Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blue Sky, Busy River, Deep Snow

Yet another sub-zero morning on Friday, but man, that sky was BLUE!  I just had to get outdoors.  So off to the river I went after lunch, waiting until the temps reached the double digits.  Whenever I walk down through the woods at the end of Potter Road and come out onto this scene of West Mountain rising against the sky and the quiet coves lined with stately pines, I'm always glad I made the effort to get here.

Indeed, it did take quite an effort to make my way through deep snow in the woods, but I didn't feel it was safe to go out on the ice where the snow wasn't so deep.  Because the river rises and falls with dam operations, the ice breaks at the edge and water pours over the surface, weakening the ice. It was obvious from their tracks that many animals had ventured out there, quite likely to drink from the only liquid water to be found for miles around.

Lots and lots of trails on the river today, and I'm guessing that almost every one of them was made by minks.  I don't know where the coyotes and foxes and fishers are traveling these days, but not through the deep snow of these woods.

One reason I think that minks made these trails (aside from the aquatic habitat) is that they made  tunnels through the snow of just about the same size as a mink's diameter.

Here was a different track!  Looks like a bunch of turkeys were wandering out on the ice.

This imprint of a turkey's tail feathers confirmed my guess.

I was struck by the stark beauty of these alder twigs silhouetted against the snow, reminding me of Japanese ink drawings I have seen, perhaps of plum blossoms. (Ah, plum blossoms!  Spring!)

Here was a flash of bright color in these snowy woods!  Some vivid orange-red growth has infested the bark of this birch tree.  From a distance it looked as if blood was streaming down the trunk.

Is this a fungus?  Or is it a lichen?  I wonder if someone can tell me.

More odd stuff.  Fungal blobs proliferating on the trunks of Hop Hornbeam trees.  Looked like a family of hedgehogs climbing the trees.

I couldn't pry up the frozen ruffles to examine the underside, so I don't know how to ID these growths, either.  The tops look a bit like Turkey Tail, but I've never seen that fungus form tight blobs like this.

Update: A very helpful fellow blogger named Don Butler ( has suggested that the red stuff oozing from the birch bark could be the fungus Phlebia radiata, and that these blobby fungi on the Hop Hornbeams could be Sweet Knot (Globifomes graveblens).  Two new fungi for me, and a wonderful new blog to follow as well.  Thanks, Don!

When I first started out through the woods today, I was freezing.  But after trudging through this deep snow, it didn't take long before I started stripping off scarf and hat and unzipping my coat.  Oof!  Hard work, indeed!

Heading home, I was glad to step out of the woods onto this plowed road for the last couple hundred yards to my car.  I've been hunkering down too much this frigid February, and I can tell my endurance has suffered.  But hey, it's MARCH on Sunday!  Winter will soon be over.  Won't it?


The Furry Gnome said...

Yes, it's nice to get out regardless of the cold. Those are both unusual lichen/fungi. I've never seen either one. And we haven't had many animal tracks around recently either. I think the deer are staying down in the swamp where there's better shelter.

threecollie said...

I am finding tracks really hard to read in all this fluffy snow. A mere cottontail tracks looks as if it was made by an elephant. Can't wait for spring!

Ellen Rathbone said...

The birch looks like it's full of lava! And I love the "hedgehogs!"

catharus said...

Great late winter trek!

Ron Gamble said...

"... blood running down the trees ..." Maybe closely related to the info from your 13May2014 post, "Thanks to mycologists at the Cornell Mushroom Blog, I now know that this substance is produced by a yeast Cryptococcus macerans that feeds on the sugary sap of wood."???

Don Butler said...

My guess on the fungus among us: the red ones could be a Phlebia, perhaps Radiating or Zoned. The blobs remind me of Sweet Knot, Globifomes graveolens in the Polypore family.