Finally Flakes

White stuff fell from the sky today–a late date for our first measurable snowfall.

dandelion

Yesterday, I saw a dandelion blooming in Denmark as I participated in Maine Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count. Today, I assume that yellow blossom is snug below about five or six inches of snow.

While on the bird count, I practiced using my new macro lens, but didn’t have the telephoto lens in my pack because it wasn’t working correctly. Miraculously, I solved that problem this morning and am back in business–taking photos with several different foci.

chickadee

hairy

ruffled red breasted

From the get-go, the feeders provided a source of energy and entertainment. I wonder who ruffled the red-breasted nuthatch’s feathers?

cat trax

Perhaps it was a cat. Let the tracking season begin! I noticed this set leading from the barn, where we watch anywhere from one to six neighborhood cats emerge. I’m not sure which one owns these prints, but it stayed close to the house rather than making the usual venture to hunt below the feeders.

vernal pool slush

After scooping the driveway snow, I was antsy to check things out in the woods. The vernal pool is covered with slush–we need a few nights in the deep freeze to firm things up. Looks like we could hit negative digits by next week. Not sure our bodies are acclimated for that this year. Pile on the layers.

grouse trax

Without meaning to, I flushed three ruffed grouse–only their prints showed their presence. And my heart beat.

turkey trax

A flock of turkeys had also traveled my way, leaving behind their trademark signature.

snow on wood pile

snow 1

I hadn’t expected too many tracks, so pointed the lens toward the snow and its presentation on a variety of subjects.snow on astersnow on hardtack

Atop asters and hardtack,

snow on balsamsnow on bulrush

balsam fir and bulrush, each crystal clung.

 snow on cinnamon fern snow on sensitive fern

Some were embraced by cinnamon and sensitive ferns,

snow on w. h.

Still others formed blankets of protection.

frullania, leafy liverwort

And then I turned my attention elsewhere. The leafy liverwort in the genus Frullania beckoned a closer look. Like mosses and lichens, liverworts are nonvascular flora.

frull 5 

Most are green, but Frullania is brown. As it weaves in and out of the crevasses on the ash bark, its structure reminds me of ricrac, that zigzaggy trim we used to add to sewing and craft projects.

w. nest 2

This hornet nest always deserves an examination of structure, texture and design. Constructed from chewed up wood strips mixed with sticky saliva, this is an incredible undertaking.

nest compartments

Each tiny cell once housed an egg. While the males and the old queen died in the autumn, the females who mated have burrowed into tree stumps and other cozy spots to survive the winter months.

 striped 3 striped 5

One of my favorite finds today: clusters of striped maple samaras dangling from a tree–waiting for the right moment to disperse. Insect wings come to mind.

 slush

Because the ground hasn’t frozen and we’ve had so much rain lately, I left a few slushy prints.

deer trax 1

As I retraced my steps, I discovered I’d had company. Unfortunately, I never saw the two deer that crossed behind me. We were silent partners in the winter world.

cardinal 2

Home again, I’m thankful for the male cardinal that graces the backyard on a regular basis. Sometimes his mate accompanies him, but I didn’t see her tonight.

It’s beginning to look and feel like my favorite season has arrived. Flakes finally fell–YAHOO!

 

Embracing Splashes of Color

Walk in the woods any day of the year and you’ll find color, but nothing beats a day like today.

morning light red maple swamp

Early this morning, I waited at the Holt Pond Preserve parking lot for Jon Evans of Loon Echo Land Trust. Well, I didn’t actually wait. I walked off the trail, taking in the morning sunlight on the red maple swamp–knowing we’d return to it later. By the time I arrived back at the parking lot, Jon was waiting for me–we hitched a ride to Bald Pate, where today’s adventure began.

Jon, LELT

Together, we lead eighteen people, including six Boy Scouts from Troop 149, to the summit of Bald Pate and back down, where we connected with the Town Farm Trail and continued on to Holt Pond.

view from Bald Pate

As we climbed up Bald Pate, we paused to take in the western view. This week, the colors have popped.

Peabody Pond & Sebago Lake

The fall foliage was delayed because of September’s warm temperatures. Not only does less daylight trigger the chemical change in tree leaves, but a drop in temperature is also important. That being said, it doesn’t have to be cold enough to create a frosty coating.

splash of color

 The decreasing daylight hours and temps below 45˚ at night are signals to the leaf that it is time to shut down its food-making factory. The cooler night temps trap sugars made during the day, preventing them from moving to the tree. Once trapped, the sugars form the red pigment called anthocyanin.

Muddy River

As we witnessed along the Muddy River at Holt Pond, when the chlorophyll begins to break down, the green color disappears. This allows the yellows to show through. At the same time, other chemical changes may cause the formation of more pigments varying from yellow to red to maroon. While some trees, like quaking aspens, birch and hickory only show the yellow color, sugar maple leaves turn a brilliant orange or fiery red combined with yellow.

witch hazel flowers, Holt Pond

pitcher plants

button bush, Holt Pond

Not to be left out, the flowering witch hazel, pitcher plants and buttonbush display their own variation of colors.

Holt Pond Red Maple Swamp

Five hours and almost five miles later, we were back at the Red Maple Swamp I’d photographed at 7:30am.

The day was too beautiful to head indoors, so after a quick stop at home, I endured the Fryeburg Fair traffic and drove to the Gallie Trail at the Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve in Lovell. My intention was a reconnaissance mission for next weekend’s Greater Lovell Land Trust hike to the summit of Whiting Hill.

 bear claw 2 bear claw and nectria

On the way up, I scanned the beech trees, searching for bear claw marks and wasn’t disappointed.

 Mama Beech Whiting Hill

The beech leaves have yet to take on their golden-bronze hue that lasts throughout the winter and appears like dabs of sunlight in the white landscape.

color contrast

The maples, however, provide a brilliant contrast in the canopy.

whiting view 2

It’s beginning to look a bit like . . . autumn from the summit.

red maple splendor

One red maple was particularly dazzling.

red oak, subtle color

This northern red oak provides a much more subtle hue,

ash leaf

while a white ash shows off its magenta-colored leaves.

bees on goldenrod, Whiting Hill

A goldenrod continues to bloom and the bees know it. This one is doing a happy dance.

yellow-greens of striped maple

As I hiked down a different trail, the community changed and the striped maples dominated the understory

striped maple leaves

with their yellow-green leaves.

Indian cucumber root fading

Similarly, the Indian-Cucumber root’s leaves have taken on its lime-green color of fall.

splash of yellow greensplash of color2

Splashes of color. Nature on display. How fortunate I am to be able to embrace these moments.