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

In the woods we return to reason and faith-Emerson


Monday, April 30, 2012

4.30.12    The flower of the Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra) looks like a white golf ball from a distance.  A close-up view reveals a nosegay of small white flowers; each of which has four narrow white petals nearly obscured by an explosion of white stamens.  These flowers do not produce any nectar to attract pollinators; pollination is achieved by bees that collect the pollen as a food source for developing larvae.  By mid-summer, the plant puts on the display it is named for: the shiny red berries that contrast with the dark green foliage.  Don't be tempted to sample the attractive wares; the whole plant, especially roots and berries, contain a poisonous cardiac glycoside. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Prospect Hill Trail walk

4.29.12    Chokecherries that have been cut back in the clearing at the top of the hill are starting to blossom at a height of two feet.  The clusters of blossoms will become drooping clusters of shiny red  fruit in the fall.  Foliage and flowers have a distinctive sweet-sour aroma.  Birds eat the fruit and scatter the seeds. 

                On the way back down the trail, we encountered numerous clusters of Long-spurred Violets (Viola rostrata).  Unlike the great spurred violet, these are "stemmed" violets: leaves and flowers arise from the same stalk.  There is no bearding on any of the petals of this violet.  Beards: short, stiff hair-like protrusions may appear variously on one or more petals near the throat of the flower and are said to assist pollinating insects in getting nectar or to prevent rain or dew from entering and diluting the nectar.  The beardless Long-spurred violets turn their heads toward the ground at night and on cloudy days, thus avoiding moisture. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Robin's-Plantain and Robin's nest

4.28.12    Until recently when robins have taken up winter residence, the appearance of robins was heralded as a sure sign of spring.  Likewise,  probably the earliest of the aster family to bloom,  Robin's plantain (Erigeron pulchellus) is a sign of spring and is said to be named for the bird.  Its many-rayed pale violet flowers top a short stalk that emerges from a rosette of basal leaves.  Robin's plantain spreads by runners whereas most other erigerons are seed-sown. 
         While robins are cherished for their cheerful cherr-up, their early arrival, and handsome red(ish) breast, they certainly can't be called fastidious nest-builders.  It will take some cleaning to get this bike back in service. 

This morning an Eastern Black Swallowtail basked on a rock, warming its flight muscles enough to get airborne.
In the afternoon there was enough solar gain to coax forth the gold of a few Common Cinquefoil flowers.
Despite the cool weather, spring is tilting slowly toward summer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Even on an overcast afternoon, Painted Trillium shines! John

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Among the plants flowering today were Hobblebush and Rose Twisted-Stalk. And the red and yellow symmetry of Columbine blossoms made a picture too good to pass up.

Monday, April 23, 2012

4.23.12    What a difference a shower makes!  A few days ago when I visited this roadside plant, it was so covered in tan dust, it would have been difficult to discern the color of its blossoms.  The whorl of hooded flowers of the Wood-Betony, a.k.a. Lousewort, (Pedicularis canadensis) are yellow, reddish, or a combination of the two, above deeply toothed, hairy leaves.  One source reports that pedicularis comes from Latin pediculus, meaning "louse".  An Old-English belief was that cows that ate this plant became infested with lice.   I didn't take a chance on tasting it! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Today Dwarf Ginsing, Foam Flower, Marsh Blue Violet and White Baneberry could all be found in flower along Camp Arden Road.
European Mountain Ash held up its domed umbrels of white blossoms along the river bank.
A Red Eft went wandering.
And a shed Northern Red Oak twig, complete with flower and new leaflets served as a reminder that all wildflowers are not to be found underfoot!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mating toads were trilling in the West River this morning, while along the water's edge, Wood Anemone was in flower.
As the day warmed, Red-tailed Bumblebees fed on wild strawberry flowers in the upland fields, and Pine Elfin Butterflies fed on Field Pussytoes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Golden Alexanders is flowering along the roadsides. Cowspips spangled a Newfane swamp this afternoon. In a local swamp Goldthread (pictured) dotted hummocks under hemlock trees.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Red-necked False Blister Beetle

4.15.12 Which benefits more - the insect or the plant? Plants are a source of nourishment for insects and in return, insects assist in the pollination of flowers, one step in the reproduction process. The Red-necked False Blister Beetle (two of them on the Trout lily) and one cruising the leaves on Wild oats, feeds on pollen and leaves of herbacious plants and is a pollinator of these spring ephemerals.

4.15.12 What a treat to see this porcupine today. These animals are waddlers: their two right feet advance in unison, and then they step forward with both left feet. Waddlers, including skunk, bear, opossum, and raccoons are wide-bodied animals that don't need to depend on speed for their defense. Note the raised quills on the back of this porcupine advertising its defense weapons. It waddled to the stone wall, clambered over, and stopped at the base of a 10-inch hemlock, one front foot poised to begin its ascent - if it seemed necessary.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Broad-winged hawks are back. One was circling over a nearby field today. Several tree swallows were squabbling over my bird boxes and hawking insects overhead. And on a few sun seeking branches, shadbush opened flowers.

Friday, April 13, 2012

4.13.12 The list of this sunny morning's observations includes nine painted turtles sunning on a partially submerged log; wood frog egg clusters the size of softballs in a vernal pool; black flies out for blood - and the pictured Great-spurred violet. If you saw John's photo of the Northern White violet yesterday, observe the "beards" on the lateral petals. The pale violet-colored Great-spurred violet is characterized by the spur on the back of the flower and the fact that it is beardless. Also pictured is my first sighting of the season's Jack-in-the-Pulpit with leaves just unfurling and a Garter Snake out sunning itself near the base of a White pine tree.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Northern White (?) Violets in flower today. Tiny wildlings are often spectacular close up. Note the bushy-eyebrowed insect on the leaf.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

4.08.12 We need rain!! This vernal pool is more like a puddle already, and the amphibians have barely laid their eggs. Spotted salamander eggs are encased in a thick layer of jelly which is firm enough to hold its shape out of water. They have a whitish-appearance in the water. The wood frog eggs don't have a jelly casing; the mass attaches to twigs and submerged vegetation. There were many such egg masses in this shrinking pool.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

4.07.12 Common Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is in bloom in sunny, wet spots. The sweet-scented yellow blooms open before the leaves unfurl. This American hornbeam, aka musclewood or blue beech is showing off its "muscles" more than most.

Here a Cabbage White visits the Trout Lily.

Along the railroad track bike path in Dummerston and Brattleboro, Strawberry, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Violets, Kidneyleaf Buttercup and Trout Lily were in bloom.

Friday, April 6, 2012

4.05.12 Spring beauty announces its presence with its sweet aroma and then I start hunting among the leaf litter in the rich soil of sunny spots. The seeds of these ephemerals have an eliasome, a fatty appendage, that attracts ants. The ant carries the seed off to its home, eats the eliasome and discards the seed, thus planting it and keeping it safe from other would-be predators.
The brown wands of the Ostrich fern are the fertile blade of the plant. They wait for spring winds to disperse their spores. Collectors of fiddleheads find them useful for spotting where the new fronds are coming up in spring.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring is creeping up the West River valley. Dutchman's Breeches are in flower a mile north of Brattleboro. Saxifrage is flowering up to the town line. Trillium is open almost that far north. Columbine flowers are ready to open, and Toothwort's first flowers wont be far behind.

4.02.12 Rocky outcrops with southern exposure are the locations of all of these early spring plants. The green swords of leeks are an early food crop for many animals (humans, too!). Some of these were chewed off, as if cut with dull scissors, about 1" high. Amidst some were last year's weathered seed pods, still containing a few shiny black seeds. The leaves disappear in late June, before the globe-shaped flower spike opens, making it difficult to associate the two. However, when crushed the aroma of both is strongly that of onion/garlic.
On the same outcrop, Hepatica nobilis, var.obtusa (Round-lobed hepatica) held up their blue, pink, or white clusters of blossoms on fragile hairy stems. The leaves provide the distinguishing characteristic, three rounded lobes.
Also among leeks, were some lacy-foliaged Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches) - little white heart-shaped pendants strung on a succulent pink stem.
Another such outcrop gave rise to both clumps of Dutchman's breeches and Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot), a member of the Poppy family.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

4.01.12 A young moose wandered through our property, crossed the East-West Road (fortunately, no traffic was coming), and disappeared into the woods. Sorry - it was too dark for photos. Those long legs can take them far in a short while. Keep watch!

(not an April Fool's Day joke!!)