A friend and I met this afternoon and ventured forth upon a path that was quite different from those we usually travel. Our finds began as soon as we stepped out of our vehicles.
First there was the White Admiral Butterfly, preparing to puddle with its straw-like proboscis, at the moment curled but ready to extend into the gravely parking area to search for nutrients he might share with a gal.
And after only a few minutes into the woodland habitat, as is its preference, a Northern Pearly-eyed Butterfly fluttered into the scene, and posed–also with its proboscis curled.
Keen eyes of my friend spotted the next mention of wildlife–that of a very young garter snake who slithered across our path and then found a stick upon which to blend into the scene.
There was so much to see, such as a giant burl upon a White Cedar, its growth a consequence of an injury, virus, or fungus, creating a vase-like base enhanced by the tree’s shaggy-lined bark.
The tree’s leaves were as interesting as the bark with scaly leaves offering another texture to the forest.
Occasionally, as we continued, we stumbled upon Indian Pipes in their clustered colonies. Though some were just emerging and had their single flowers dangling low, many had been fertilized and showed off a dash of maturity with upright flowers. Eventually a woody structure filled with dust-like seeds will be produced, though it is doubtful many will germinate and grow into these most interesting plants that lack chlorophyll and depend upon a fungus and tree root to survive. And yet they will.
In the midst of it all, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, Raven, and Bluejays considered our attention and as we practiced using the Merlin App for bird identification, two little brown things flitted here and there. Turns out they were House Wrens with their upright tail feathers and barbed wings, an exciting find for us.
That was, until we met a fungus we couldn’t identify, but could certainly appreciate for its formation upon a couple of Balsam Firs.
It poured forth out of the tree like pancake batter on a Sunday morning.
Further along, where the red and gray squirrels made sure to announce their presence, a lone chipmunk posed for moments on end and so we all stood still, thinking at first its cheeks were full, but then realizing it had elbows reminiscent of favorite aunts’ flabby arms. OK, so maybe we’ve reached that age when such flabbiness gathers despite our efforts to exercise and we’re now trying to find ways to laugh about such features. .
There was so much more to see, including a Purple-fringed Orchid,
and Joe Pye-weed topped with a green iridescent sweat bee.
Our journey was almost over when we spotted a bluet damselfly dining upon a crab spider,
and a Ruby Meadowhawk dragonfly with its straw-colored face pausing upon a boardwalk.
Said boardwalk offered the most abundant selection of species, but there was still more to accumulate on this long weekend. And my friend knew that though our time together had been special, there was still more to rejoice in.
You see, our youngest son and his gal had ventured north from New York City because they could.
And their smiles filled our souls as they took in the sights and sounds and smells of our most delightful western Maine locale.
Eventually, they honored us by preparing a meal, and chuckled as they worked for she slaved over a large pan while he managed the smallest of the collection.
Several times we sat around our new kitchen table, grateful to those who had created it, the dishes and food upon it, and those who at last could gather round it as we’d intended.
Thank you P and M, for heading north from the Big Apple, enjoying the fresh air, sharing talents and gifts and laughter, and just being YOU. And thank you, P.M. for sharing the trail and appreciating the gathering that was happening in our midst.
The forecast was for temps in the teens, with a wind chill making it feel like single digits. But . . . plenty of sun. And so Greater Lovell Land Trust docent Alice and I decided to go ahead with this morning’s planned Wetland Wonder at John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge West on New Road in Lovell.
After a two day storm that left snow, ice and more snow, we were happy to stretch our legs despite the temps. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, only one other person joined us, the ever adventuresome Hadley Couraud, Sebago Clean Waters Conservation Coordinator for Loon Echo and Western Foothills Land Trusts.
On a pre-hike last week, Alice and I decided it would be best to beeline to the brook and wetland or we’d never have time to enjoy the wonders that both offered. Today’s temp confirmed that that would be best as it would warm us up.
In what seemed like an amazingly short time, because for us it was, we found ourselves beside Bradley Brook and glanced downstream. Of course, we’d passed by some mammal tracks, but promised to look at them on the way out.
As we looked upstream, we noted that though it was a bit chilly, the wind hadn’t picked up yet and all the snow still coated the trees.
And then Alice rattled off a few species she wanted Hadley to look for and the first presented itself immediately. It took me a bit to catch on, but that was Alice’s way–to mention something and bingo, it was right there even though she wasn’t looking at it. That was certainly a fun way to feel like you were the first to make a discovery.
Hadley discovered the lungwort lichen, Lobaria pulmonaria, and I pride myself all these hours later in remembering its scientific name.
Of course we had to move in for a closer look. It’s one that we can never resist. Its ridges and lobes create a lettucey look, but many super moons ago it was thought to resemble lung tissue and thus a good remedy for maladies such as tuberculosis.
Its a species that begs a closer look (doesn’t everything?) and so we moved in, Hadley taking the lead.
And what to our wondering eyes should appear but the tiny granules trimming the outer edges of the lobes much like a fancy accent on a winter hat or sweater. Those structures are actually the lungwort’s asexual means of reproduction–and are called soredia.
Just before I performed a magic act with my water bottle, both Hadley and I took a few more photos of the brittle structure.
And then, tada, we watched as the water performed the trick.
It never ceases to amaze me: Once wet, the photosynthesizing green algae in the thallus or main tissue causes the lichen to instantly turn a bright shade and become pliable; once it dries, the color recedes to a duller olive green.
All that wonder, and we still hadn’t reached the actual wetland.
And so we marched on, pausing next beside a member Betulaceae ( Alnus and Betula) family. Alnus includes the speckled alder before our eyes and betula the birches. Scientifically known as Alnus incana ssp. rugosa, we got caught up with the male and female catkins, which both grow at the end of twigs.
The males are the longer catkins that formed in the fall, and just above them the wee females. Pollination is by wind and the fertilized female matures to a cone.
Both alder and lungwort lichen fix nitrogen, the former through a bacteria in its root nodules and decaying leaves and the latter as its structure falls to the forest floor and decays.
Upon one of the shrubs, we noticed what appeared to be cones in flower Actually, it was alder tongue gall–resulting from a fungus rather than an insect infecting the female catkins. Apparently, the tongue-like growths were green to begin, but transformed to orange, red and finally the brown we saw. Can you see the curly structures such as the one the black arrow points to?
We were there to look at the little things and the whole picture as it’s a place we only enjoy in this season, being difficult to access at other time of the year. In the midst of the wetland, the sun provided welcome warmth as we enjoyed the spectacular scene before us.
Artwork created by nature’s sketching artist gave proof that the wind was starting to pick up at about 11am.
It was at that point that we knew we were reaching our turn-around point, but still we reveled in the joy of being out there.
That is, until Hadley, as the caboose for some of the journey, found a weak spot in the ice. I gave her a hand to pull her out and we knew we needed to head out.
And so we followed a snowshoe hare back–giving thanks yet again for the snowshoes that we all wore.
What probably should have been a beeline much as we’d done on our way in, however, turned into frequent stops. The first was at a tree that had fallen across our path, which wasn’t really a path, but rather a bushwhack scouted out by Alice.
The fallen tree turned out to offer a lichen form classroom of crustose (appearing flat on the bark like a piece of bread or looking as if it had been spray painted onto the surface); foliose or leaf-like in structure; and fruticose, which reminds me of a bunch of grapes minus the grapes.
It was within the foliose lichen that we spotted the apothecia in the form of brown berets or disks.
And then there was the ice marching up a branch like miniature elephants on parade. We considered its formation and how it was anchored to the branch here and there, but not consistently. Was there warmth in the wood that created such formations?
As we headed back toward Bradley Brook, we spotted a tinderconk or horse’s hoof fungi that could have been a foot at the end of warm snowy white leggings.
The brook again offered a transitioning scene and we rejoiced in the sound of water flowing over rocks and downed trees.
Because we were still looking for the species Alice had suggested when we started, we stopped by well-browsed hobblebush where she shared their idiosyncrasies, including the fact that the buds aren’t covered in waxy scales like most tree and shrub species.
Instead, they are naked. And one of my favorites with their accordian-like design and fuzzy outer coating.
Eventually we made our way back to an old log landing, where evening primrose in its winter form became the subject of focus. Hadley is an apt student of nature and so even if she felt any discomfort from her dip in the water, she continued to ask questions and take notes about everything we encountered.
On the way out we noticed more snowshoe hare tracks, bird and squirrel prints, and then at a well worn deer run with fresh movement, we spotted the X in a print and new that a coyote had followed the deer, predator seeking prey.
One would have expected that with the mammal tracks we did see, we might have found some scat. We did not. But . . . all the same, Hadley really wanted an opportunity to say, “Scat Happens” with meaning. And she found it in her polar bear dip.
Still, the three of us had a wonderful tramp and rejoiced over hot cocoa and tea once back at my truck. I checked in with Hadley tonight and she’s fine, thankfully. But did I say she’s adventuresome? And ever eager to learn?
Still . . . scat happens. And with the right attitude, one can recover.
Maybe it’s my teacher blood. Maybe it’s just because I love sharing the trail with others who want to know. Maybe it’s because I realize how much I don’t know, but love the process of figuring things out.
Whatever it is, I had the joy of sharing the trail with this delightful young woman who kept pulling her phone out to take photographs and notebook out to jot down notes about our finds along the trail, that is . . . when her fingers weren’t frozen for such was today’s temperature.
Among our great finds, a Red-belted Polypore capped with a winter hat as is the custom this week.
But, I was also excited to walk among White Cedars for though I was only twenty minutes from home, I felt like I was in a completely different community. Um . . . I was.
Shreddy and fibrous, the bark appeared as vertical strips.
We paused beside one of the trees where a large burl that could have served as a tree spirit’s craggy old face, begged to be noticed. We wondered about what caused the tree’s hormones to create such a switch from straight grains to twisted and turned. Obviously some sort of stress was involved, but we couldn’t determine if it occurred because of a virus, fungus, injury, or insect infestation.
And then there were the leaves to focus in on for their presentation was like no other. (Unless it’s another cedar species, that is.) I loved the overlapping scales that gave it a braided look. And if turned right side up, it might have passed as a miniature tree or even a fern.
Lungwort Lichen drew our attention next. My ever-curious companion asked if it was tree specific. Found in humid forested areas, this lichen grows on both conifers and hardwood trees.
Having found the lichen, I knew it was time for a magic trick and so out of my mini-pack came a water bottle. Within seconds, the grayish color turned bright green due to its algal component. It’s an indicator for rich, healthy ecosystems such as old growth forests.
Where the water didn’t drip, it retained its grayish-green tone, and the contrast stood out. Curiously, snow sat atop some of the lichen’s structure, and one might have thought that all the lettuce-like leaves would have the brighter appearance, but today’s cold temp kept the snow from melting and coloration from changing.
Our next great find: a reddish-brown liverwort known as Frullania. It doesn’t have a common name, and truth be known, I can never remember if the dense mat is asagrayana or its counterpart: eboracensis.
Three dimensional in form, it reminded me of a snarl of worms vying for the same food. Oh, and the dense form: asagrayana in case you wondered.
Over and over again as we walked, we kept looking at the variety of trees and my companion indicated an interest in learning about them by their winter presentation, including the bark. I reminded her that once she has a species in mind, she needs to use a mnemonic that she’ll remember, not necessarily one that I might share. In this case, I saw diamonds in the pattern, and sometimes cantaloupe rind. Others see the letter A for Ash, such as it was. She saw ski trails. The important thing was that we both knew to poke our finger nails into its corky bark. And that its twigs had an opposite orientation.
One of the other idiosyncrasies we studied occurred on the ridges of Eastern White Pines, where horizontal lines appeared as the paper my companion jotted notes upon. It’s the little things that help in ID.
Sadly, our time had to end early as she needed to return to the office, but I decided to complete the loop trail and see what else the trail might offer.
Vicariously, I took her along, for so many things presented themselves and I knew she’d either be curious or add to my understandings. Along a boardwalk I tramped and upon another cedar was a snow-covered burl.
A wee bit further, and yet another peeked out from between two trunks, stacked as it was like a bunch of cinnamon buns. Curiously, the center bun formed a heart. Do you see it?
It was upon this trail that I began to see more than the bark of trees. At my feet, tracks indicated that not only had a few humans walked the path, but so had mammals crossed it. And one of my first finds was the illustrious snow lobster, aka Snowshoe Hare.
It had tamped the snow down among some greens and I knew it was time to stoop for a closer look.
Each piece of vegetation that had been cut, had been cut diagonally–Snowshoe hare-style, that is.
Moving along, some winter weeds presented themselves as former asters and others, but my favorites were the capsules of Indian Tobacco.
In my book of life, one can have more than one favorite, and so I rejoiced each time I saw a birch catkin upon the snow carpet, its fleur di lis scales and tiny seeds spread out. The seeds always remind me of tiny insects, their main structure featuring a dark body with translucent wings to carry it in a breeze, unless it drops right below its parent and takes up residence in that locale.
Further along, scrawled scratching in the snow and leaves indicated another mammal lived in the woodland, conserved as it was by Western Foothills Land Trust. With this sight, my mind stretched to the fact that a corridor had been created and the more I followed the trail, the more I realized others crossed over it because this was their home. And they were still at home here.
The scratcher had left a signature in its prints.
And the source of its food: fallen nuts that about a month ago rained down like the sky was falling. Northern Red Oak Acorns. This one had been half consumed by a White-tailed Deer.
While traveling earlier with my companion, we’d talked about the tree that produced the deer food, but it wasn’t till I followed the loop that I found it. To me, the ridges of the Northern Red Oak looked like ski trails, with a reddish tinge in the furrows.
Oh, and that deer; it seemed to have dined on the bark of a Red Maple in the recent past–probably as recent as last winter or spring.
After a three hour tour, I delighted in traveling the Half Witt Trail three times (out and back with my companion and then again as I completed the loop) and Witt’s End.
They are new additions to Western Foothills Witt Swamp & Shepard’s Farm Preserve, and the journey . . . ah the journey.
Along the way, this young woman wanted to know what questions to ask and where to seek answers. I helped as much as I could, but noted that there are others who understand much more than I do.
Thank you, Hadley Couraud, for today’s journey. When it’s shared either actually or virtually with one who has a desire to learn, it’s always special.
When I sent out the invite to the Maine Master Naturalist Program’s Lewiston 2013 class for a tracking expedition at one of two possible locations, grad Alan responded, “Any place you pick in western Maine is fine; you know the area and conditions well. The only request I have is for you to try to show me a ‘bear tree.’”
Bingo! I pulled a third location out of my hat because it was within an hour of those who would join us and I knew that it passed the bear tree test.
And so six of us met at 10am, strapped on our snowshoes, and ventured forth. It’s always such a joy to be with these peeps and talk and laugh and share a brain.
Because our focus at first was on beech bark while we looked for bear claw marks left behind, we also shared an imagination. One particular tree made us think of a horseshoe.
Eventually we found a few trunks with the etched scratches of bear claws that had grown wider with the years. After the first find, which was actually on a different tree, the others developed their bear tree eyes and became masters at pointing them out.
And though we’d come to track, there wasn’t a whole lot of movement in the preserve except for the occasional deer. But . . . we still found plenty to fascinate us, including Violet-toothed Polypore.
Alan was the fungi guru of the group and so to him we turned to confirm our ID. We were correct, but in the process he taught us something new about this gregarious mushroom. There are two types of Violet-toothed: Trichaptum biforme grows on hardwoods; Trichaptum abietinum grows only on conifers. Now we just need to remember that. Before our eyes the former reached to the sky on the red maple.
All along, as I’ve done all winter, I searched for an owl in a tree. Penny found one for me. Do you see it?
What I actually saw more than the owl was the face of a bear. OK, so I warned you that we took our imaginations with us.
We were almost down to the water, when the group paused. Tracks at last. Near water. Track pattern on a diagonal meaning one foot landed in front of the other in a consistent manner for each set of prints. Trail width or straddle: almost three inches. Stride we didn’t measure because it varied so much, but it was obvious that this mammal bounded through the landscape. Identification: mink. Repeatedly after first finding the tracks, we noted that it had covered a lot of territory.
At last, we made our way out onto the wetland associated with South Pond and followed the tracks of a much bigger beast–in fact multiple beasts: snowmobiles.
Rather than find lunch rock, we chose lunch lodge and stood in the warm sun to enjoy the view.
We did wonder if it was active and determined that though there had been some action in the fall as evidenced by the rather fresh looking sticks, there was no vent at the top so we weren’t sure any beavers were within. Maybe it was their summer cottage.
Close by, however, we found another lodge and the vent was open so we didn’t walk too near.
Because we were on the wetland, we did pause to admire the cattails, their seeds exploding forth like a fireworks finale (but of the silent type, which I much prefer).
Back on the trail, the bark of another tree stopped us. We looked at the lenticels, those lines that serve as a way to exchange gases much like our skin pores, and noted that they were thin rather than the raised figure 8s of a pin cherry.
We had a good idea of its name, but to be sure we conducted a sniff test.
Smells like . . . wintergreen! We were excited to have come face to face with black or sweet birch. Some also call it cherry birch. Hmmm . . . why not wintergreen birch? Because, yellow birch, a relative, also has that wintergreen scent when you scratch the bark, especially of a twig.
Continuing along, the temperature had risen and snow softened so periodically we had to help each other scrape snowballs off the bottoms of shoes.
Otherwise the feeling was one of walking on high heels.
As I said earlier, all kinds of things stopped us, including the straight lines of the holes created by sapsuckers, those warm-weather members of the woodpecker family. One in the neighborhood apparently decided to drum to a different beat as noted by the musical notes of the top line.
Speaking of woodpeckers, for a few minutes we all watched a pileated and admired its brilliant red crest in the afternoon sun, but we couldn’t focus our cameras on it quickly enough as it flew from tree to tree. We did, however, pause beneath a tree where it had done some recent excavation work.
And left behind a scat that resembled a miniature birch tree.
At last, four hours and two miles after starting (we’d intended to only be out for three), we’d circled around and stopped again at the kiosk to look at the map. Do note that we’d also picked up a passenger along the way for Carl Costanzi, a Western Foothills Land Trust board member and steward of the Virgil Parris Forest came upon us and joined our journey. We picked his brain a bit about the property and he picked up a pair of snowshoes that had malfunctioned for one of us. Thank you, Carl! That’s going above and beyond your duties.
Before departing, we did what we often do–circled around and took a selfie.
And then we left with smiles in our hearts and minds for the time spent reconnecting. Our memories will always be filled with the discovery of the first bear tree not too long after we began. As Penny said, “That first one was a doozy.”
Our entire time together was a doozy–of a playdate.
Thanks Beth, Gaby, Roger, Alan, and Penny. To those of you who couldn’t join us, we talked about you! All kind words because we missed you.
Christmas in our house requires a bit of creativity and so it was that a light bulb went off and a theme was born.
I found a little brown cardboard box, decorated it with some hiking stickers and then did a bit of research on local trails and pubs. This was for my guy, you see, for on his days off, he’s always asking me where we should hike. I decided to make it easy for him to suggest a trail at least once a month, and the hike would be followed by sipping a brew at a local pub. There was one caveat: the hike had to include the search for bear paw trees. We both love a challenge. Some of the places I chose are familiar to us, and though we know the trees are there, will we find them again? That remains to be seen. Others are totally new on our list and I had no idea if they’d offer one of our favorite sights.
In keeping with the theme, I also gave him a UMaine sweatshirt; UMaine being his alma mater. Of course, back in his day, it was referred to as UMO for the University of Maine at Orono.
And finally, a growler from a local brew pub so he can walk down the street and refill it occasionally.
The property itself is the Virgil Parris Forest, named for this man who was born in Buckfield in 1807. Mr. Parris attended local schools, Colby College, and Union College in New York, where he studied law. In 1830, he was admitted to the bar and returned to his hometown to open a practice. His career followed a political path both at the state and national levels.
The main trail that loops around the 1,250-acre property was named for the Packard Family. According to the interpretive panel at the trailhead, “the farmstead’s foundations and family cemetery are on site. Daniel Packard was given this land in Buckfield as compensation for his service in the Revolution. Daniel was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts in 1749 and married Elizabeth Connelly of Cork, Ireland during the war. Daniel died in Woodstock, Maine in 1836, and is buried there. It is said that Daniel and Elizabeth were the prototypes for James Fennimore Cooper’s Sergeant Hollister and Betty Flannigan in Cooper’s novel The Spy.”
The sky was brilliant blue as we began our journey, each step of the way scanning the trees. Had it been a couple of months later, we might have mistaken the large burl in a paper birch for a bear cub.
Though bears climb other trees, it’s on beech bark that their claw marks show up best.
When one focuses one sees . . . many a thing that might have been passed by, such as this beech, which began we know not as one or two, and if one, why did it become two we wondered? And then, like a work of magic, it was once again unified.
Another beech offered a snow chute that seemed like the perfect squirrel slide.
And yet another was decorated with the chiseled tooth marks of a natural logger–a beaver.
There were some decorated with cankers from beech scale disease that could have passed for ornamental faces.
And others that hosted squirrels who had built dreys appearing haphazard in construction from our stance about thirty feet below, but were really complex and apparently well insulated.
Fungi, such as this tinder conk, also fruited upon some trees. But . . . where were the bear trees? My guy asked how I’d chosen this particular path, and to be truthful, I couldn’t remember. I just thought it was a new one to us and might have some paw marks to boot.
Down an esker ridge we continued as we approached South Pond.
The wind was cold on the pond and snowmobiles zoomed past, oblivious to our presence, which was just fine with us.
And then we heard voices and framed between beech branches, we saw a dog sled team across the way.
And then, just as we turned from the Packard Trail onto the Cascade Trail, we spied some familiar marks. Or were they? We so wanted a bear paw tree that we convinced ourselves we’d found one.
It certainly did look the part. And so we felt successful.
Onward we journeyed, enjoying the cascades in their frozen form and promising ourselves a return trip in a different season.
As is his style, my guy moved quickly and I accused him of not searching, but he was.
And bingo! Another bear tree.
The cankers were abundant and made it difficult, but our bear paw eyes discerned the patterns.
And once we noticed, it seemed as if they began to pop out at us from every tall beech. Not really so. All in all we counted five. Well, five if you include the first tree, which we continued to question. And there were probably many more that we missed.
At last we’d completed our journey and relished our success. As I drove back down Sodom Road in Buckfield, I knew there were a few final trees that needed to be examined–telephone pole trees. Most were in great shape, but one close to the preserve had been visited by a large furry mammal that scratched it and nipped it and probably left a scent on it.
As planned, we knew exactly where we’d stop following our hike and so we made our way to the Buck-It Grill and Pub, another place we’d never visited before.
Lisa, the bartender, took our burger order and then we sipped Allagash White while we watched the Weather Channel on the TV above. Sitting next to us was Joyce, and she said that the impending storm was named for her partner’s niece, Harper. When did they start naming winter storms? Never mind. The important thing was that the fresh hand-packed burgers and fries were delish. The beer wasn’t bad either.
We went not knowing but came away with smiles after a successful hike–and already we’re looking forward to next month’s “From Bear to Beer Possibilities.”
It all started with an email message from my long-time mentor and former education director of the Greater Lovell Land Trust, Kevin Harding.
Wrote Kevin, “I rarely find a book that I’m willing to recommend to friends and colleagues. I rarely read books on saving the environment because I find them too depressing. I am guilty of feeling totally overwhelmed by the chaos and daily news of political disfunction that makes any kind of progress toward “saving the environment” seem impossible. Despite these feelings, I would like you to consider reading Rewilding Our Hearts by Marc Bekoff. No doubt many of you know this author and you may have already read some of his work. Bekoff can help us understand that the work we do in Lovell is in fact meaningful and productive.”
A professor emeritus of ecology and evolution at the University of Colorado, Boulder, (our youngest son’s alma mater), Bekoff is the author or editor of twenty-five books.
Since receiving the book, I’ve turned up the bottom corner of pages in the foreword and introduction that I want to reread and taken copious pages of notes.
In this book, Bekoff’s intention is to use the big picture challenges of “climate change, population explosion and constant damage to Earth’s ecosystems and loss of diversity” as the backdrop to encourage us all to change how we think and act–especially as it pertains to nonhuman animals.
“Rewilding our hearts is about becoming re-enchanted with nature. It is about nurturing our sense of wonder. Rewilding is about being nice, kind, compassionate, empathetic, and harnessing our inborn goodness and optimism,” writes Bekoff.
In the first chapter, he states, “Our effects on other species are wide-ranging and far-reaching, and we most likely understate the extent of our destructive ways. As with climate change, we often don’t know or fully understand what we’ve done or the extent of our negative impacts. Even worse, we have no idea how to fix the ecological problems confronting us, whether we are at fault for them or not.”
He encourages us to open our hearts and form a compassionate connection with nature–even in those moments when we don’t understand. For instance, in November a friend and I discovered two spiders in the water-filled “urn” of a pitcher plant on a land trust property. The larger spider was alive, while it seemed to play with the smaller dead spider that it kept moving with its hind legs. Was it trying to revive the youngster? Would the two or even the one be able to escape the carnivorous pitcher plant?
Watching something as small as the spiders or as large as young great blue herons is something some of us could easily take for granted, for we are fortunate to spend many hours as observers. Thankfully, we are constantly filled with awe and wonder.
As I read Bekoff’s book, numerous visions flashed through my mind and I thought of the corridors that our local land trusts have worked diligently to create. And with that came the memory of an article I wrote for Lake Living magazine in 2015 entitled “Land That We Trust”:
My happy moments are spent wandering and wondering in the woods of the lakes region. And photographing and sketching what I see. And writing about the experience. And trying to find out the answers. Honestly though, I don’t want to know all of the answers. For the most part, I just like the wandering and wondering.
Passing through a stonewall, I’m suddenly embraced by the fragrance of white pines that form the canopy over what was once an agricultural field. Beech and hemlock trees grow in the understory. Lowbush blueberries, Canada mayflowers, bracken ferns, Indian pipe, partridgeberry, sessile-leaf bellwort, Indian cucumber root and a variety of mosses and lichens add to the picture.
I follow a former cowpath that opens to the power line. At the edge, taller hemlocks and northern red oaks stand high, with a few beech trees in the mix. But my eye is drawn to the ground cover, varied in color and texture. Sphagnum moss, several species of reindeer lichen, British soldier lichen, wintergreen, bunchberries, junipers and sheep laurel appreciate the bogginess and sunshine of this space.
To the right of another opening in the wall, the neighborhood changes. This time it’s gray and paper birch that grow side by side. Nearby, a vernal pool teems with life.
In each space, I encounter evidence of animals, amphibians, birds and insects. Sometimes I even get to see these neighbors with whom I share the land. Gray squirrels build their dreys up high in the hardwood trees, while red squirrels prefer the white pine forest. Deer bed under the hemlocks. Snowshoe hare browse among the birch grove and its vegetative undergrowth. Yellow-spotted salamanders and wood frogs lay egg masses in the vernal pool. Snakes slither nearby. Frequent visitors to each area include porcupines, raccoons, skunks, turkeys, gray and red foxes, deer, woodpeckers, thrushes, chickadees, nuthatches and warblers. Occasionally, I’m treated to moose and bear evidence and sitings.
People, too, are part of this habitat. They recreate along the snowmobile trail that follows the power line. The stonewalls, dug wells and rusty equipment speak to the area’s history.
It’s land like this that our local land trusts work diligently to preserve.
A wee disclaimer: I’ve been a volunteer docent for about eight years and am now education director for the Greater Lovell Land Trust. My involvement stems from my desire to learn about what makes up the landscape that surrounds me.
Sometimes alone, sometimes with my husband or friends, I hike all of the GLLT properties on a regular basis. Trekking along trails with like-minded people who pause frequently to identify and appreciate what they see in any season puts a smile on my face. Something stops us in our tracks every time we explore and we gain a better understanding of ourselves and this place we inhabit.
This past winter, I started recording my outdoor adventures, wonders and questions in a blog entitled wondermyway.com. Sometimes those hikes on land trust properties became the subject for a post.
February 23, 2015: Bishop’s Cardinal Reserve, I’m fascinated by bear sign and love to find claw marks on beech trees. Oh, they climb other trees, but beech show off the scars with dignity for years to come. While bark on most trees changes as it ages, beech bark is known for retaining the same characteristics throughout its life . . . Seeing all the animal tracks and sign, some decipherable, others not so, makes me thankful for those who have worked hard to preserve this land and create corridors for the animals to move through.
March 31, 2015: John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge, It’s one of those places that I could spend hours upon hours exploring and still only see a smidgeon of what is there. I’m overwhelmed when I walk into a store filled with stuff, but completely at home in a place like this where life and death happen and the “merchandise” changes daily.
April 15, 2015: Otter Rocks, A princess pine club moss shows off its upright spore-producing candelabra or strobili. Funny thing about club mosses–they aren’t mosses. I guess they were considered moss-like when named. Just as the mills take us back in time, so do these–only much further back when their ancestors grew to 100 feet tall during the Devonian Period. They make me feel so small and insignificant. And yet, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be in awe of them.
May 3, 2015: Chip Stockford Reserve, There’s something about the Chip Stockford Reserve on Ladies Delight Road in Lovell that keeps pulling me back. I think it’s the history associated with this property that fascinates me. And the questions it raises. From the start, there is a cellar hole and barn foundation. Eldridge Gerry Kimball had purchased 200 acres on January 31, 1880 from Abraham E. Gray. Various journals from that time period include entries about driving cattle over to the Ladies Delight pasture, picking cranberries over by The Pond, as they called Kezar Lake, picking apples, driving sheep to pasture, picking pears, mowing oats and trimming pines. Today, it’s the huge pasture pines, stonewalls and a couple of foundations that tell part of the story. I’ve also heard that this area was used as a cattle infirmary. According to local lore, diseased cattle were brought to Ladies Delight to roam and die, thus preventing disease from spreading to healthy cattle. . . Another story about Ladies Delight hill is that this is the place where people would come to picnic in the 1800s. Did the women get dressed up to enjoy a day out, a break from their farming duties? I have visions of them wearing long dresses and bonnets and carrying picnic baskets. But could they really afford a day away from their chores?
May 10, 2015: Bald Pate Mountain, The “bald” mountain top is the reason I am who I have become. Being outside and hiking have always been part of my makeup, but when our oldest was in fifth grade, I chaperoned a field trip up this mountain that changed everything. The focus was the soils. And along the way, Bridie McGreavy, who at the time was the watershed educator for Lakes Environmental Association, sat on the granite surrounded by a group of kids and me, and told us about the age of the lichens and their relationship to the granite and I wanted to know more. I needed to know more.
June 16, 2015: Bishop Cardinal Reserve, Though we never plan it that way, our journey lasted three hours. Suddenly, we emerged from the wet woodland onto Horseshoe Pond Road–all the richer for having spent time in the land of the slugs, bears and caterpillar clubs. Oh my!
We are fortunate to live in an area where five trusts protect land for us and the species with whom we share the Earth: Greater Lovell, Loon Echo, Western Maine Foothills, Mahoosuc and Upper Saco Valley. This strikes me as a valuable reflection of who we are and where we live.
Land trusts work with community members to acquire land for permanent conservation through purchases and donations. They also create legal and binding conservation easements that allow residents to protect land holdings in perpetuity, while retaining private ownership. Scenic views, wildlife corridors, flora and fauna, and topography remain, subject only to the whims of nature itself, which is ever-changing.
Conserving the land doesn’t mean it can’t be touched. The organizations develop management plans and steward the land. Timber harvesting, farming, residency and recreation continue, while specific wildlife habitat, wetlands, unique natural resources and endangered or rare species are protected. And in the process, they strengthen our towns. Ultimately, they give us a better sense of our place in Maine and opportunities to interact with the wild.
The service area of each of the local trusts include watersheds and wildlife corridors. Greater Lovell Land Trust is committed to the protection of the Kezar Lake, Kezar River and Cold River and adjacent watersheds located in Lovell, Stow and Stoneham.
Loon Echo Land Trust serves seven towns: Bridgton, Casco, Denmark, Naples, Harrison, Sebago and Raymond, and their efforts actually reach beyond to the 200,000 residents of Greater Portland for whom Sebago Lake is the public drinking water source.
Western Foothills Land Trust serves the Greater Oxford Hills towns of Buckfield, Harrison, Norway, Otisfield, Oxford, Paris, Sumner, Waterford and West Paris. The watersheds they protect include Lake Pennesseewassee, Thompson Lake, Crooked River and Little Androscoggin River.
The Mahoosuc Land Trust works in central Oxford County, Maine, and eastern Coos County, New Hampshire. It strives to protect the watersheds and natural communities of Albany Township, Andover, Bethel, Gilead, Greenwood, Hanover, Milton Plantation, Newry, Rumford, Shelburne, Upton and Woodstock.
Likewise, the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust crosses the border and includes the communities of western Maine and northern New Hampshire that make up the upper watershed of the Saco River. Its service area flows from the source of the Saco in Crawford Notch toward the Hiram Dam and includes Harts Location, Jackson, Bartlett, Chatham, Conway, Albany, Madison and Eaton, New Hampshire and Fryeburg, Denmark and Brownfield, Maine.
In addition to their service areas, the land trusts collaborate with each other and local lake associations. Most recently, the GLLT, LELT, WMFLT and USVLT, plus the Portland Water District have joined forces to protect the fifty-mile Crooked River. The river is the largest tributary flowing into Sebago Lake and it provides primary spawning and nursing area for one of four known indigenous populations of landlocked Atlantic salmon in Maine.
Protection is key. So is education, which develops understanding and appreciation. I know for myself, my relationship with the landscape continues to evolve. The mentors I’ve met along the way have played an important part in my involvement and caring for the environment.
All five land trusts offer numerous hikes open to everyone, providing a great way to explore and learn more about the diversity of the natural communities. Staff and volunteers lead walks, stopping frequently to share a bit of knowledge, ask questions and wonder along with the participants. These organizations also offer indoor programs featuring knowledgeable guest speakers.
I’m thankful for the work being done to protect the ecosystem. There’s so much I still don’t understand, but with each nugget of knowledge gained, the layers build. Maybe someday I’ll get it. Maybe I never will. Either way, I’m happy for the chance to journey and wonder on land trust properties.
Even though we can’t all endow the future of our properties, we can get involved to ensure that these organizations continue to protect land for future generations of humans and wildlife so it will remain in its natural state for the benefit of all.
So back to Bekoff’s book, he quotes many biologists and others as he makes the point that when we experience alienation from nature we make bad decisions including “wanton killing of wild species, clear cutting, pollution and other human impacts, and caging of nonhuman animals.”
“What we do,” writes Bekoff, “does make a difference and rewilding our hearts is about fostering and honoring our connections to one another and all life.”
After all, as evidenced in our yard each day and night when the visitors are many, we share this place with and in fact live in the world of our nonhuman neighbors. We need to figure out how to live together–and that premise is at both nonhuman and human levels since we are all interconnected in the web of life.
Though Bekoff’s focus is on nonhuman animals, I do wish he’d also addressed other forms of life, such as fungi, insects, plants, and the like.
He does list what he calls the “8 Ps of Rewilding” as a guide for action: Proactive, Positive, Persistent, Patient, Peaceful, Practical, Powerful, and Passionate. “If we keep these eight principles in mind as we engage one another and wrestle with difficult problems, no one should feel threatened or left out,” says Bekoff.
As the book continues, there are definitions provided for catch phrases such as compassionate conservation and stories of unsung heroes who have made it their life’s work to “rewild our hearts and to expand our compassionate footprint.”
Bekoff is a realist and so am I. He would love to see us all become vegetarians or vegans, but realizes we will not. He knows that it will take people time to unlearn preconceived notions, especially given that the media thrives on misrepresenting animals. He knows that his rewilding our hearts is a concept with a broad agenda.
One of my take-away thoughts was that all of local environmental organizations are working hard to create corridors and raise awareness and awe about the natural world. Of course, we could all do better. But, we’ve already got a good start on doing what Bekoff suggests: “Figure out how to foster a love of nature and other animals so that every generation sees this connection as precious and vital and worth nurturing.”
But . . . he concludes that “if we all made some simple changes to our lives, the world would soon become a more compassionate place for all beings and landscapes.
And he reminds us to be humble and able to laugh at ourselves. Yeah, so um, I was the one who stopped a small group of friends as we moved along a trail on private property because I was the first to spot a great horned owl this fall. Yeah, um. It was plastic. And a set up. I’m still laughing.
Dear readers, if you’ve read this far, you deserve a reward. I know I got a bit off track by including my own article, but I do believe that we’ve got a start on rewilding our hearts in western Maine. Yes, we have a long way to go. Let’s do this. Together!
And remember, my guy purchased this copy of Rewilding Our Hearts at Bridgton Books.
Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence by Marc Bekoff, 2014, New World Library.
Their biodegradable ornaments were mighty tasty, smeared in peanut butter and bird seed much to the good licking of birds, squirrels, and deer.
Since the first decorating party, we led a fun walk where participants adopted a scavenger hunt attitude and examined all evergreens along the way until they spotted the special tree(s). And then, because we’d packed more peanut butter and bird seed, and some of the youth had gathered pinecones on the way, we spent time creating new ornaments. That was on Saturday. By Monday, those had also disappeared.
As has been the case in the past, only the hearts cut from fallen birch bark remained.
Taking a tip from our neighbors at Western Foothills Land Trust, which is also participating in the Maine Christmas Tree Hunt, I added orange and apple slices to the tree(s) and a few higher branches.
I hope you’ll challenge yourself and your family and friends to go on the hunt.
I also hope that some of the ornaments will still be there. But if not, know that the mammals and birds are dining in style.
In fact, their style reflected in scat I found included more than the offerings we’d supplied. On this rock, it looked like the local staghorn sumac had provided some nourishment.
That wasn’t the only scat in the area. It took me a moment to realize what I was seeing atop the snow. The scat of larger birds also decorated the trail and I wondered what predators might be about.
So here’s the thing–when you go in search of the tree (or on any walk in the woods) take some time and look for scat. And while you’re at it, see what else might draw your eye in.
Maybe you’ll spy an empty sawfly cocoon.
Or one that will protect the larvae as it pupates within over the winter months.
When you go, look for the unusual among the usual. I found this pine tree snag that struck me as most intriguing. How tall had it grown before its life tumbled down?
No matter. What did matter was that its whorled limbs still reached outward in star-like fashion.
And inward as well.
Above, its kin stood tall.
When you go, make time to enjoy the scenic view opened this past summer by staff and volunteers.
When you go, look for interesting sights like this one, where one pine embraced another.
Pines typically self prune, but these two chose to keep their lower branches and snuggle together for the rest of their lives.
So close did they grow that the “arms” of the tree to the left had grafted to the tree to the right so that their hug included shared energy.
When you go, look for the other old pines along the stone wall–those that grew up when the landscape was more open and their structures could stretch out more than up.
And below them, notice the squirrel middens. I wasn’t sure there would be many middens this year since it wasn’t a mast production year and few cones had formed.
When you go, let your imagination see the discarded pine cone scales and cobs as toppings on a bowl of ice cream.
When you go, look for the amber nuggets of pine sap hardened on old bark.
When you go, if the apple slices remain on the tree(s), notice the star shape of the core.
When you go, look for all of these . . . or better yet, make your own really cool discoveries.
I do hope you’ll go to the Chip Stockford Reserve or any of the three other sights in western Maine where trees are decorated. But . . . if you can’t go here, go somewhere. And when you go . . . have fun!
The second to last episode of the Amazing Race–Our Style was upon us and we hoped it wouldn’t be the final one for us.
Today’s clue was a bit different than most. It gave us four specific locations–and much to our delight, all were within 20 minutes of home! How could we be so fortunate?
We were also given a time frame and a few other instructions. We were to arrive at our first destination at 10:30am. From that starting time, we had until 5pm to finish our tasks and send four photos to a certain website. The sooner we completed all of the tasks, except for sending the photos, the better our chances of hanging in for the final episode. The pressure was on.
One of the biggest challenges was that the photos we needed to send were selfies. We aren’t selfie fans, unless you count photos of our footwear!
Our overall mission today: to locate the four trees that had been decorated by homeschooled children and/or local land trusts. Since there were four teams left and four different properties, we were each given a different location in which to begin.
Our starting point on this very foggy morning was Western Foothill Land Trust’s Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway, Maine. As instructed, we arrived at 10:30 and made sure to stay on the snowshoe trails only, for there is also a network of groomed ski trails. The trail was long and sometimes wet, while other times icy, but we didn’t notice too much as our eyes were focused on the trees. Of course, we were occasionally distracted, such as when a downy woodpecker flew into sight.
My guy was certain he knew where the tree would be located, but . . . it wasn’t, at least as far as we could tell in the fog.
We did spy a spider web embellished with beads of water and I remembered a story based on a legend about a poor family who had no decorations for their Christmas tree. As the tale goes, while the children slept, spiders spun webs of silver around the tree’s branches. The next morning, the family awoke to a Christmas tree sparkling with silver webs. Today’s webs were such and though we hadn’t found the decorated tree I was already richer for the experience of looking.
And then . . . my guy walked right by it. I was surprised I didn’t, for we both expected a different evergreen species to be adorned.
Most of the ornaments were meant to feed the critters and we saw deer tracks in the snow.
Among the mix was a tree cookie with a wood-burned sketch–perhaps of Roberts Farm?
While my guy picked up fallen treats to rehang on the tree, I practiced my selfie skills. I was feeling confident that we could pull this off.
And when I told him that we’d have to send the photos to mainechristmastreehunt.com, he was eager to pose–and I was shocked. We tried to make sure that the tree was visible in the background.
We checked off that tree, hopped into the truck and headed to Lovell.
OK, so we knew when the clue arrived that we had a bit of an advantage for we’d been invited to join the Fairs, Farms, and Fun 4-H Group that decorated the tree at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Chip Stockford Reserve on Ladies Delight Road in Lovell a few weeks ago, and I’d just co-led a walk on the trail this past Saturday where other adults had fun looking for it. And redecorating it.
Oh well. Other teams had had different advantages during different episodes, so it was our turn.
But, the most curious thing–when we arrived . . . there were no tracks made by any of the other teams. Team Purple was supposed to begin at this point. Had she gotten lost?
Because we knew right where to go, our journey was quick and we easily relocated the tree on the one mile loop with a spur. And . . . discovered that the birds and deer had once again dined on the bird seed ornaments.
When it comes time to remove the decorations after Chrismas, the task will be super easy.
Thankfully, the subtle birch bark hearts continued to add a festive note.
And so we posed.
We did discover a new clue at the kiosk on our way in–we were to find something in the woods that represented our team. We found an H for Team Hazy.
Within the clue package, we were also told to take time to eat–at a place locals frequent. We chose Quinn’s Jockey Cap Country Store in Fryeburg and somehow managed to resist the sweet treats while we ordered sandwiches.
And then it was on to the Mountain Division Trail on Route 113 in Fryeburg to look for Upper Saco Valley Land Trust’s Andrews Preserve. There are no signs or trails at that preserve, but our adventure on Saturday had included a visit there. That’s why I couldn’t believe that this was the intended challenge for today’s episode, but all had been decided almost a year ago and it just worked out that I knew where we needed to go today. That being said, I let my guy lead.
He had a bit of help as one or two others had been that way–leaving their tracks in the snow.
And . . . he did a super job, quickly spying the tree. What I love about this scavenger hunt is that each tree has a different theme and flavor. The USVLT tree was decorated by a teen and her mom, and the teen didn’t want the animals to eat all the ornaments. Understood.
They created a pipecleaner garland and added glittery bulbs. It’s a bright spot in the middle of a thickly wooded site.
And so we posed again.
Our final destination was to Lake Environmental Association’s Pinehaven Trail at the Maine Lake Science Center on Willet Road in Bridgton. This is a place we know well for it’s practically in our backyard, but we didn’t know which tree would be decorated. And so we began our hunt, pausing briefly to remember the fun we’d had on the low elements challenge course that dots the trail. We’d actually completed that challenge one rainy day and were thankful (and surprised) we didn’t have to attempt it in the snow.
Suddenly, the decorated tree jumped out with its brightly colored garland and we rejoiced for we’d found all four trees. And still had plenty of time.
The laminated garland featured words related to LEA’s mission and activities. And so did the tree cookies, much to our liking.
And so we posed for one final time. We still aren’t great in the selfie department, but it would have to do.
Our next task before sending off the selfie photos to the website, was to create a scavenger hunt for others. You already know the four properties and their locations. Plus for each organization, I’ve included a link to their websites.
Your task, should you choose to complete it while you look for the decorated trees, is to also locate these finds.
#1: Phoebe nest protected from the weather.
#2: Shiny chrome in the forest
#3: Home for flying salamanders
#4: Wet wetland
#5: Fairy castle with many spires and towers
And finally, #6: Snowshoe snowflake!
4 trees: √
4 selfies: √
Photo to represent our team: √
Scavenger hunt for others: √
Total time to complete race: 5 hours
We finished this leg of the Amazing Race–Our Style by 3:30pm, uploaded the selfies, sent them to Maine Christmas Tree Hunt, and found out that we took first place today! Yippee. (We were sad to learn that Team Purple made some wrong turns and got delayed.)
One more leg to go in January. Who will be the winners of the Amazing Race–Our Style? Stay tuned.
The other day a sign caught our attention as we drove to Overset Mountain and we realized we had new trails to explore. But, we, or rather I, drove by so fast that we didn’t know which local organization owned the property.
If my guy read these posts he would chuckle or guffaw at my comment about driving too fast for he is of a different opinion. But suffice it to say that we didn’t read the name of the land trust on the sign and so this morning I contacted Loon Echo Land Trust because in my online research, their name was associated with the property. Maggie quickly let me know that I needed to contact Lee at Western Foothills Land Trust and violà.
Both have been involved in the Crooked River Forests Project for as is stated on the LELT website: The Crooked River has been identified as a priority for conservation as it is the largest tributary to Sebago Lake, with 38% of the inflow, and it offers local recreational opportunities and is situated above high quality sand and gravel aquifers. The river has been identified in the state’s Natural Resources Protection Act as an Outstanding River Segment with AA status; free flowing with the best water quality. This trout fishery is home to one of only four native populations of landlocked salmon in the state and is known to host one species of anadromous fish (American eel) and is thought to historically host Atlantic salmon and sea lamprey.
As I pulled up to the sign today, however, the ownership was obvious. The name, Two Bridges, was not so. The area has long been named such, and all we could imagine is that twin bridges once spanned the Crooked River in the area where we stood.
Since the parking lot was under construction, for the property won’t officially open for another two weeks, we parked on Plains Road rather than Route 117 in Otisfield.
At the start, the trail was wide and straight, and we both hoped for a change. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It was lovely and we had fun naming all the evergreens, including white and red pine, hemlock, balsam fir and red spruce, for those were the most abundant species, with a few young beech, red maples and red oaks thrown into the mix. But . . . we wanted diversity. And we wanted to walk beside the river.
Soon, thankfully, we came to a Y in the road and a new sign post, or so we imagined it to be. We chose the trail to the right since it was closer to the water.
And within minutes our reward awaited. That being said, we’d followed a spur to the riverbank and since there were no telltale pieces of flagging we suspected it won’t be marked as a public trail.
Further along, we again spent time by the river, and noted its sculptures made of decorative roots . . .
and splashes of ice.
And in the mix–a rare sight indeed: an ice disc, this one being about three or four feet in diameter and spinning in an eddy.
Eventually, the trail took us across a bridge constructed by the land trust in October 2017 that will provide the landlocked salmon and brook trout with another mile of spawning habitat.
And that’s not all. We saw plenty of evidence that mammals inhabit the space from deer . . .
to fox . . .
There were several intersections, and we kept turning toward the river, which took us along trails more to our liking as they narrowed and twisted and turned through the forest.
At one point, a tree arched over the trail and its purple crust fungi added a different color to the display. I think it was Phanerochaete crassa.
My guy pointed out the hugging cousins–a white pine and hemlock and I was reminded of my finds on Black Friday. “I knew you’d like it,” he commented. He knows me well.
Because we were in an evergreen forest, we noticed several examples of witches’ brooms. No, they were not the variety that one might have expected on Halloween night. Instead, dense masses of shoots rose from a single point on an otherwise normal branch and created a nest-like structure. Their cause: fungi, viruses, bacteria, mites or aphids.
Speaking of the latter, aphids created the cone galls we knew as witch’s hats on witch hazels that grew near the river. The little structures provided both food and shelter for the critters that developed within.
We also spied lungwort on a few hardwoods, its leafy structure springtime green as it photosynthesized in response to the flurries that floated earthward during the morning hours.
And then the forest’s canvas began to draw our attention, from snowcapped artist conk (Ganoderma applanatum) fungi . . .
to icy reflections, . . .
man-made sculptures, . . .
and dazzling trail markers. We spied another made of pipe cleaners and a soggy feather and wondered.
We didn’t walk the entire trail system, but left knowing that we’d return for further explorations.
Because we were in the neighborhood and my guy had never seen it, I drove along Plains Road to the Ryefield Bridge. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, the structure was built in 1912 as a double-intersection Warren truss bridge.
The bridge spans the Crooked River between Harrison and Otisfield and is still used today. In fact, we walked and drove across it.
One of our favorite parts was the sign at the top, which not only stated the construction company, but also honored the selectmen of the day.
My excitement about the bridge was equally matched by some prints I spotted when I stepped into the snow to take a photo from the river bank. Beaver prints! Like the ice disc in the river, beaver prints have always been a rare find. Often, I can see their pathways, but not decipher their tracks for their tails swish out the features.
But today, not only the tracks and a trail down to the water, but beaver chews, their snack sticks, left behind on the ice.
We took one final look before heading home–Crooked River framed by the bridge. And we both gave thanks on this Mondate for a land and a bridge preserved.
A couple of us were honored this morning to share the trail with ten homeschooled kids ranging in age from about four to teenagers. There was even a babe in his mom’s arms, but he choose to sleep through most of our journey as we looked for tracks at Western Foothills Land Trust’s Shepard’s Farm Preserve.
I was wowed by these kids for their knowledge about the natural world was impressive. It was obvious that they’ve spent a lot of time outside not only due to all they had observed and the stories they told me, but also because it was quite cold and they never complained.
Through a mixed forest and into the bog we searched for and followed tracks–of mice and deer.
We so wanted to see those left behind by a predator and thought for sure we would since the deer tracks were plentiful, but today that wasn’t meant to be. We did find where the deer had browsed, peed, scatted and slept.
The kids’ curiosity was for more than just tracks and so we stood in awe of a pileated woodpecker tree.
And a hornet’s nest.
The nest was flying high–on the underwing of a bird sculpture–reminiscent of a certain Tesla Roadster on a rocket.
After showing them some plaster casts of prints and my scat collection back in the parking lot, we said our goodbyes and I drove on to meet my friend, Jinny Mae.
Not long into our time together, we squealed with delight when we thought we’d made a new discovery. We found squirrel tracks that started about ten feet from any tree and as we looked at the overall pattern we noticed that there were arced lines between the sets of prints that appeared different from the lines behind the sets that we typically encounter. Our brains and hearts worked in unison and we determined that we’d found a trail left behind by a flying squirrel. It was a first for both of us. But . . . as we continued on we began to question our conclusion and we switched back to red squirrel. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was a squirrel. And maybe that’s enough.
We made our way to a beaver pond, again hopeful for interesting tracks, but our best finds were squirrel and mice. Oh, and a domestic dog and its skiing partner.
We did spy a lodge that we thought might be active, but didn’t risk the journey to check on it for we found ourselves sinking deeper than our comfort zone.
As we made our way off of the pond, a steeple bush came to our attention–its erect structure gone awry. Uh oh. Had it done something wrong?
And then we heard a pileated woodpecker that we finally spied on a distant tree. Though we both have the good fortune to see them often, we were still thrilled and amazed at its size.
Our next stop was beside the brook that flows out of the pond. I was with Jinny Mae so it was no surprise that we stood for a long time, listening and admiring.
Ice and water always fill us with wonder . . .
Shadows and textures do as well.
And not to be left out, lungwort.
The tracking wasn’t so great, but at the end of the day we’d all delighted in the discoveries and questions and understandings and connections we’d made. And the fun we’d had in doing so.
When life gives you snow–make your own impressions.
The morning began with a Greater Lovell Land Trust guided hike into the wetland of the John A. Segur West Preserve on New Road in Lovell.
Despite the cold temp, there were eleven of us along for the journey. To stay warm, we made a sort of beeline to the wetland, but stopped a few times, including to measure the straddle of mink tracks, and then to see if a shrike’s deposit we’d spotted a few weeks ago was still pinned to a tree in the log landing. It was, which wasn’t a surprise. As Dave, one of our docents commented, shrikes are not all that common here so it may have left this dinner behind before it moved on. But, we wondered–why hadn’t a blue jay or another bird taken advantage of the free meal?
From the landing, we moved on toward Bradley Brook, where we spotted tracks left behind by ruffed grouse, mink, deer, and a kazillion squirrels. But, other than the mink, no predator tracks, which was curious.
Out on the wetland, we noticed where a hare had packed the substrate and yesterday’s wind blew any soft snow away creating a raised impression.
It was there, also, that docent Dave, bent down in the background, demonstrated how a deer rubs its forehead against tree bark–leaving behind information about its health and wealth.
Our plan had been to venture further into the wetland to make more observations, but ice conditions were such that we didn’t dare. Instead, we returned to the brook and followed it back, noting ice bridges that none of us dared to cross. We left that action to the squirrels.
The John A. Segur West property was a new one on my guy’s list, and so we went with that theme and after lunch I dragged him to two other land trust properties. Our first stop was at Western Foothills Land Trust’s Robie Meadow on Scribner’s Mill Road in Harrison.
Again, given the brook that we’d have to cross, we paused and decided to enjoy the view from the edge.
Throughout the property we did note the usual squirrel tracks and red fox. As we walked beside the brook, I hoped for others that weren’t to be, but at a spot where last week on a walk co-hosted by the GLLT and WFLT, we’d noted a pathway to the water created by either coyote or fox and a bobcat traveling back and forth to the water. Today–fresh red fox tracks.
The size of individual prints, fuzzy appearance due to a hairy foot, and chevron feature of the foot pad all spoke to its maker.
As we made our way back to the road, we stopped by a kill sight discovered last weekend. The ribs and backbone of a deer reached toward the sky. And right behind–more fresh red fox tracks. The fox had paused briefly before journeying on in search of a new food source.
Our final destination was across Scribner’s Mill Road to Loon Echo Land Trust’s Crooked River Forest Preserve-Intervale. Neither of us had ventured forth on this property previously. While no true trails yet existed, the logging roads were easy to follow and we chose that route because we wanted to get down to Crooked River. As we approached the river, we realized we had traveled through a red pine plantation.
Right by the river, we discovered a white pine that had lost its terminal leader, thus allowing lower whorls to reach skyward. As my guy said, it looked like a great climbing tree–had we been so inspired. Blame it on the cold. Blame it on our age. We passed up the opportunity.
The river, so named Crooked for its meandering nature, offered a mixture of ice and open water.
And everywhere throughout the property we found evidence of red foxes, including prints and pee.
We also noted a spot where a coyote paused for a bit, so smooth and indented was the impression left behind. I threw a mitten down temporarily to give a sense of the bed size.
Though we eventually crossed over the LELT boundary, we had followed a snowmobile trail, and so we decided to see where it would lead–hopeful we wouldn’t find ourselves in someone’s back yard.
Our worries were squelched when we spied the Scribner’s Mill bridge in the distance.
And soon came up beside the old blacksmith shop.
The mill complex was built in 1847. Three generations of Scribners operated it continuously until 1962.
In its heyday, the mill produced clapboards, shingles, barrels, and lumber. The Scribner’s Mill Preservation, Inc. formed in 1975 with the mission to transform it into an accurately reconstructed saw mill powered by water.
As we stood and looked at the ads of local businesses on the long shed (including one we know intimately), we wondered about the annual “Back to the Past” Celebration that used to be held each August. During that weekend, we recalled how we’d watched the machinery at work. The lathe workshop and the blacksmith shop were also open. Tours of the homestead included exhibits and demonstrations of traditional crafts such as weaving, spinning, rug-hooking and quilting.
Today, all was idle. Except for the water.
It swirled by, carrying memories of the past into the future.
And we gave thanks for the opportunity to visit properties owned by three different local land trusts who do the same as they carry memories of the past forward for future generations.
Land trusts work with community members to acquire land for permanent conservation through purchases and donations. They also create legal and binding conservation easements that allow residents to protect land holdings in perpetuity, while retaining private ownership. Scenic views, wildlife corridors, flora and fauna, and topography remain, subject only to the whims of nature itself, which is ever-changing.
Conserving the land doesn’t mean it can’t be touched. The organizations develop management plans and steward the land. Timber harvesting, farming, residency and recreation continue, while specific wildlife habitat, wetlands, unique natural resources and endangered or rare species are protected. And in the process, they strengthen our towns. Ultimately, they give us a better sense of our place in Maine and opportunities to interact with the wild.
Our local land trusts offer numerous hikes open to everyone, providing a great way to explore and learn more about the diversity of the natural communities.
Even though we can’t all endow the future of our properties, we can get involved to ensure that these organizations continue to protect land for future generations of humans and wildlife.
This morning found me joining two fellow Maine Master Naturalists for a reconnaissance mission along a property I’d never explored before–nor heard of until about a month ago.
Robie’s Meadow is located on Scribner’s Mill Road in Harrison and owned by the Western Foothills Land Trust. Our plan was to explore the meadow in preparation for an upcoming WFLT/GLLT guided hike planned for Saturday, January 27 from 9:30-12:30. For the GLLT, it’s rather like a pop-up event, since we had planned it after our regular winter schedule was published. But, that’ll make it more fun because it will be an unexpected opportunity to explore in a neighboring town.
Once we climbed up over the snowbank this morning, we were immediately greeted with tracks. And then, we spied something else on the snow.
Scat! Rather large scat. By the size of it, we surmised coyote. But . . . a few measurements of prints and . . .
a sniff that consisted of a musky, skunky odor made us rethink our conclusion. A red fox had most definitely left its calling card behind.
In fact, as we continued on, we realized that it had left many calling cards–in hopes of attracting some attention. The size of that scat, however, continued to haunt us for it was much larger than fox scat should have been. Perhaps we misread some of the fox tracks, for we thought two had traveled the same route, but was it really fox and coyote? We do know that they were made about the same time, given the snow conditions. And so, our best guess was that the deposit was made by a member of the Canidae family. With that conclusion we felt safe.
We were so distracted by the tracks we kept finding and following, that it took us a while to cross the right-of-way to the actual land trust property, but at last–success.
The meadow opened before us, covered as it was with morning shadows.
As much as we wanted to explore it, Russell Brook was open in spots and the snow deep, and so we decided to follow the brook for a bit instead.
Breaking trail wasn’t always easy, given the depth of the snow, but Alice persevered for she knew the way, and Joan and I followed.
Finally, we reached a point where we could cross and just beyond our reach we spied tracks. How we wanted them to be otter or some other member of the weasel family. Alas, when we reached the other side, we discovered it was the red fox yet again. It always amuses me how a critter becomes “our” critter when we begin to encounter signs of it with frequency and so this was “our red fox.”
We were a bit disappointed that though we’d seen weasel tracks toward the beginning of our adventure, no other members of the mustelid family shared their presence. Instead, it was to red squirrels that we next turned our attention.
And Alice gave us a new insight. I’ve always said that snowshoe hare prints remind me of lobsters. Well, today she pointed out the fact that squirrel tracks look like Batman’s mask. I will never look at squirrel tracks the same again.
We found squirrel homes tucked under logs and trees.
And one very fancy squirrel condo with plenty of openings on different levels. It reminded Joan and me of a certain porcupine condominium (aka stump dump) on a property under conservation easement in Lovell.
Speaking of porcupines, I kept commenting that we were in porcupine habitat and hadn’t seen any signs. Until . . . we did. And when we return, we’ll do some backtracking in search of its den or feeding tree(s).
We continued our journey, seeing much the same along the way. At last, we turned right onto a snowmobile trail where we followed turkey tracks out to the road. Our time together had drawn to a close, but we’re excited about the possibilities for the hike on January 27th. Check out both land trusts’ websites soon for more details.
After saying goodbye to Joan and Alice, my outdoor experience continued, this time with an after-school nature program the Greater Lovell Land Trust offers to kids at the New Suncook School. Today, Kathy M. joined me and showed the kids how to create pinecone bird feeders using pinecones, peanut butter and bird seed. Both Meg, the Lovell Recreation Director, and I were excited because our group had swelled to nine. And the next time we meet, we believe we’ll have one more young naturalist join us, bringing our number to its limit.
O. smiled as he showed off the peanut butter he’d slathered onto the cone.
C. looked ready to eat hers, while Kathy patiently helped tied string around D.’s cone.
K. proudly showed off a finished creation.
And then we headed off into the sunset via snowshoes and skis.
And on a trail behind the school playground, fresh deer tracks made us happy. We showed the kids how to look at the heart-shape of the cloven toes and know that the bottom of the heart indicated the direction of travel.
As we tramped along the trail examining tracks, we took time to hang the bird feeders. We’ll be curious to look at them when we meet again in two weeks. Today we wondered about who, besides birds, might visit them. Many bets were on deer and squirrels.
The trail behind the school leads out to the power line and snowmobile trail, where again, we found many deer tracks.
We’d gone a ways when we realized we needed to turn around and head back to school. But first, it was time for a group photo of happy campers.
With smiles from all levels.
Our after school group is called the Trailblazers. And K. took the time to illustrate what we’d done last week. Note the square with the tall person standing up and two smaller people on the ground with their snowshoes in the air. Last week, snowshoeing was a bit of a challenge for them, but this week they embraced the concept.
From beginning to end, my day was bookmarked by land trust trailblazers. How happy am I? Extremely. Perhaps the happiest camper of all.
Yesterday was Father’s Day and so I asked the question first, “Where are we hiking tomorrow?” My intention was that it would be a gift for him to choose. But only moments later I announced that I had a suggestion–he didn’t have to accept it, of course.
I’d learned that the Western Maine Foothills Land Trust had cut a trail at the Noyes Mountain Preserve in preparation for their 30th Anniversary in July. And since one of our recent Maine Master Naturalist grads, Kelly Hodgkins, now works for the land trust and used this mountain for her capstone project, I wanted to visit it.
So much for letting my guy choose. But he appreciated the thought and agreed on our destination. And so mid-morning today, we drove to Greenwood–the birthplace of LL Bean. We honored him well for our hiking pants, boots and bag were all Bean products.
Kelly had told me to follow Richardson Hollow Road for 1.5 miles and then to look for a small parking lot on the left. We located it easily, but parked on the road instead because a few vehicles were in the spot. Apparently we weren’t the only ones eager to make the climb despite the mugginess of the day. We actually met the parties as we headed up and they descended. People and dogs–all sporting smiles.
A mowed path crossed the field where daisies and buttercups and hawkweed grew among the grasses. We began to develop a sense of the land’s former use, especially as we spied stonewalls through the trees.
And then we moved into a hardwood forest and the upward climb began. Kelly had warned me that the trail was rough cut, but flagged. And a gentleman on the way down said they’d gotten off track for a bit when they didn’t make a turn because they were looking down and missed the flagging. Thanks to that word of caution, we made sure to always look for the next piece of tape and had nary an issue.
I looked down as well. That’s where I saw striped maple samaras maturing as they rested upon a leaf,
a narrow beech fern arched over the ground, with its lowest pinnae unconnected by wings as those above it and drooping downward,
and common fleabane sending forth cheerful rays of lavender from its composite disk.
I was actually surprised to only meet one young American toad as it seemed a place where the ground should have been hopping with many more.
On a red pine snag a red-belted polypore looked a bit old and tired.
And then suddenly, the community changed and we faced a moss-covered ledge where the trail turned to the left.
When the trail widened a bit, we noticed a frame and realized it was meant to protect the lady’s slipper within. And so we bowed and curtseyed in her honor.
That’s when we realized we weren’t the only ones paying attention–perhaps the spider wanted to see if the slipper fit.
Again, we continued to climb, but noted that the community changed again and we were in the land of evergreens and blueberries as we reached for the summit. A flower I wasn’t familiar with kept asking to be noticed–and so I did and later keyed it out to be a northern crane’s-bill.
Then we saw a path not cleared, but with a tag wrapped around a tree limb. And another beyond that. Should we follow it? It looked like it led to the ledges that were supposed to offer a view. We decided to stay on the trail with dangling tape, though as it dipped downward and to the right we questioned our decision–until it swung around to the left and we realized we were possibly looping around. We hoped.
It was along that section that the corporals joined us, in this case the browner version, which is a female.
And an American emerald dragonfly, with its metallic green eyes and a narrow yellow ring around the base of its abdomen, took time out from hunting duties to pose. Speaking of dragonflies, while we celebrated their presence, we also noted that there were no mosquitoes. A few deer flies sang in our ears. Was it the wind that kept the mosquitoes away? There were certainly wet spots here and there on the mountain.
Our wonders continued with the red fruit of swamp-fly honeysuckle and . . .
a sweet patch of twinflowers.
And then, about an hour after we’d started, we stepped into a small clearing with a view. Well, you know who got there first and was waiting when I arrived.
While he looked at Norway Lake (Lake Penneseewassee), I looked around at the plants that grew there as more dragonflies darted about.
The summit offerings included staghorn sumac and . . .
pink corydalis, plus yellow hawkweed, yarrow and others I can’t remember now.
When we were ready to leave, we noticed more orange flagging and another trail leading down. So . . . we followed it.
We could see the ledge above, but weren’t sure what was in store for us next.
The rock face was steep and had a certain look to it, as if it had been worked.
Rounding the final corner, we both knew what to expect, but first, another flower. There were many flowers on that spur trail and I knew I had to save them for another day. But this one stood out against the rock face and strongly resembled the northern crane’s-bill I’d spied occasionally on the way up. If my ID is correct, this species is a mountain crane’s-bill.
And we were in the Harvard Quarry. According the Western Foothills Land Trust page about the preserve, “Historically the land, which is in Greenwood, was owned by the Stevens family and included a through road north to from Norway to Greenwood (from the Upton Brothers Road to the Hayes Road). In 1869 Ethel Stevens sold the land to Isaac Noyes.
Isaac Noyes became interested in the site’s pegmatitic outcroppings in the late 1880′s. In 1892 the ledge was opened for the first time and became a mecca for scientists and collectors alike, offering one of the most complex mineralized pegmatites in Maine. Mineral operations on the mountain were opened by Isaac’s 6th cousin George Lorenzo (“Shavey”) Noyes and Tim Heath about 1894. Tourmaline was first recorded from the locale about 1904 and over the years the green color found at this location has become known as “Harvard Green.”
The granite pegmatites Noyes collected were largely preserved and passed into the possession of the Harvard Museum, together with the lease of the property, in 1917. In the summer of 1923 active quarrying was undertaken by the Harvard Mineralogical Department under the supervision of Harvard University student Kenneth K. Landes for Landes’ dissertation, Paragenesis of the Granitic Pegmatites of Central Maine (American Mineralogist, 1925, v. 10, p. 355-411). Loren B. Merrill of Paris and Arthur Valley undertook most of the actual excavation for Landes at the site.
Currently Frank Perham owns the 1-acre Harvard quarry, which remains open to the public in addition to mineral rights on 60 acres.”
The site is also mentioned in A Collector’s Guide to Maine Mineral Localities.
It all began to make sense for toward the beginning of the spur we saw a steel box in the woods–perhaps it once held dynamite for the mining operation. And within the quarry were old tires and hoses. All relics that I hope will remain for they tell the story.
And on the rock face, I saw a face of one who will watch over all to make sure those relics never leave. (Unless the land trust thinks otherwise, that is.) Do you see it? There’s an eye with eye lashes, a bulbous nose and an angular chin.
We didn’t stay long because thunder rumbled and we knew strong winds and rain were in the forecast.
As we skidaddled down the mountain, we gave thanks to Kelly for sharing the location with us and for the future programs she’ll plan so others may appreciate this place. And we were grateful to the land trust for working hard to protect the land for now and ever.
Our Mondate on Noyes Mountain came to an end as raindrops the size of lady’s slippers splatted against our windshield. We left, however, knowing this place is well worth a return visit–probably more than one.
Following a cart path that led away from the main trail at Shepard’s Family Farm Preserve in Norway, Maine, today, Master Naturalist Jackey Bailey and I suddenly found ourselves in an undulating field of wooden sculptures.
Our intrigue was instant. Recycled and found wood transformed into artwork. I’d seen two of the sculptures before, but had somehow missed the other four that graced this property. The first on our tour–“Birdhouses,” their eyes hollowed out for entry; and faces reminiscent of fellow travelers on our Earth journey.
“Birds” also gave us pause as we admired motion.
And nearby, “Cat.” It struck me that “Birds” flew toward the “Birdhouses,” while “Cat” sat nearby, much the same as the neighborhood cats frequent our birdfeeders at home.
I’d previously visited with “Mrs. Noah,” but our reverence today was just the same as we watched her gather feathered friends two-by-two.
“Bird in Flight” offered a sense of movement through its feather-tipped wings.
And finally, “Owl.” Of all, this was my least favorite because the wise old predator appeared mad with the world. But then, he had all the wisdom and perhaps he really was not happy with what he saw and knew.
All of these were the creations of artist Bernard Langlais. According to The Langlais Art Trail Web site: “Despite his commercial success, by the mid-1960s Langlais became disenchanted by the pressures of New York gallery culture. Interested in working on a larger scale, he purchased a farmhouse in Cushing (Maine) and moved permanently to his native state. In the last eleven years of his life, he constructed more than sixty-five monumental wood sculptures on the land around his home, including his best-known commission, the over seventy-foot-tall Indian for the town of Skowhegan, Maine. During this period he also produced a massive oeuvre of two- and three-dimensional works exploring the patterns, textures, and expressive powers of the animal kingdom.”
These sculptures and others at the Roberts Farm Preserve are on loan to Western Foothills Land Trust through The Kohler Foundation of Colby College.
As Jackey and I noted, it was a totally different take on the natural world. Art made of wood, much of it repurposed, and left to the elements. Worth a wonder.
Soon after, we parted paths. I journeyed home and felt instantly drawn to take a look at the sculpture park behind our home where nature’s artwork is always on display and frequently offers an opportunity to reflect upon the relationship between man and nature.
The sun highlighted one of the many tree stumps that spoke to logging operations and demonstrated the process of returning from whence it once came as lichens and mosses and balsam saplings took advantage of nutrients offered.
Other cut stumps reminded me of the circular movement leading toward the center of a labyrinth–appearing quick and easy, and yet providing a time to slow down while following the path.
In some ways, the target fungi that attacks Red Maples, demonstrated a similar pattern and journey.
Because I’d discovered it last year, I knew where to look for the Orange Mock Oyster mushroom (Phyllotopsis nidulans), and found the underside gills to be equally contemplative.
Then a different look–another take on birds in flight; these sewn into paper birch bark slowly decaying on the ground. Do you see them?
Ice needles offered the most temporary of sculptures that spoke to frost slowly invading the surface soil.
Ice formed around fallen leaves never ceased to amaze me.
And the ultimate in Man and Nature and Art forms had to be the powerline appearing to lead to Mount Washington, where snow swirled in the wind.
But of all that I saw today, it was the eyeglasses on one of the “Birdhouses” that caught my whimsy the most. I only wish a bird had paused to pose.
Manmade, Naturemade, Manmade with Nature, Naturemade with Man–there’s no denying the beauty of the art of nature.
My guy happens to be Irish so it seemed only appropriate that I propose to him today following the example that St. Brigid set when she struck a deal with St. Patrick. Yes, we’ve been married for 25+ years, but I proposed anyway.
In her book, Hikes and Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION, my friend Marita Wiser states that the preserve was “farmed by the Pike and Roberts family for 200 years.” She adds, “The property was purchased by the Western Foothills Land Trust in 2007.”
Though the trails are mostly maintained for Nordic skiers, we didn’t see any today.
Had it been open to skiers, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did–follow the network of trails around the perimeter of the property.
We’d only walked a few feet when I had to pause–the burnt cornflake look of black cherry bark insisted upon being noticed.
Visiting here a couple of times previously, one of the things I’d come to like about it is the opportunity to gush over Northern white cedar bark.
I love its red-brown color, sheddy strips that intersect in diamond formations and habit of spiraling left and then right with age. In his book BARK, Michael Wojtech states of the cedar: “In the 1500s, the native Iroquois showed French explorers how to prevent scurvy using a tea made from the bark, which contains vitamin C. The name arborvitae means ‘tree of life.'”
Equally beautiful are its flat sprays of braided, scale-like leaves.
Since I’m on the topic of tree bark, I have two others to share, including this one–the red inner bark of Northern Red Oak made a stunning statement.
Displaying its shaggy presentation was the hop hornbeam.
My heart leaped (appropriate movement for today) when I saw these papery fruits on the ground–hop hornbeam is named for its fruiting structures that resemble hops.
Stone walls crisscross the preserve and provide evidence of its former use as a dairy farm.
Barbed wire adds to the story.
Installed long ago, this tree formed a grimace in response.
Along the edge of some walls stand much happier trees–those that were allowed to grow tall and wide in the sun, like this Eastern white pine. Perhaps it provided a bit of shade for Roberts’ Jerseys.
The land was farmed until 1968. Since then, it returned to woodland, was sold and logged and sold another time–finally to the land trust. Generational gaps are visible throughout. This is the perfect place to take some youngsters and ask them to locate a white pine that matches their age.
We cross several streams that I’m sure sustained the farm and its inhabitants. Today, they sustain the wildlife that wanders here, including deer.
We realized there had been a recent turkey trot and
Birds also have played a major role in this community. This pileated woodpecker-created condominium has been around for a while.
From the trail, I spied the largest pile of wood chips I’ve ever seen and of course, had to investigate.
The old beech was recently excavated for new condos.
Below, the wood chip pile was a couple of inches deep.
The best part–lots of scat cylinders filled with insect body parts. Good stuff to see.
Pileated woodpeckers aren’t the only ones in the building industry.
I think you’d agree that Quinn and Mike did a fabulous job constructing this birdhouse.
In several open areas we spotted the winter display of common mullein.
Its crowded performance of two-parted capsules atop a tall, fuzzy stem made it easy to identify.
The pointed prickly bracts of thistles also offered a winter show.
Lungwort tried to hide on the backside of an ash tree, but I found it. I only wish we’d had rain, or better yet, snow, recently, because I love the neon green that it becomes once it is wet.
Be careful what you wish for. Though the day was sunny at the start, it began to rain as we ate our sandwiches on lunch rock overlooking Lake Pennesseewassee, aka Norway Lake.
It wasn’t a downpour, but enough that it encouraged us to eat quickly and move on.
Well, I didn’t move far. Within steps, I found a shrub I was seeking yesterday–beaked hazelnut.
It’s a member of the birch family and features catkins–the male flowers that will release pollen this spring to fertilize the shrub’s delicate red female flowers.
Another quick find–Christmas fern–one pinnae topped with a birch fleur de lis.
Typically, during the winter there is only one trail open to hikers. Today, however, we figured it would be OK to walk on the ski trails because they are either icy or bare. It was definitely a micro-spike kind of day, which has been more the norm this year.
Other than birds and squirrels, we saw no wildlife. But we did stumble upon the “Painted Cows” created by Bernard Langlais in 1974 and gifted to the land trust by Colby College and the Kohler Foundation.
We had planned to explore the inner network of trails, but the cold raindrops drove us out. Despite that, I think my guy enjoyed himself as much as I did. And he was extremely patient each time I paused. Sometimes he even gave me a heads up–I took that to mean he didn’t mind that I had to stop, wonder and photograph. This is one Leap Date I hope we don’t forget.