–their season in the offing.

h-Quaking Bog 2

After passing through the woodlands a couple of times in between the swamp journey, I at last reached the quaking bog and Holt Pond.

h-cranberries

Beside the board walk, last autumn’s cranberries floated in the water.

h-pitcher 2

And more pitcher plants showed off their hairy entrance ways.

h-pitcher flower

Withered pitcher plant flowers dangled in their woody fashion–as beautiful in death as in full bloom.

h-Holt Pond south

By the time I reached the T on the boardwalk, I was standing atop it, but in six inches of water–thankful for my rain boots.

h-Holt Pond to Five Fields

And thankful for the opportunity to stand there on a gorgeous spring day as I looked toward Five Fields Farm.

h-Canada Geese

In that very view–two Canada geese. I wondered if they’d found a nest site.

h-dragonfly exoskeleton 2

Also in view, last year’s dragonfly exoskeleton that bobbed in the water flowing over the boardwalk.

h-cinnamon crosier 1

On the way back, I stopped once again. My first photo call was an ostrich fern that I didn’t realize grew there. See why you should walk in rather than drive? That photo didn’t come out so well, but I was standing in an area filled with cinnamon ferns and suddenly realized I was looking at my first crosiers of the season.

I was actually down by a stream beside the road when I found these. A truck came along and the driver paused. He and his friend thought I was fishing and were going to ask what I’d caught. “Only photos,” I said playfully.

h-garter snake 1

Upon returning home I decided to visit the frog pond one more time, thinking the lighting would be different. At the end of the cowpath I found a garter snake enjoying the warmth of the sun . . . and probably a few insects.

h-wood frog eggs 2

When I’d walked to the pond this morning, I was surprised at how quiet it was. That changed this afternoon as a chorus of wrucks added music to my day. And another egg mass had been added to the display.

h-wood frog 2

Of course, all quieted down once I arrived, but I waited . . . and realized the pond really is full of life.

I’d spent the day beside my favorite ponds and was well rewarded. I’d also played with my camera settings, avoiding auto-focus all day. I’ve got a lot to learn, but hey, isn’t that what it’s all about?

When I grow up . . .

I want to be like Ursula, my spritely little German friend who is a naturalist extraordinaire and loves to share her knowledge and stories.

Ursula

Always with a smile.

bridge

I had the pleasure of being in her company today, after an hour of birding in Pondicherry Park,

baltimore oriole

where a Baltimore Oriole serenaded us.

dwarf gensing

On to Holt Pond for Ursula’s wildflower walk hosted by Lakes Environmental Association, as was the bird walk. Looking a bit like a disco ball is the blooming Dwarf Ginseng.

cucumber root

Though it isn’t in bloom yet, I saw lots more Indian Cucumber Root today and have a theory I’m questioning about this plant. I know that if it has only one level of leaves, it doesn’t flower or fruit. It needs that second deck to be productive. I’ve heard people say that when it has the second tier it is a two-year old plant, while the first level is a year old. Is that true? The Canada Mayflower, Bunchberry and Wild Oats all do the same. Does that mean that all the single leaves we see are one and all the doubles are two and none reach age 3? Or is it that some years some of these plants put more energy into producing sugar and thus are able to flower, like trees have mast years? And furthermore, am I making any sense?

blueberries

So many flowers and so many of them white or creamy yellow, like these Highbush Blueberries.

red maple 2

Since we were crossing the Red Maple Swamp, I can’t resist showing their development.

green frog

Along the boardwalk that winds through the swamp, we saw this banjo player–a Green Frog. Some call it a Bronze Frog because more than half its body is bronze. Thus the need for those Latin names–Rana clamitans.

hand 1

My friend, CC, squatted down to catch it.

hand 2

And came away empty-handed. 🙂

cinn 1

Who do you want to be when you grow up?

crosiers 2

I pose the question to these crosiers.

cinn 5

Do you see the fuzzy brown wool coat they wear?

cinn 6

Close up.

cinn 7

Ever so slowly . . .

cinn 8

Their fronds begin to unfurl.

cinn 9

And soon we’ll know them as the Cinnamon Ferns they are becoming.

rainbow

Continuing on, one of our leaders, Mary Jewett of LEA, spotted this rainbow around the sun.

pitcher plant

As is always the case, our heads were bobbing up and down, trying to take in everything there was to see. Pitcher Plants pull us in every time. Well, not literally, thank goodness.

pp seed pod

CC found this old Pitcher Plant seed pod.

qb

We were on the quaking bog, a mass of sphagnum moss, flowering plants, shrubs and decaying vegetation that floats on the water. It looks safe to step onto, but . . . it too, would like to pull us in and preserve us for eternity.

hp

Holt Pond–like all of us, it’s ever changing as it matures.

It’s Ursula’s energy and engaging personality that wow me every time we share moments wandering and wondering. I don’t want to be her, but it would be an honor to emulate her even a tiny bit.

Our Three Hour Tour

HP sign

One of our favorite places in town is a hidden gem–Holt Pond Preserve. We parked at the corner of Chaplin’s Mill and Grist Mill Roads, grabbed our snowshoes and backpack from the truck and walked on snowmobile tracks across the field to begin today’s Mondate.

Tingley Brook

Tingley Brook

At the field’s edge, we passed under the hemlocks, beeches and oaks and into the wild and delicate beauty that the preserve offers.

Tingley Brook ice 1

The midmorning light added subtle hints of aqua and pink as the water danced around an ice-capped rock in the brook.

mushrooms and hole

We saw lots of tracks from the mustelid family, as well as snowshoe hare, fox, squirrels, mice and voles. Also, turkeys and grouse. I’m not sure what made the hole and dirt trail beneath the mossy maple mushrooms near the base of this Red Maple. I would not have seen it if I hadn’t leaned in closer to take a photo. I do happen to know that gnomes frequent the area, so just maybe . . .

canoes

We continued on, crossing Tingley Brook and then making our way beside Muddy River, where the Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) leaves these canoes for anyone to use. Bring your own personal floatation device, paddles, and duct tape. I know where you can purchase duct tape, should you need more. 🙂

beaked hazelnut

Near the canoes–a lone beaked hazelnut. Inside this bristly tan husk is an edible nut. Doesn’t it look like a gourd? The name derives from that tube-like protruding beak. I couldn’t believe it was still there as the protein-rich nuts are favorites for red squirrels and chipmunks, as well as ruffed grouse, woodpeckers and blue jays. Humans too.

to Muddy River

We never actually wore our snowshoes today. I hauled mine around on my pole, while my guy stuck his between his jacket and sweatshirt. He said he didn’t need his back scratched for the entire trip.

River to pond

Looking toward Holt Pond from the boardwalk by the Muddy River.

There was only a slight breeze, so the low temp was modified by the brilliant sunshine. Another beautiful day in Maine.

Red Maple Swamp

I think one of my favorite features about the preserve is that the habitat keeps changing–from hemlock groves to red maple swamps to alder thickets to a quaking bog.

Quaking Bog

Though you can’t tell in the winter, the quaking bog is a thick mat of vegetation that formed over the surface near the edge of the pond. A board walk passes across it and one of the fun things to do with a group of people is to have everyone jump at the same time and watch the bog quake. This is also a great spot to visit alone–for quiet reflection.

Holt Pond 1HP South

Views at the pond’s edge–north and south

HP from southwest

We stopped at a rock in a sunny spot along the South Shore Trail to enjoy lunch al fresco. PB&J never tasted so good. Topped off with ice cold water and some Ghirardelli chocolates. 🙂 As we continued along, we paused to look back across the pond toward the Quaking Bog.

Sometimes we chatted and other times we were each lost in our own thoughts and moving at our individual paces. Similar to my NDD (Nature Distraction Disorder), my guy has his own syndrome–Destinationitis. But, he’s learned to compensate by pausing until I catch up . . . and then he’s off again. That’s OK–it gives me time to spend in my own world.

feathers one

At the edge of a field (we know it as “The Field” because it’s the end of a section of trail that we keep maintained for LEA), we both stopped to look and wonder. Under a hemlock tree and in the middle of the trail, we found these white feathers. Don’t you just love a mystery?

feathers 2

Here’s another look. Some had sheer cuts; others looked plucked. No great place to hang out above. If you know what bird this was or what happened here, please enlighten me.

horse

At least five miles later, we were back on Chaplin’s Mill Road headed toward the truck.

Thanks for stopping by again to wonder my way. I hope you enjoyed the three hour tour.