To all those interested in the natural world. Please add your sightings.

In the woods we return to reason and faith-Emerson


Sunday, October 23, 2011

10.23.11 Raccoons often come to my garden and yard foraging for dropped fruit and whatever else they can find. These tracks were made last night, probably on their way to look for apples.

Now the leaves are falling, the nests of baldfaced hornets are easier to see. This one, about the size of a basketball, is about 30 feet off the ground. Foxes, raccoons, and skunks looking for larvae to eat will tear apart the nest if it's near the ground. Constructed at the end of a small branch in the top of a maple tree, this nest will be protected from those predators unless a severe wind knocks it down. Birds sometimes use the nest 'paper' in constructing their own nests in the spring.

Monday, October 17, 2011

10.17.11 It's that time of year: as I walked through woods populated with many robust red oak and beech in varying stages of vigor, the ground was littered with acorn caps and the prickly burs of beechnuts, many opened in their three-part symmetry. I was thoroughly scolded by a tail-shaking gray squirrel that skittered back and forth on a high branch of a white pine. A chipmunk peered from the hole in a dead beech where it was storing nuts. We observed each other for several unblinking minutes as it tried to sneak away to get on with business. As soon as my gaze shifted, the chipmunk was gone. This beech snag is host to Tinder polypore, (Fomes fomentarius) the gray hoof-like fungus and a number of other fungi, in addition to providing a storage chamber for this chipmunk.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

10.16.11 We've been learning about and looking for Woolly Hemlock Adelgids for a couple years because their alien origin leaves them in our environment without natural predators, thus they're free to multiply and spread and cause the eventual death of Hemlock trees. The Woolly Alder Aphid pictured here feeds, reproduces, and multiplies in much the same way as the Woolly Hemlock Adelgid; however, it doesn't get out of control because it has native predators that keep it in check. Like many other aphids, this aphid is tended by ants which benefit from the "honeydew" that they produce. The sap the aphids suck from the host is primarily sugars; to get enough protein for reproduction, the aphid consumes more sugar than they need, and honeydew is produced to get rid of this excess. The honeydew is what causes the black, sooty deposit on surfaces below the aphids.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

10.15.11 Sun has been in short supply lately, so a walk into the woods in sun was irresistible. Among the fallen leaves, I noted this mushroom with its margin rolled back, filled with rain water. The warty growths on the surface gave the appearance of a gem-studded urn. I've tentatively identified it as Scleroderma aurantium; if anyone can positively identify it, please let me know! Along a noisy, leaf-littered stream, the witch-hazel shrub is coming into bloom, just as its leaves are turning yellow and dropping. Hamamelis virginiana blossoms in the fall; it is unusual in that flower, fruit, and next year's leaf buds appear simultaneously on the branches.