Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Life and Death

A bobcat, hit by a car, was lying dead beside the road. I stopped to photograph this magnificent animal, an exquisite predator (I 'doctored' the pic a little, to conceal the injury).

The fur coloration and spots make it look like a sweet little pussy cat, perfect to curl up with at home!

There's just so much beauty and perfection to admire here

Look at this adorable little tail!

This was the scene beside the road - peaceful and majestic.

And in the gravel near the dead cat, was this most beautiful Canadian tiger swallowtail (Papilo canadensis) spreading its wings - something I would not have seen had I not stopped for the deceased bobcat.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Eeeew, Eeew, Eew


I was reluctant to eat the green potatoes I'd found in my produce bag, so decided to use them as extra food for my beloved muskrats. I placed one half on a rock at the water's edge, but wave action and high water levels floated it into the water. Chinese mystery snails found it before I did - there were 17 of them congregated on a half potato (April 30, 2022).

And then 26 individuals on May 10

This one had 43 snails feeding on and around it - some were miniscule! (May 18)

It's interesting to note that I'm not finding ANY native snails attracted to the "bait" this far. Another haul on May 22:

Of course, I began trying other vegetable offcuts too. I've had success with broccoli stalks as well (pictured below). There were more than 40 snails collected on May 23, many of which were collected on the silty substrate beneath the vegetables.

We identified the non-native Chinese mystery snail in our lake in 2020, and we counted maybe about 25 in a season. I have never seen them in such great numbers till now!

Perhaps I've stumbled onto an easy way to 'trap' or lure Chinese mystery snails in bulk, but perhaps I'm also helping the population thrive? Removing snails attracted to kitchen vegetables will need to be removed regularly and timeously in order not to boost the species' chances.


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.

UPDATE: this is likely the algae called Batrachospermum, according to help given by the Lake Stewards of Maine (LSM)

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?


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