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

In the woods we return to reason and faith-Emerson


Thursday, May 31, 2012

5.31.12      We are very fortunate in Dummerston to have both Mountain Laurel and Sheep Laurel or Lambkill.  Members of the Kalmia family, they are distinguishable by the placement of flowers: the smaller and more intensely-colored Sheep Laurel flowers are clustered around the stem with a tuft of leaves above them.  Both of these shrubs contain toxins that can be fatal if eaten.  The pollen is not poisonous to bees, but  honey produced from these flowers can be toxic to humans. 

     Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus crista-galli) has an inflated seed pod where the seeds rattle around when dry.  The little yellow flower petals are beak-like at the top of the pod. 

       Rattlesnake Weed (Hieracium venosum) also grows in the shallow soils of this acidic environment.  The striking contrast of the maroon-red veining on the dark green basal leaves is the most eye-catching part of this plant.  The branched flower stalk shoots up a foot or more, and bears  3/4- inch rayed yellow flowers much like Hawkweed, to which it is related. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Along the West River, Black Locust trees are in flower.
And in the fields small, as yet unidentified, creatures are busy fulfilling their biological destinies.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

5.27.12    This imposing five foot specimen of Carrion flower (Smilax herbacea) was attracting the attention of a variety of insects when I was there today.  Aptly named for its odor, it is not a plant that one would select to plant at their front door! 
         The small yellow-green blossoms of  Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana) dangle beneath the upper whorl of leaves on this tiered plant.  Its spreading maroon styles give the flower a spidery appearance.  The root is said to be cucumber-flavored. 

     Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is starting to bloom - they will last a few weeks, but be sure to schedule a walk among them soon!

This Red Clover plant had two totally albinistic stems, several normal green stems and 2 variegated leaves on otherwise green stems.

Friday, May 25, 2012

5.25.12 Earthstar and Grouse

5.25.12      Clucking and scolding in the underbrush drew my attention, but I was surprised when the female grouse came into the open to herd her scurrying chicks out of sight.  I observed only three, but it seemed that I missed several of the fluffy, tan-colored young.   This Earthstar fungus seemed to be solitary in the sandy soil.  The round spore case has opened to disperse the spores, leaving a flattened grayish shell inside the star-like rays.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Goldenrod Spider tries its best to look inconspicuous while clinging to a Red Clver blossom.

Monday, May 21, 2012

In dry sandy places Frostweed was in flower today. In wet places there were Bullhead Lilies.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Golden tortoise Beetle and a black and yellow Ladybird (?) Beetle fed within a few feet of each other this morning.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The sap of a freshly cut oak stump attracted this butterfly, and angle-winged species called the Question Mark because of the white markings on its leaf brown underwings.
And, in a local weed patch - Ragged Robin raised its ragged head.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

5.15.12 Lichens in bloom

     In Spring, when there is an abundance of moisture and before temperatures get too hot, lichens are   most colorful.  British Soldiers, also known as Matchstick Moss, (Cladonia cristatella), are named for their colorful fruiting body which was thought to resemble the uniform of the British Redcoats.   Pink Earth Lichen (Dibaesis baeomyces), resembling French knots in embroidery, are those little pink growths on rock or among mosses.   Lichens are an unusual combination of two life forms: a fungus and an alga.  The fungus (mycobiont) forms the primary structure of the lichen: it  anchors it to the substrate and absorbs water and minerals from the environment.  The alga (photobiont) is the colorful top structure which is the fruiting body.  Both of these lichens formed colorful designs on dark rock backgrounds.  These slow-growing structures are very fragile and easily destroyed.  In summer, they dry up and go dormant, waiting for a wetter period season when the fungus can absorb water and growth can resume. 

Last night this fellow rambler appeared unexpectedly on my doorstep. As my residence has neither food not shelter suitable to salamander needs, I sent this silent, rain-loving soul back out into the dark and drizzle.
It was a Jefferson's salamander doing its vital - if inexplicable - salamander duties; life and death matters known only to itself.
The world is well-peopled with such mysterious, seldom encountered individuals. Chance gives glimpses of that truth to a lucky few.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

5.13.12 Flowers and Wildlife

5.13.12    What started out to be a normal walk on a beautiful sunny afternoon turned up some surprises.  First, I encountered my first Blue-eyed Grass of the season.   As I rose up from a crouched position where I'd been examining the purple dots on every blade of blue-eyed grass and started to turn around, I was startled to see a raccoon, also in a crouched position, not 15 feet away!  Knowing that finding wild animals like this out in mid-afternoon can be a sign of illness, I backed away slowly, keeping a steady eye on the animal.  It continued to remain frozen in that position, perhaps as surprised as I had been that the crouched form it had been watching turned into a moving two-legged creature.  Nonetheless, I continued my backward exit strategy until the raccoon waddled off into the vegetated tangle. 

         About to come home, I found several Starry False Solomon's seal in blossom; the plants varied from 2 inches to more than a foot in size, each with a blossom appropriate to its size.    Just below my house (this time in the car!) a bob cat darted across the road and paused briefly in the open woods and looked back over its shoulder.   

This Wild Turkey got down and dirty, dust bathing in my yard this afternoon.
Herb Robert was flowering along Green Mountain Camp Road.
And the chevrons on Red Clover leaves looked as if they had been embroidered on!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Moccasin Flower and Gaywings (Fringed Polygala)

5.11.12     I'm wild about finding orchids in the wild - so today's walk was exquisitely satisfying.  The Moccasin Flower or Pink Lady's Slipper is  the showiest of the orchids in Dummerston.  Orchids are really specific about growing conditions; their spaghetti-like roots lack root hairs, so they are completely dependent on the presence of a mycorrhizal soil fungus which allows them to absorb soil nutrients.   Pollinated by bees, only a few of their powdery seeds find the necessary soil requirements for them to germinate.  Then it takes at least two years before they flower.  Transplanting or disturbing them usually is disastrous. 

         We also found Fringed Polygala aka Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia) in bloom today.  These bright pink/purple little flowers sport two petals, the "wings" at the sides of the fringed tube that contains the reproductive parts of the flower.  Members of the Milkwort family, they are often are mistaken for orchids. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A short walk today turned up Early Azalea, American Toad and Red Pine male cones. A more diverse and colorful selection of life forms would be hard to imagine!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Alien Shrubs in bloom

5/09.12   Although the rain had stopped some hours earlier, raindrops lingered on plants in the still, cloud-heavy air.  Even though wet, bumblebees were attracted by the perfume of alien shrubs.   Side by side, both the pink and the white Tartarian Honeysuckles and Autumn Olive with its bell-shaped blossoms and silver-white-backed leaves made a bold statement on a steep bank. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bright red Net Winged Beetles (perhaps Lygistopterus sanguineus) mate on a moss covered log. The larvae of the numerous net winged beetles feed under bark. Adults eat pollen. Many species of Net winged beetles are brightly colored . . . and there are a lot of species.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Red Admiral Butterflies

5.07.12     Yesterday and today, numerous Red Admiral Butterflies flitted from one bright dandelion bloom to the next.  I didn't observe them stopping to feed on any other color or type of blossom. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

This morning, an American Copper Butterfly basked on a dead maple leaf next to a dew-soaked strawberry plant.
In the afternoon, Blue-eyed Grasses opened to the sun.
And, under the apple trees, Morels made their appearance. Perhaps Yellow Morels?

5.06.12 Spring Treats

I always look for Baltimore Orioles when the apple trees are in bloom.  They didn't fail me!   This afternoon, I spotted that glowing orange and black ducking around in the quince bush, seemingly trying to hide among the bright pink-orange blossoms.   The quince also attracted my first-of-the-year Ruby-throated Hummingbird.   The Oriole moved on to the pink-and-white profusion of an apple tree.
     Earlier, I nearly mistook a Black-capped Chickadee for a hummingbird: perched on a branch of the plum tree, it was fanning its wings at the speed of a hovering hummingbird - until it took off in pursuit of another chickadee in the orchard.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

5.04.12 Wetland Wanderings

This afternoon's meander took in two marshes and a brook.   Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris), a member of the Buttercup family, grow in shallow water.  The shiny yellow "petals" (actually sepals) resemble the bright yellow petals of true buttercups.   The red eft, the terrestrial stage of the Eastern Newt, are often out after a rain when the forest floor is moist.   Foamflower aka False Miterwort (Tiarella cordifolia) is at the height of bloom now with each flower in the cluster extending long stamens.  It grows in a variety of conditions, but it is most plentiful where the soil is somewhat wet.   The Miterwort (Mitella diphylla) was growing on a gravelly 'island' in a small stream.  The flowers are spaced along the stem; their special feature, the snowflake-like fringe on the lip of the tiny (3/16 inch) flower, is easy to miss.