Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Early December on Bog Meadow Trail
Got a notice today for an animal tracking workshop with my favorite tracker, Vince Walsh. Oh boy, I'll sign up for that, I thought, and I checked the date: January 9. That's only a month from now. Will we have any snow by then? Here it is, December, and the ground's not even frozen. We've hardly even had frost. Well, I'd better not complain, because we could always get socked with hard winter any time. Best to enjoy how easy it is now to just go out for a walk.
I headed to Bog Meadow Nature Trail today, just to stretch my legs and sense the sky over my head. The trail runs along an old railroad bed through marsh and wet meadows and forested wetland and is home to lots of birds and interesting plants the year around. I didn't see too many birds today, just some Goldfinches, Blue Jays, and Chickadees, but I could hear them making their birdy noises nearby as I walked, and they made for good company. With the leaves all gone, it was easy to see through the shrubby branches and find last summer's nests.
I had intended to keep up a nice brisk pace, work up a bit of a sweat and work off a few calories, but of course I had to stop every few feet to examine something that caught my eye. For example, here was a splendid rotted stump, with all kinds of plants growing on it. There were mosses and Miterwort and mushrooms, lots of liverworts down near the bottom, and a lovely array of Trumpet lichens, like a tiny enchanted garden.
While shooting the Trumpet lichens, I dislodged a chunk of wood from the rotted stump and out tumbled this big black ant, cold and stiff and unmoving. I tucked it back into its winter bed as carefully as I could.
Regular readers of this blog may remember the drama about the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain last summer, when mowers slashed the flower stalk of this state-protected orchid. I was happy to see its evergreen foliage as pretty as ever, and it looks like some new little plants are just emerging.
Here's another evergreen plant that carpets the ground, or to be more exact, the mud. Golden Saxifrage, also called Water Carpet, will have tiny odd-shaped blossoms come spring. As its name suggests, it likes it really wet and only grows in springy spots. Like along Bog Meadow Trail.
Canada Lily also likes marshy ground. I found its seed pods a few weeks ago and didn't know what they were. But I found them again today in a spot where I know this lily grows and surmised that's what they were. The flowers of this lily dangle down like bells, but the seed pods stick straight up. I wonder how long it takes to make that transition. (If you want to see how lovely this lily is in bloom, go into my July archive and check out the post for July 17.)
I stood and looked out across this marsh for quite a while, hoping to see some kind of animal activity. All quiet. There were obvious signs of beavers around, but they mostly emerge in the evening. I wonder if muskrats live here, too. I saw trails through the cattails and heaps of cattail fluff on the trails, as if some critter had sat there and pulled the heads apart.
Tartarian Honeysuckle bushes line the stream that the marsh drains into. I'm surprised to see so many berries remaining on the twigs. I thought the birds liked them. Maybe they save them for when there is nothing much left to eat.
I'm puzzled about what these bright red wrinkly berries are. At first I thought they were Highbush Cranberry, but then I saw they were growing on a vine, not a shrub. Maybe Bittersweet Nightshade? I'm trying to learn to identify winter weeds, but I still have a lot to learn.
At least I'm sure these buds are those of Highbush Blueberry. Does any other bush have such lovely red buds? On colored twigs, to boot. These twigs are kind of purplish, but I've seen them bright red as well.
I do not know what this fungus is. Or are there two fungi here? I often see little white shelf fungi growing on trees, but I'd never seen them in combination with this mat-like toothy growth. Anybody know?