Big Pond Embankment

Big Pond EmbankmentAs a little demonstration of biodiversity, I took pictures of wildflowers for about 50 minutes.  I came home with 36 species, and while that counted a couple that were just buds, it didn’t count several species that had no buds or blooms.  I also didn’t count the aquatic plants:  those IN the pond.

Here’s a little game for you.  Before you mouse over each picture below, can you name the flower?  When you comment, you can tell me your score.

By the way, I only got 34 out of 36, so if you know the other two flowers that I don’t, please tell me!  A couple are a little tricky, because I gave you the bud or the seedpod… or maybe I gave you such a closeup that you can’t tell what the whole flower is.  And on some, you might not be able to get down to species… but try to get the general name, anyway.

Have fun!

Common Mullein Bedstraw An Unknown Yellow Flower

Yellow Loosestrife Yarrow Wood Sorrel

Winged Monkey Flower Whorled Loosestrife White Clover

Water Pepper Another Unknown Yellow Flower Thistle

Swamp Milkweed St Johnswort Sheep Sorrel

Rough Fruited Cinquefoil Rough Cinquefoil Rough Avens

Queen Anne's Lace Oxeye Daisy Musk Mallow

Lesser Stitchwort Hop Clover Heal-All

Hawkweed Forget-Me-Not Fleabane

English Plantain Deptford Pink Grass-leafed Arrowhead - OK, this one was a little in the water...

Common Milkweed Buttonbush Blue Vervain

Butter and Eggs Bird's Foot Trefoil - The Seedpod Black-eyed Susan

How’d you do?

The Rest of the Story…

Ferret?  Or Weasel?Back on June 20th, I wrote about a walk I took after CPR training.  Toward the end of the walk, I was checking a bird box, when down at my sandled foot, I felt something furry.  I immediately assumed it must be someone’s escaped pet ferret, because weasels would never be so friendly.  It sniffed around my foot and seemed to be investigating my pant leg as a possible place to seek shelter.

Without thinking, I reached down to pick it up.  It acted for all the world like a pet.  It settled right down in my hand and surveyed the world from its new post.  I knew Sarah and Kim would love to see it, so I emptied my journal pouch and placed it inside, finished checking the bird box, made my notes, and returned to the building.

Ferret (or weasel?)  in PouchWe discussed the possibilities.  Ferret?  No.  It has the wrong colors.  Hand-raised weasel?  Possibly.  Because it’s what she does, Sarah made a habitat for the little guy and took it home to observe it for the night.  And the next day…  and the next…

After a couple of days, it started acting funny, dragging its back side around, much less active.  Sadly, by the time the following Monday came around, it had died.  Sarah called the health department to find out the best course of action.  “Have it tested for rabies,” was the answer.  Thankfully, it tested negative.

In the short time it was with us, it generated a flurry of learning.  We read all the information we could find on Short-tailed Weasels, also known as stoats or, in winter, ermine.  I learned that a weasel can live to be 10 years old, that they can produce the same odor as a skunk, that their range can be anywhere from 4 to 96 square miles, that they can kill prey bigger than themselves, that they often appropriate chipmunk dens and take them over for their own.  I learned about their breeding habits, which are too bizzare for words… ok, I’ll give you some words:  After the female gives birth, a male will mate with mom, and with all the female babies – even when they are so young they still have their eyes shut.  Yeah.  Weird.

In retrospect, picking up a wild, potential rabies vector was probably a stupid thing to do and, if faced with such an opportunity again in the future, I will probably be a bit more careful.  But it was very interesting to have this little guy with us, to teach us about another of Nature’s wonderful creatures.  Here are some websites, in case you want to learn more:

Berries… Hmm…

StrawberriesOh, I know you can buy perfectly fine jams and jellies in the store, but there is something so much more satisfying about the ones you make yourself.

Maddie likes to make Strawberry Freezer Jam.  Mash the berries, add sugar and pectin, stir…  then into containers and into the freezer.  Man oh man does that jam taste like a June morning!  (Most of) The berries pictured here are now in the freezer in the form of jam.

CurrantsEmily prefers to can Currant Jelly.  Currants have plenty of pectin on their own, so you needn’t add any.  Just sugar… and heat.  Cook them until they start to gel.  Then into glass jars and onto the shelf.  I don’t think Emily realizes that after a week of training and getting camp ready, she will be picking currants and making jelly.

My friend Terry made a pie for his mom a few weeks back using elderberries he had picked and put up for the winter.  He made the mistake of giving me a bite to taste.  I’m totally hooked now!  Elderberries are blooming now.  I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for blossoms long the road as I drive to work, or back and forth to Girl Scout Camp.  In early September, I plan to harvest some.  I can almost taste the jam already…

Elderberry Blossoms

Don’t worry, I’ll leave some for the birds.

Summer is Pink and Yellow

Man, it was hot today.  And with a name like “Winterwoman” you can imagine how I felt about that.  But I tried not to let it bother me.  I even went out for a short walk after work, even though most of my day was spent outside with kids at Day Camp!  I just needed to play with my camera and capture some summer wildflowers.  So I braved the heat and I’m glad I did.  These wildflowers will warm my heart this winter when there is only white snow to photograph…

Deptford PinkMostly I enjoyed using my 10X closeup lens, though once in a while, I took it off to get more of the plant in the picture.  We have debates in the office all the time, about what makes a good wildflower picture.  It all depends…  Are you trying to create a field guide?  Or are you trying to create a pretty picture?  I enjoy my closeups, even though they aren’t necessarily very good if you are trying to provide a learning guide for the whole plant.

The main reason I went out for the short walk after work was to get a better picture of the Deptford Pink than I was able to take during camp.  I love the color of this flower, which may account for its name.  Some sources, however, also point to the edges of the petals that look as though they were trimmed with pinking shears.  The “Deptford” part comes from the fact that this flower was quite common in a big field in Deptford, England.

Swamp CandlesI was also very taken by the “Swamp Candles” or “Yellow Loosestrife” which is blooming all over the place at Audubon right now.  There is plenty of it in Ferd’s Garden, and lots out on the field west of the Maintenance Road.  Here’s an example of a photo that doesn’t give you an idea of what the whole plant looks like.  Be sure to look it up in your Peterson Guide, or check out this photo I found online.

Getting back to pink, have you ever noticed large patches of pink flowers along roadsides.  It might be Crown Vetch – planted there intentionally to control erosion.  I guess it is non-native and we aren’t supposed to be happy when it shows up in places where it “shouldn’t be”.  But, it’s so pretty, I couldn’t  be disappointed when I found it along the Turtle Pond East today.

Crown Vetch

Bird's Foot TrefoilHow about another yellow one?  I learned this one when I was in Girl Scouts…  Later in the summer, it will have seed pods that look like little bird’s feet.  I suppose that is how it got its name:  Bird’s Foot Trefoil.

Some flowers have very distinctive smells, the Swamp Milkweed flowers, for example.  I wrote about this plant before, but it wasn’t in bloom.  Well, technically, I wrote about an insect that likes this plant

Swamp MilkweedIf you can find this flower, give it a whiff.   I swear it smells just like Bazooka Bubble Gum.  Really!  (Do they even still sell Bazooka Bubble Gum?)

And my last plant for today brings us back to yellow:  Butter and Eggs.  I also learned this one at Girl Scout Camp.  I loved the name of it and the way it looked like minature Snap Dragons – like the ones my mother grew at our house.

Butter and Eggs

What’s blooming in your Summer?

Pine Hill Reforestation Area – Revisited

The WoodsLast April, I visited the Pine Hill State Forest and hiked the trail on the south side of Carr Corners Road (also known as Oldro Hill Road, depending on which maps you use).  Yesterday, I went back with friends to try the trail on the north side of the road.

This loop is also marked with a combination of round, red DEC tags and pink surveyor’s tape that dangles from tall branches on clip clothespins.  It became clear that these are horse trails, and now I assume the pink tapes are placed in those high branches by someone on horseback.

Most of the trail meanders through fairly dense woods.  But in at least one place it opens up.  I imagine beginning horse riders might loop around the tree and head back down the trail.  Or maybe some horse groups get to this point and camp?  At any rate, it was a lovely place for lunch.
A Clearing

Whose Scat is ThatOne of the most puzzling things we found was (sorry to get gross here) a pile of scat.  It was remarkable for its size and it’s placement – up on a log.  The only animal we could think of that would make scat like that and would leave it in such a precarious spot is bobcat.  I have heard reports of bobcat sightings and this isn’t the first evidence of bobcat I have seen, but I have yet to see one in person.  That would be exciting.

CaterpillarWe did have a few wildlife encounters.  We saw deer, chipmunks, a scarlet tanager… We heard plenty of other birds – some I knew, some I didn’t.  I found this curious caterpillar and plenty of its brothers and sisters forming perfect little borders on the leaves as they munched.  I even managed to catch a shot before the curious pups came bounding back and knocked them all from their lunches.  (I’m hoping Tom knows what kind of caterpillar this is and will leave a comment with the species!)

Mozart Found a PuddleMozart’s habit of lying in any water he finds was not a problem, even though my friend Terry and both dogs would be riding in my car on the way back  to Randolph.  I don’t mind a little mud in my car.  It dries.  You can brush or vacuum it out.  But whatever Mozart and Lolli found to roll in before getting in the car… THAT was a problem.  It was pungent!  It brought tears to your eyes.  (After a serious bath with lots of shampoo, Lolli still retains some of the odor.  Oh well…  That’s part of the joy of dogs.)

When we came out of the woods, we discovered that right across the road from where we had parked there is a small fishing pond. I grabbed my net and climbed up to do a quick dragonfly survey. You can read about it at my other blog by clicking here.

The Leeks are Up – Again!

Wild LeekMy title on March 30th was The Leeks are Up. At that time we saw only leaves. Over the weeks leading up to summer, the leaves of wild leeks disintigrate and the plant seems to disappear. Then, just around the Summer Solstice, up pop the flowers… Yesterday I found them in several states of bursting from their buds, but none fully open. Today the temperatures are supposed to be quite a bit higher… maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to post a leek blossom that is beyond the budding phase.

The woods behind the ball park at the top of the hill never ceases to amaze me.  I’ve walked the paths so many times you would think I had seen every plant and learned every flower.  But no.  Yesterday I found several plants that buried me in my books for hours after the walk.  I still haven’t identified all of them.

Shinleaf in the GrassHere’s one I did manage to key out.  Shinleaf!  The individual flowers grow on a raceme above broad, ovate leaves.  This photo only shows two blossoms on the stem, but often there are many more.  I took a closeup of one flower.  You should check it out at my Flickr site: it’s pretty bizzare!

There were two flowers that baffled me.  I posted them in the ID Please Pool on Flickr to get some help with them.  If I get some answers, I’ll blog them another time.

Not all of the flowers in the woods were white.  I finally found some agrimony in bloom.  I’ve been seeing the leaves for quite some time, and saw some buds on the way into the woods.  On the return path, I found one stem with open blossoms:

And yet another Cinquefoil… I think this one is called “Rough Cinquefoil”:
Rough Cinquefoil

I’m off to the woods again today.  I hope to have some more woodland beauties for you tomorrow!

College Interns

John with 350-year-old White PineHaving college interns during the summer months is new for Audubon… at least during my 9 year tenure.  Last year we had just one.  This year we have two.  What an incredible joy it is to have them.  It is fun mentoring them in areas where we have expertise.  It is even more fun learning from their areas of expertise.  Their fresh eyes and energy give us all a boost.  We ended this walk season having seen over 3,000 children and none of us feels burned out.  That’s saying something!

At the end of our busy spring walk season, we always take our trail guide volunteers on a fieldtrip.  (The interns were quite delighted to think that they were still getting paid, even though they weren’t working!  I told them that this was more “professional development”.)  This year, the destination was the Pfeiffer Nature Center in Portville, NY.  The center is on a piece of property that was timbered at one time, then used as the summer home.  The chestnut log cabin is a fine centerpiece for the Pfeiffer.  Wandering through it you can just imagine what it must have been like to spend entire summers here.

Chestnut Log Cabin

Partridge Berry Blossom and BudParts of the woods behind the cabin were untouched by the timbering and have a wonderful “Old Growth” feel to them.  The tree behind the cabin (pictured above with John) has been cored and they know it to be 350 years old.  Colleen, our guide, put it this way:  “That tree was already old when George Washington was president.”

Partridge Berry was blooming!  I had a hard time photographing it with the macro lens on.  With all that fuzz, the camera’s auto-focus was having a hard time deciding where to focus…  Also, the light under the trees made it challenging.  But I took enough shots that one came out.

Lunch at the PavillionAfter lunch in the pavillion, we explored the meadow for a while.  It was particularly fun to watch the interns not walk, not run, but BOUND through the meadow like a couple of fawns.

It was pretty breezy, so few of my attempts at flower or butterfly closeups came out.  Amazingly, the Rough-fruited Cinquefoil did come out.  I love the subtle, pale yellow of this flower, so different from the brassy yellow of other cinquefoils.

Rough-Fruited Cinquefoil

It was a great day.   As with any not-for-profit, we could not do what we do without our volunteers.  It was sad that some of them could not join us on this trip.  We are very grateful for their time and dedication.  THANK YOU to all who volunteer.

That’s how we spent the Summer Solstice.  Hope you had a wonderful 1st day of summer, too!

You can see more pictures from this trip at my Flickr site by clicking here.

Professional Development

It's Called Professional DevelopmentAfter six hours in a CPR class, Sarah and I decided we NEEDED to take our summer intern around Big Pond… you know… so we could show her where the trail goes… you know… so she won’t get lost with her Day Camp kids next week.  Yeah… that’s it… It’s Professional Development!   Ooh!  And we can check the nest boxes while we’re out there… you know… in preparation for Jen’s Nest Box program on Saturday.  You gotta love a job where taking a walk around the property can be considered professional development or prep for a class.

Canada LilyWe brought binoculars with the idea of  using them on birds.  There were many great moments along the way – bird and non-bird.  For example, the Canada Lilies were in bloom.  How gorgeous their orange blossoms looked against the blue sky.  We also saw Deptford Pinks and the pale yellow of Rough-fruited Cinquefoil… so pretty.

DarnerAnd, as if the intense blue of the sky were not enough, a darner (whose species I haven’t yet determined) landed and posed quietly so I could get a photo or two.

We rounded the corner and headed out to the photo blind on the peninsula where we watched Kingfishers and Song Sparrows.  The still water reflected the blue of the sky and the green of the spatterdock Lily leaves blended perfectly.  The Phoebe who had nested above the entry to the blind was gone and the nest was empty.  We wondered if she would be back later for a second brood.

It wasn’t easy to tear ourselves away from the serenity of that view, but we were expecting a guest at the Center and we knew we had better move on.

MuskratOut on the Big Pond Dike, we saw frogs, dragonflies, crickets, and Cedar Waxwings.  We were also entertained by a Muskrat who was munching on duckweed.

Oh yeah… bird boxes.  We finally made our way through the woods where we wondered about the names of several mushrooms, and picked out good places for future games of “Camouflage”.

Kim Checks Eggs while Mamma WatchesThe Tree Swallow box had a mamma bird that didn’t seem to want to get off her eggs.  I held her while Kim counted:  five warm eggs.

After this, I sent Kim and Sarah on to meet our guest so I could check a few more boxes.  When I got to the boxes in the Arboretum, I was met by two deer.  Can you find them?


The weirdest thing of all happened as I was checking the last box… I felt something brush against my foot.  I looked down and saw this:

Ferret? Or Weasel?

I don’t know what he was doing at Audubon.  Isn’t he cute?

Ferret (or Weasel?) in Pouch

All this happened in 2 hours.  It’s amazing…  What happened on your last walk?

I am a Red Eft

Let’s go exploring like Red Efts…
Red Eft

Red Efts are also known as Eastern Newts.  They start their lives in water, then may spend a good many years exploring the woods before finding water again and metamorphosing into an adult form…

I think I’m still in that middle phase… exploring the woods, kinda hoping I won’t find the water because I’m unwilling to take on the adult form.

Camp Timbercrest Staff Reunion

Wow.  What a weekend!  The only way to describe it is with the Camp Timbercrest Song, written by Judy Scottie Andrews.

CampfireHave you sat by the glow of a campfire
While the flames cast a flickering light,
Or heard the last call of a blackbird
As he settled down for the night,
Spent an afternoon listening to raindrops
Falling soft on the top of your tent,
Seen the lake as shimmered at sunset,
And considered that moment well spent?

Were you there in the years when the heron
Circled high over Jackman’s Bay,
Seen the splash of the sun on your paddle
As you glided across Keyser Lake?
Can you find a red eft in the forest?
Do you know where the eagles nest?
If you do, then you’ll always remember.
You’re a part of Timbercrest.

Maddie in Canoe

Way too many more pictures: Click here!