Saturday, June 16, 2012

Massachusetts Woods and Waters and Roadways

Just got back yesterday from a brief visit with in-laws in central Massachusetts, and what a wonderful mini-vacation it was, with absolutely perfect weather and the always delightful companionship of much-loved family members.  One of our traditional pastimes while visiting here is to walk along the nearby Quabbin Reservoir, a huge, carefully protected lake that serves as a water supply for cities as far away as Boston.

While my husband and his brother strode purposefully ahead at a brisk pace, my sister-in-law and I dawdled along behind, stopping here and there to notice such delights as these masses of Blue-eyed Grass, as well as to breathe in the delicious scent of the Sweet Fern that surrounded this patch of flowers.

We also had to stop for a while to watch these Red-spotted Purple Butterflies dine on some very hairy dung (could it be coyote's?).  It's hard to reconcile the beauty of the butterflies with our normal feelings about dung, but I understand that the butterflies can get important minerals from this source.

 I was surprised to learn, when I looked on the internet to ID these butterflies, that the Red-spotted Purple is the same species as the White Admiral, just a different color variant.  I never would have guessed!

I haven't yet discovered the name of this dragonfly with the black-and-white stigmas.  I wonder if it has a common name like "Flying Vertebrae," since that segmented whitish stripe certainly looks like some kind of backbone.

Update:  My friend Sue Pierce has ID'd this dragonfly as a Spangled Skimmer, and after looking at images on the web, I'd guess this is either a female or an immature male.  The bicolor stigmas are one of the distinguishing features of this dragonfly.

Back near the house on a quiet country road in the tiny village of New Salem, the surrounding woods were just full of Mountain Laurel putting forth a lavish display of pink-and-white flowers.

Giant old Sugar Maples shaded the roadway and spread their graceful branches over white clapboard houses nearly as old as the trees, while in the roadside ditches, little seedling Sugar Maples were topped with clusters of pretty rose-colored baby leaves.

Even the hard-packed dirt along the roadside provided habitat for some very pretty -- if also tiny -- Blue Toadflax flowers, little dots of vivid blue atop spindly stalks with thread-like leaves.

And ooh, just look at all the ripe Strawberries!  Their flavor was as intense as their color was vivid.

I know that Motherwort is a common weed found everywhere, including Massachusetts roadsides, but I always have to take a closer look at its tiny pink speckled flowers topped with fine fur.  They make me think of bunny slippers.

This mother Phoebe had made her nest under the porch roof, so we could watch her through a window, trying not to disturb her.  I was surprised how quietly she and her mate went about their comings and goings.  I usually associate Phoebes with birds that never shut up, calling their name with a buzzy "fee-bee" incessantly, but these birds never made a peep.  Perhaps once they are nesting, they don't want to draw attention to themselves.


June said...

I had a Phoebe nest once, needed help to identify it, but will always remember it as a moss-green pillbox hat kind of nest.
I have more blogs to read this morning but I'm inspired by you to go out and "dawdle along" the road. :-)

hikeagiant2 said...

Love the blue! Blue-eyed grasses are fascinating! The Toadflax such a tiny treasure!