Goodbye Autumn

On this last day of autumn 2016, nature put on a display worth donning extra layers for  along Sucker Brook at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve.

w-frozen-in-time

Morning light provided magical moments filled with otherworldly beauty.

w-ice-1

In response to constant movement and changing temperatures,

w-ice-sculpture

original beauty knew no end.

w-sucker-brook1

While brook smoke danced along sunbeams,

w-ice-crawling-up-tree

ice sculptures formed with the flow.

w-winter-flowers

Hoar frost brought diversity of visions . . .

w-fern-trees

in detailed formations and . . .

w-hobblebush-decorations

intricate presentations.

w-balsam-fir

Nothing was left untouched by the hand of the artist.

w-wilson-wing-moose-pond-bog

Before our eyes the seasons transitioned. Light. Shadows. Textures. Colors. Layers.

Goodbye autumn. Welcome winter.

The Wonders of Wilson Wing

A wander at Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve is the perfect way to celebrate the start of snow season. The 20.7 acres of land near Horseshoe Pond that was donated by the Wing family combined with the twelve acres surrounding Sucker Brook that The Nature Conservancy previously owned create the Preserve, which is a Greater Lovell Land Trust property.

snowshoes

My friend Jinny Mae and I donned our snowshoes and headed off on the trail, not sure what we might find. It was snowing lightly when we started, so we didn’t expect to see any mammal tracks.

mink trackard

Thus we were delighted with our finds–especially this one which was rather fresh. A look at the formation and we knew we had a member of the mustelid or weasel family. A few measurements of prints, straddle and stride–and we determined it was a mink.

mink 2 mink slide

In true mink fashion, it enjoyed a slide into the brook. We also saw mice, red squirrel, deer, bird  and domestic dog tracks–some were blurred by the snow, but the pattern and behavior helped us come to a conclusion. Well, the bird stumped us at first. It wasn’t clear at all. But then we saw juncos. And under the platform were clear prints beside some muted ones.

red squirrel midden

Though we neither saw nor heard any red squirrels, their presence was well pronounced. I was surprised to see a midden. All fall, I searched for caches. Usually cones are piled in various places, but this year I found only a few. Were they fooled by the warm weather?

ash cork

ash snow 2

I don’t know if it’s because it is winter and everything seems more pronounced or what, but the ash bark appeared chunkier and corkier than ever. Of course, the snowflakes added to the scene.

Sucker Brook

We were beside Sucker Brook, which flowed with winter magic.

ice 1 ice 2  ice 4 branch

And ice. Its many forms of presentation always fill me with awe and wonder.

ice 5, big foot

And whimsy. Check out these gigantic feet and

ice 3 hem

the hemline of this snowy skirt.

hobb 2 hobb 3a

Another favorite (oops, I forgot, everything is my favorite, but these really do stop me in my tracks–or snowshoes) is hobblebush. In any season this shrub provides an incredible display, but its the winter buds that are especially astounding. (OK, wait until it blossoms and I’ll be saying the same thing.) While most buds have waxy scales that protect the leaves, hobblebush is naked. The same is true for witch hazel buds. What you see in these photos, is miniature leaves clasping each other. And embraced within, the flower bud. Here’s hoping the snow provides warmth until spring.

polypody 1

Another “favorite” display adorned a rock hidden beneath the snow.

poly 3Common polypody ferns seemed to hold the snow tight between their curled blades. That made us pause and wonder once more.

poly 2

And because we did so, we realized that clusters of sporangia were ready to catapult their spores into the world.

poly 4

poly 6

poly 5

They look like miniature clusters of balloons waiting to broadcast the arrival of a new year. But, why were the pinnae curled inward? It’s certainly not a stance that would protect the spores–those are to be spewed outward in order to further the population. We know that the blades curl up if conditions are dry, but it’s hardly been dry the past few weeks–lots of rain and now snow. My research turned up little, but I wonder if it’s a protective measure similar to the rhododendrons in our front yard. As nature’s thermometers, they let us know what the temperature is based on the behavior of their leaves–about 40˚ they extend outward, about 32˚ they droop and in the low 20˚s the rhodies’ leaves curl. I’m always sure they will die and drop off, but that’s not the case. Could it be the same for the polypody? Do their dense covering of scales located on the underside prevent the loss of moisture? Now I need to keep track of the temperature and see if it follows the same pattern.

Worth a wonder. Worth a thanks to the Wing family (and especially Dr. Wilson M. and June Wing) for helping to make the Preserve a place for all of us to wander.

A Perfect Beech Day

Eighty-some odd degrees, plenty of sunshine and a welcome breeze greeted a couple of friends and me as we explored the Sucker Brook Outlet Reserve on Farrington Pond Road in Lovell–certainly a beach day.

Beech cigar

Though we often refer to them as being shaped like a cigar, on this summer-like spring day, that description hardly seems apropos.

beech old and new

A few of last year’s leaves still cling tentatively to beech branches,

Beech 1

but on others the buds unfurl

Beech Leaves unfurl

with grace,

beech 2

displaying pleated leaves covered with long silky hair.

trail

There’s so much to see along the trail, so I hope you’ll continue to wander with me.

Hobblebush

 Hobblebush,

anemone

Wood Anemone

sessile-leaved bellwort or wild oats

and Sessile-leaved Bellwort or Wild Oats.

Leatherleaf

Leatherleaf

Leatherleaf 2

from a different point of view.

beaked hazelnut

Beaked Hazelnut displaying leaves.

Alternate-leaved Dogwood

Alternate-leaved Dogwood

al dog 2

preparing to flower.

Squawroot resembles pinecone

Squawroot, that reminded us of . . .

pine cone:squaw root

pine cones.

pitcher plant 1

Pitcher Plants, carnivores in the plant world,

pp3

with their pitcher-shaped leaves,

pp2

covered in trigger hairs–waiting to trap insects.

hemlock polypore, Ganoderma tsugae

We saw hemlock polypores,

bn 3

and old bird nests.

And then there was the other animal sign.

 a s deer

Deer scrapes on Striped Maple bark.

as mouse

And the work of mice below the snow pack.

beaver works

There is beaver work everywhere

bw 5

and numerous lodges in the brook.

vp

A rut in the trail

wood frog eggs

was put to good use–wood frog eggs and emerging tadpoles.

a s yellow feathers, Northern Flicker

Something made a meal of this Northern Flicker.

porc 1

Our best finds were actual wildlife. This guy thought that if he hid his head, we wouldn’t see him.

porc 3

But we did.

wood frog

A wood frog, also trying to hide, well, sorta.

ribbon snake

And a ribbon snake that quickly slithered into a hole and out of sight–the most successful hider of all.

Sucker brook

Lest I forget, we were beside Sucker Brook,

SB 3

where we paused frequently.

mnt view 2

An osprey flew overhead, but I wasn’t quick enough to take a picture.

It was a perfect beech day. Thanks for taking the time to enjoy it with me.

And Happy Birthday to my sister, who has loved the beach since day one.

A Watchful Eye

FB-sand

On my way to meet a friend at the Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve, the amount of sand on the road made me appreciate all the snow we had this winter and give thanks to those who cleared the way and kept us safe –constantly.

Never mind that I was lost in thought and this is beyond Foxboro Road where I should have been. After stopping to take this photo, I saw three things that were out of place–a road sign (at which time, I thought, “I didn’t realize the ‘no thru trucks, 26,000 RGVW at anytime’ sign was on Foxboro Road”–it isn’t); my friend passed me headed in the opposite direction; I came to the curve by Wiley Road and knew something wasn’t quite right. Whatever you do, don’t follow me. I’ll surely lead you astray. But if you don’t mind wondering, then let’s go.

fb brook

It’s so different to be at Wilson Wing during the spring when the water tumbles over the rocks in Sucker Brook. We accepted the invitation to pause and ponder.

water

And enjoy fluid moments.

goldthread

And hope in the greenery. This scallop-leafed goldthread made us get down on our hands and knees for a closer look.

dewdrop

As did the heart-shaped dewdrop leaves.

heart

Another heart also spoke to us.

rock:lichen

And the lichen and moss on this rock invited an up close and personal inspection through the hand lens.

lichen 2

We tried to figure out which crustose lichen it is. I’m leaning toward a disk lichen (Lecidella stigmata) because the black fruiting bodies are raised.

quartz:lichen

Then we saw a contrast in styles–soft moss and hard quartz.

tree chain lichen

Some trees were adorned with necklaces. Tree necklaces.

hb

Our focus also included hobblebush, with its unscaled leaf buds

hb clasping

clasped together, perhaps in silent prayer for the bog and the life it supports.

hb 3

Flowers are forming, but we don’t want to rush the season.

hb 2

Then again, I can’t wait.

beaver 1

And then there was another story to unfold.

beaver 2

I thought beaver. My friend thought porcupine.

beaver 3

It was the wee amount of debris at the base of the beech that stumped us. And the fact that this was the only tree in the area that had been chewed in this manner. No scat to confirm. But my, what wide teeth you have.

beaver 4

We walked along and then moved off the trail. Looking around, we saw these and were finally able to turn the pages of the book.

beaver 5

Munched treats

beaver 6

and munched saplings told us who had moved about.

beaver 7

These chips are more what we would expect from a beaver. So here’s how we read the story. The fresh chew that caused the initial debate was perhaps the work of a two-year-old beaver forced to leave the lodge. It stopped along the way recently to nibble some treats. The sapling in the later photos was felled last fall, when it was time to renovate the lodge.

view

At the platform, we climbed up to enjoy the view, which includes the lodge.

hawk 3

We weren’t the only ones with a watchful eye.

I’m so glad you wondered along on today’s wander. Keep watching. There’s so much more to see.

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.