Seeing Red

I wander through the same woods on a regular basis, sometimes following old logging roads and other times bushwhacking through the understory–a mix of young conifers and hardwoods that are slowly reclaiming their territory. Always, there are water holes to avoid as this is a damp area, so damp that in another month I probably will have to curb some of my wandering habits because it will become difficult to navigate.

h-maleberry-buds

But it’s that same water that gives life to the flora and fauna that live therein, such as the buds on the maleberry shrub. Notice how downy the twig is. And the bright red bud waiting patiently within two scales–preparing for the day when it will burst forth with life.

h-maleberry-pods

On the same shrub exists evidence of last year’s flowers, now capsules reddish-brown and five-celled in form.

h-red-maple-buds

And like the maleberry buds, the red maples buds grow more global each day, some with three scales of protective covering and others more.

h-snowflakesbuds

Today was a day of contrasts, from sunshiney moments to snow squalls, as well as greens to reds, tossed in with a mix of browns and grays.

h-moose-scrape

Continuing my venture, I soon realized I wasn’t the only one enjoying red. The moose and deer with whom I share this place, also find it a color of choice–especially the bark of young red maple trees.

h-moose-scrape-2

As I looked at the tree trunks, I could sense the motion of the moose’s bottom incisors scraping upward and then pulling against its hard upper palate to rip the bark off. Everywhere I turned, the maples showed signs of recent scrapes.

h-moose-rub

Less frequently seen were antler rubs such as this one, where the middle was smoothed by the constant motion and the upper and lower ends frayed. Such finds offer noted differences between a scrape and rub–the former has tags hanging from the upper section only and the teeth marks stand out, while the latter often features a smooth center with the ragged edges at top and bottom. But . . . like us, nature isn’t perfect and not everything is textbook, so I often have to pay closer attention.

h-moose-bedscat

I saw more than red and so I could hardly resist a moose bed filled with scat and urine. I’m always in awe of the sense of size and again I saw motion, of this large mammal laying down to take a rest and perhaps a few hours later, getting its feet under itself to rise again, do its duty and move on to browse some more.

h-witch-hazel-scattered

Deer tracks were even more numerous than moose and the solidness of the snow allowed them to travel atop the crust. At one point I spied something I didn’t recall seeing before–witch hazel capsules decorating the snow.

h-witch-hazel-pod

At this time of year, these grayish tan capsules persist on the trees, but their work was completed in the fall when they expelled their two glossy black seeds.

h-witch-hazel-bud-nibbled

Ruffed grouse, wild turkeys and snowshoe hare like witch hazel buds. As do deer, who rip them off in the same fashion as a moose and leave a tag behind–as a signature.

h-witch-hazel-bud

Not all were eaten–yet. Notice these buds, ensconced in dense reddish/yellowish/brown hairs rather than the waxy scales of the maleberry and maple. And the shape extending outward from the twig, almost in scalpel-like fashion. Yeah, I was still seeing a hint of red.

h-witch-hazel-flower-bracts

If I wanted to carry my red theme to the extreme, I could say that the bright yellow bracts that formed the base of the former flowers were framed in red, but really, it’s more of a hairy light tan along their rims. Eventually, the bracts will develop into seed capsules and next autumn they’ll be the ones to shoot their seeds with a popping sound. We always talk about that sound and refer to Henry David Thoreau for as far as I know he was the one to first hear it. This past fall, a friend tried this and like Thoreau, he was awakened during the night by the seeds being forcibly expelled. (Credit goes to Bob Katz for that experiment.)

h-british-soldiers

Back to red. Under the hemlocks where the deer had traveled, I was looking at some mosses when these bright red soldiers showed their cheery caps–it’s been a while since I’ve seen British Soldier lichens, most of it buried beneath the snow.

h1-red-oak-bark

As I headed toward home, a red oak beside the cowpath asked to be included. It seems in winter that the rusty red inner bark stands out more in the landscape, making the tree easy to identify. Of course, don’t get confused by the big tooth aspen, which slightly resembles a red oak at the lower level, but a look up the trunk suddenly reveals similarities to a birch.

h1-acorn-cap

Many of the acorns have been consumed after such a prolific year, but their caps still exist and the color red was exemplified within the scales.

h1-icicles

Back at the homestead, I walked by the shed attached to the barn where icicles dripped–again speaking to this day. By that time the snow squalls had abated and sun shone warmly, but a brisk wind swirled the snow in the field into mini whirling dervishes. My cheeks were certainly red.

h-cardinal

My red adventure was completed at the bird feeder. A happy ending to scenes of red.

 

 

 

 

Work-date Mondate

Sometimes we just have to settle down and work. Thus was the case today, when my guy and I drove to camp to winterize it and put some boats away.

camp

I helped. Honest, I did. I hauled some of the plexi-glass for the porch up from the basement. And held the plexi-glass in place. And handed him bunches of screws and washers. And lifted the back end of the kayaks. And rolled up the hammock.

PM 2

But mostly, I played with my camera.

fall at camp

Recording the season is also important work.

PM 1

And I figured out how to get my telephoto lens to work again.

 no. red oak 2

I was thrilled to focus on the scenes before me, including these Northern red oak leaves

huckleberry leaves

and those of the huckleberries.

island 1

My lens caught the island views,

leaves on water

leaf tapestry,

loon 2

and loons in action.

witch hazel 1witch hazel nuts

And I couldn’t pass up the flowering witch hazel with its fruits forming. This is a shrub that knows all about work–whether as a divining rod to locate underground water or an extract with healing powers.

So you see, my guy and I both worked on this Mondate.

Embracing Splashes of Color

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

morning light red maple swamp

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

Jon, LELT

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

view from Bald Pate

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

Peabody Pond & Sebago Lake

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

splash of color

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

Muddy River

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

witch hazel flowers, Holt Pond

pitcher plants

button bush, Holt Pond

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

Holt Pond Red Maple Swamp

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

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

 bear claw 2 bear claw and nectria

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

 Mama Beech Whiting Hill

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

color contrast

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

whiting view 2

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

red maple splendor

One red maple was particularly dazzling.

red oak, subtle color

This northern red oak provides a much more subtle hue,

ash leaf

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

bees on goldenrod, Whiting Hill

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

yellow-greens of striped maple

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

striped maple leaves

with their yellow-green leaves.

Indian cucumber root fading

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

splash of yellow greensplash of color2

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

Questions To Be Asked

A friend and I drove to Evans Notch today with the mission of exploring a trail that was new to us. The Leach Link Trail connects Stone House Road to the Deer Hill trail system.

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We started at Stone House Road and turned back at the Cold River Dam. Not a long trail, certainly. And rather flat for the most part. Despite that . . . it took us four hours to cover 2.4 miles. You might say we stopped frequently.

There was a lot to see along this enchanted path. And questions to be asked.

CB 2

We walked beside the Cold River as we passed through hemlock groves and mixed hardwoods covered with a myriad of mosses and liverworts.

lungwort

Because it had rained last night, Lungwort, an indicator of rich, unpolluted areas, stood out among the tree necklaces. Why does it turn green when wet?

water strider

The shadow of the water strider tells its story. To our eyes, it looks like their actual feet are tiny and insignificant. What we can’t see is the  fuzzy little hairs that both repel water and trap tiny air bubbles, thus allowing them to float or skate along the water’s surface. But still, why is the foot shadow so big while the body shadow is more relative to the strider’s size? Is it the movement of the foot against the water that creates the shadow?

bobcat

While the river was to our right on the way to the dam, we noted ledges on the left. Prime habitat for the maker of this print: bobcat. You might be able to see nail marks in front of the toes. We always say that cats retract their nails, but in mud like this, traction helps.

bobcat & coyote

A little further along we discovered the bobcat was still traveling in the same direction and a coyote was headed the opposite way. What were they seeking? What was the difference in time of their passing?

CR4

Periodically, we slipped off the trail to explore beside the river.

WH 3

Ribbony witchhazel blossoms brightened our day–not that it was dark.

grasshopper 1

We weren’t the only ones taking a closer look at hobblebush.

hobblebush berries

As its leaves begin to change from green to plum, the berries mature and transform from red to dark blue. Will they get eaten before they all shrivel? We think they’ll be consumed by birds and mammals.

doll's eye

Most of the “doll’s eye” fruit is missing from this white baneberry. The archaic definition of “bane” is something, typically poison, that causes death. I’ve read that  ingesting the berries can bring on symptoms such as stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, delirium and circulatory failure. Think: respiratory distress and cardiac arrest. YIKES. So what may have eaten these little white eyeballs? Wildlife may browse it, but it’s said to be quite unpalatable and low in nutrition. Interestingly, birds are unaffected by its toxic qualities.

Indian Cucumber root

Berry season is important to migrating birds. The purplish black berries of Indian Cucumber-root are only consumed by birds. Other animals, however, prefer the stem and cucumberish-flavored root of this double decker plant. Why does the center of the upper whorl of leaves turn red? Is this an advertisement for birds?

state line

Soon, well, not all that soon, we arrived at the state line and passed onto Upper Saco Valley Land Trust property.

dam 3

And then we came upon the dam.

dam 2

It was the perfect day to sit on the rocks and eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich–with butter.

 tree face

As we walked back toward Stone House Road, we realized we were being watched. Perhaps this tree muse has all the answers.

Thanks to P.K. for a delightful wander and a chance to wonder together.