Sunday, May 29, 2022

Algal Fascination

 

I pulled this stick, coated with a green slime, out of the water because I wanted to photograph how different it looks, once immersed. It looks like a green blob of jelly when out of the water.



But in liquid, the filaments float outwards and spread like this:


Isn't that an amazing transformation?

I've been struggling to I.D. it definitively, but so far it looks to my untrained algae-eye that it might be the cosmopolitan species commonly referred to as gutweed (Ulva intestinalis), which can form algal 'blooms' in eutrophic conditions and stagnant coves. The filaments are shorter than the literature indicates though, so I would love any help or guidance in identifying this algae.



Friday, May 27, 2022

Light Play

 Some enlightening fun!




Do you see the monster's face? A perfect example of face pareidolia (Merriam-Webster definition: the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern)





Thursday, May 26, 2022

Out of Control





Bob Dylan's 1963 protest song is still applicable today ... A senseless massacre of 21 people at Robb elementary school, Uvalde Texas begs the question:

"... and how many deaths will it take 'til he knows
That too many people have died?"


- We're talking innocent school children


" ... and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see?"


- Mitch McConnell, and other power hungry GOP senators, this is directed at you

What will it take to do something about gun violence???? Isn't this enough? Wasn't Columbine enough? In 23 years, we've done NOTHING to fix this.

When will we do something about gun control? What are we waiting for? Are we numb yet?

SO MUCH PAIN ...
SENSELESS






Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Frilled Dragons

 These empty seed heads from last year made me think of frilled dragons



Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Beauty Unfurling

The sundew plants (Drosera rotundifolia) on one of our stumps have started to unfurl. Don't they look beautiful!


My Maidenhair ferns are similarly uncoiling, like springs in spring.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Golden Fruit


There's always something new and exciting to see when I spend time outdoors, even when I'm in the same location over and over again. I noticed this elaborate fruit lying on my boardwalk, along the edge near the lake. I don't think I've ever noticed this bright colored fruit before, which appears to be that of an aspen, possibly quaking. I was aware we had these trees here, but hadn't witnessed this phase of it first-hand before.



The fruits burst open to release the fluffy seed.



Sunday, May 22, 2022

Elfin Charm

 

Whilst admiring the fantastic bluets throughout my "lawn" in no-mow-May,

I noticed a fluttering movement while I was down on the ground, trying to get face to face with these difficult-to-photograph miniatures. I was able to stalk and locate a small butterfly, about the size of a dime, called the Eastern pine elfin (Callophrys niphon), feeding on the nectar of these little beauties.


It overwinters as a pupa in pines. I'm so glad I haven't done a lot of yard cleanup.



Saturday, May 21, 2022

Crime Scene

A discarded, delicately veined feather of a plucked titmouse.



We watched a small hawk (Sharp-shinned or Cooper's - it was stationery) standing on a log plucking feathers from its dinner a few nights ago. It didn't leave much else at the scene of the crime when I combed the site the next morning for clues to the story.



Amidst the variety of feathers, I found one intricately scaled claw and part of its bill, being carried away by an ambitious ant.

    

  

Friday, May 20, 2022

One Reason Why


This is one of the reasons why I don't 'clean up' my gardening beds early in the season. The dry stalks of last years' blooms provide a drying rack for young dragonflies that have recently eclosed and need to unfold and dry their new wings in the sun. I'm happy to oblige.

Successful dragonflies mean fewer mosquitoes; they're great for pest control since they are carnivorous.




Thursday, May 19, 2022

Sweet Gale

 

I'm thrilled to have noticed (and then identified) another new plant I didn't know existed! This one was growing on a stump floating in our cove. We'd always admired the other plants on this floating garden, but somehow this one was overlooked until now. I think it drew my eye because it was exquisitely lit.



Myrica gale: sweet gale, or bog-myrtle


From afar, these blooms looked like small cones so I went to investigate. I was delighted with the beautiful details when I saw it up close. Indeed, one website described the flowers as 'inconspicuous catkins,' so now I don't feel so bad about overlooking it. But really, they are exquisite.

Since it is a bog plant, it doesn't feature much in my regular plant and gardening books, but both PlantNet and Google lens came up with the same species, which I could then follow up on in various places to confirm the I.D.

Before the flowers open, they present in this form, as winter buds:



Apparently the foliage is useful as an insect repellent - will have to try it out some time.



Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Lake Delights

Some interesting and beautiful things I came across as I paddled out to a remote cove last week.

The leaves of the yellow pond lily are red this early in the season




This next "monster" presented itself to me as well - an about-to-flower non-native bladderwort (the common name, swollen bladderwort, probably refers to these pale, bloated radial floats). I had previously only seen this species blooming in my lake in October and November, so was very surprised to see it preparing to flower this early - we have a lot to learn about this unusual plant, that is apparently out of its range.



I photographed this specimen at home

The area I was investigating was pretty murky in places, with an abundance of algal growth, making visibility poor. I was able to see through it enough to notice this jellied mass of frog's eggs attached to a stalk.




I found evidence of beaver activity as I headed deeper into a remote cove. Not only were trees down, but many were stripped. 




I followed the narrowing to this beaver dam, through which I could hear water running, and saw heron nests in the dead trees beyond.


I got fantastic, close up views of leatherleaf blossoms (Chamaedaphne calyculata). I think the other common name, cassandra, is much gentler and a better fit - I love the little curls at the open end of each flower.





Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Snow in May


I had a most thrilling first outing in my kayak last week. It was intended to be a quick reconnaissance trip, but turned into a protracted 4 hour long, delightful, wandering investigation. And look at what I was greeted with, soon after I set off - it looked like a tree laden with snow, in May! So dramatic!


I wasn't able to get up close to the flowering branches, but recognized it as an Amelanchier, the serviceberry, shadbush or Juneberry. Here's a shot of the blossoms above me as I drifted beneath - quite a show!




Monday, May 16, 2022

A Story Book

Yes! I really did see a bobcat from my window ... It had 4 legs (duh), was chunky and muscular, sort of gingery colored, and with a very obvious lack of tail.  It seemed smaller than I would have imagined (roughly the length and height of a large housecat). It took about 4 graceful steps near the water's edge and then turned into the brush and was gone. Just like that - poof! I stepped quietly outside and watched, scanning for signs of movement, to no avail. It had simply evaporated. By the time I went back to my dinner, it was cold, but that was okay. Without witnesses or photos to corroborate what I saw, I had to consult my field guide for a better assessment. 

When I handled this book to check the details, I remembered that it has a history, obvious from its appearance ... it's what one might call a 'story' book, in the literal sense, I guess.


It had been left out in the rain one afternoon - I was furious, and my daughter felt so bad about forgetting to bring it in that she offered to pay for a new one. After I calmed down, I used the internet to find out how to dry out a soggy book. The solution, to put it in the freezer, and then take it out to dry a few pages at a time with a hairdryer, did the trick! The book (and my daughter) survived to 'tell' the tale, a little scarred, but still functional!

As for Robert the Bobcat, there was absolutely nothing else it could have been, so I do declare that I saw a bobcat, in my yard, with my own eyes!


Sunday, May 15, 2022

Gorgeous Grass



Okay, so the title is misleading - this is a sedge, not a true grass, though it is grass-like. This beautiful plant is Carex pensylvanica, the Pennsylvania sedge.

The flowering tips are spectacular up close



It can host 36 species of caterpillars - quite a party!

Botanists teach amateur gardeners this useful mnemonic to help distinguish between grasses, sedges and rushes:

Sedges have edges,
Rushes are round,
Grasses have nodes from the top to the ground.

When ripe, the inflorescence looks more shaggy, like this





Saturday, May 14, 2022

Swirling Ground


The ground is alive!

A seething mass of insects

That crawl, jump, swirl, fly.

   

  
 





Friday, May 13, 2022

Golden Orbs

This is goldthread (Coptis trifolia), a common name that refers to its bright yellow, threadlike roots. The root has also been used medicinally to cure mouth sores, so may also be known by some as canker root.

It's a teeny native that grows comfortably in shade, as an understory in old growth forests. It is very sensitive to disturbances like logging and clearing for development projects, and is not always able to come back from these disruptions - it relies on endomycorrhizal (symbiotic) associations with other plants to survive (U.S. Forestry Service) and its very shallow roots make it vulnerable to mechanical disturbance of the soil.


And don't be fooled - the obvious yellow orbs of this flower are actually the petals! The whitish things that look like petals are the sepals, the part that contains the petals. Each yellow petal has a dimpled top, filled with nectar that attracts solitary bees and hoverflies.





Thursday, May 12, 2022

Cat-in-the-Box

 

I was getting ready to mail some books, and needed to custom cut and fit the box around them to send via media mail. I began with a large box from a BJ's delivery. Dallas was delighted! She thought that I'd brought this 'enclosed cavity' upstairs for her pleasure, and immediately claimed it. Doesn't she look cute and innocent? Or is that a guilty look? I love the multiple head and ear shadows the lighting has created.



Of course, I couldn't proceed with my mission to cut the box down until she was completely finished with it!

Not Cat in the Hat, Fox in Socks, nor jack-in-the-box, but it's

CAT IN THE BOX!



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Earthdiver


I sat on my glider bench and watched muskrats last week. To me, there's something inexplicably primeval and fascinating about them. After reading Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman, in which she uses the Anishinaabe word “wajashk” to describe them, I haven’t been able to get that word out of my mind - it seems to suit these creatures perfectly. In Native American folklore the muskrat is the Earthdiver, the one who brought mud up to the surface for life on land to be established.

I watched and waited for the telltale ripples to appear on the surface. Without a breeze to stir up the water’s veneer, it looked like a dark horizon, solid and flat, as impenetrable to the eye as a tropical forest canopy would be from above, preventing one from seeing the ground. When I noticed the red maple flowers floating on the surface, I thought of them as clouds drifting across the sky above a jungle.

Every now and then, bubbles or ripples broke the surface - concentric rings expanded outwards like a newly forming universe. At that point, the interface between above and below was less distinct, and the 2 worlds coalesced, with a muskrat head appearing in between, a part of each. What an incredible animal, able to live and breathe in both realms. Maybe this is why I admire them so much, why I'm drawn to their mystery, and why I can relate to the reverence that native tribes have for it. (Plus, of course, my own romanticization of Native American myths and legends; I seem drawn to these more than to fairy tales with princes and princesses.) It looked at me, and I was close enough to see a glistening drop of water above its eye.



Then it dipped back down, its tail following the arch of its dive in a graceful curve. I could see the scales on its tail as it performed this maneuver. I watched it glide through the coppery shallows, with bubbles of air trapped within its fur, making it look as if its body were covered with metallic grey spikes, like a steampunk hedgehog! It swam into the underwater entrance to its nest, creating a mirage-like effect as it stirred the loosened sand. I knew from previous observations that they take forever to come back out - it's as if they go into their burrows, put on a pot of tea, make their beds and take a nap before they come back out again, refreshed. So I sat back to enjoy the audio company of woodpeckers, chickadees and phoebes, and watched the stilted movements of a crow strutting through the leaves on the other side of the cove. The allure of embryonic ferns, coated in what looked like white vernix, but was really the furriness surrounding new fronds, held my fascination. Their stems looked like a backbone waiting to unfurl from a yoga position.

             


A movement off to my left, on a mossy log extending out into the water, caught my attention, and I was graced with views of the other half of the muskrat couple, this one out of the water. It looked like an overgrown rat, sodden and hunched over like an old man in his raincoat. Its fur had the appearance of having had a pomade applied, as in a hair product, to repel the water. Wait! Maybe our waxy hair products are based on muskrat fur’s water repellent properties - I’ve got it the wrong way round! Then it scuttled, beetle-like, to a drier spot and began pulling at a long piece of vegetation that seemed endless. I waited for it to finish before giving in to the barrage of black flies. 

Later, as I ate my dinner inside, I saw a bobcat walking on the other side of my cove.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Tongue Twister


Thalictrum thalictroides - try saying that 5 times, especially after a glass or two of wine. A big and complex name for a small little woodland plant, also known as rue anemone. It's a native (obviously, if it's featured here!) in the buttercup family. It can tolerate hard frosts in spring - so though it looks delicate, it's quite a hardy little perennial.



Monday, May 9, 2022

Luscious


I picked out a recipe called Luscious Lemon Squares for Linus and I to try baking together. Luscious means 'a pleasingly rich, sweet taste' and I think that nails the sensation of these little joys.



The pastry/base is incredibly delicate, rich and buttery, and the explosion of the lemon curd-like filling is wowing. Its pretty straightforward and simple to make too (not too many steps). Definitely a keeper.

I used the Betty Crocker recipe called Luscious lemon squares that I found online (I reduced the sugar content of the filling from 1 cup to 3/4 cup but that seemed to reduce the volume needed to spread across the entire base).




Sunday, May 8, 2022

Mother's Day Marigolds

My daughter once found and identified native marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) in the woods across our street one Mother's day. They are now synonymous with Mother's day for me.

I have some growing in my Maine yard at the lake edge, doing what they do around Mother's day - open up their gorgeous sunny blooms!



 

Our muskrats enjoy them too 😀, but this year they seem to have left them alone.