Day 1 – Wildflowers!

The mighty LASSes (Ladies Adventure and Social Society) and a few of their lassies set for themselves a rugged challenge for Memorial Day weekend 2009:  to hike the section of the North Country Trail / Finger Lakes Trail that goes through Allegany State Park.

002-Ready to hit the trail

This hike would be shorter in distance than the last, but more rugged and stretched over more days – 4 days, 3 nights.

Due to a sleeping bag that went missing, we got a later start than we had hoped and had to hit the first steep mile in the heat of late morning.  I nearly passed out!  But a nibble on a PowerBar and a few sips of water and I managed to make the top of the hill.  Lunch at the top of the hill provided many miracles to reward us…

…including this beetle:
Gorgeous Insect

…and a view of a Hairy Woodpecker that kept going in and out of a hole that looked far to small for her to fit:
Hairy Woodpecker Babies Inside!

The theme for day one, though, had to be Wildflowers.  I’ll list some, but I’m sure I’ll have forgotten many:

  • CPolygala (Gay Wings)anada Mayflower
  • Foam Flower
  • Dwarf Ginseng
  • Several kinds of violets including Canada Violet (the tall white ones with the purple on the back)
  • Mayapples
  • Fringed Polygala (a.k.a. Gay Wings)
  • White Baneberry
  • Blue Phlox
  • Wild Geranium
  • SCanada Violetsweet Cicely
  • Star Flower
  • Miterwort
  • Golden Saxafrage
  • Painted Trillium
  • White Trillium
  • Red Trillium
  • Yellow Clintonia
  • Solomon’s Seal
  • False Solomon’s Seal
  • Bird’s Eye Speedwell
  • Rosybells

Stunning” seems too mild a word to describe the flowers we saw.  MiterwortNot only were individual specimens large and healthy, but so were populations of them.  Some species, for example, were found in huge patches.  There was one rocky spring-fed area we crossed that had Miterwort intermixed with Jewelweed leaves cascading down the slope.

We were pretty beat by the end of the first day.  But a splash in the creek, a good dinner, a couple of Advil, an amazing night of sleep and I felt like a new woman.

Click –> Day 2

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Warning: Gruesome News

I started monitoring nestboxes several years ago and it has been a great way to learn about birds.  You would think after doing this for a few years, you would have figured everything out…  But this year there are  a couple of things that are kind of throwing me for a loop.  For example, have any of you been experiencing and troubles with Tree Swallows this year?

Tree Swallow FatalityIt is not uncommon to find dead adult Tree Swallows in boxes, especially in early spring.  Tree Swallows depend on insects for food and if there is a hard frost or long periods of cold, rainy weather when they return to their nesting sites, they could die from starvation.  Every year I sadly remove one or two dead Tree Swallows from the boxes in early spring.

The picture at right was taken in mid April in 2007.  Still, by May 1st, we had nests with eggs.  In the picture below, I was showing a group of students the Tree Swallow nest in the backyard.

Checking the Tree Swallow BoxAnd by May 30th, we had babies.Tree Swallow Babies

 Things went similarly last year.  This year, 2009, is a different story.  So far this year, I have not seen a single scrap of nest material from Tree Swallows in any of my boxes.  Chickadees, House Wrens, and Eastern Bluebirds are all well on their way to families… indeed, a box of chickadees hatched this week.

Last week I found 4 dead adult Tree Swallows in the boxes at Audubon.

If anyone has information about something weird happening with Tree Swallows, please let me know!

Bells in the Woods – Part II

While searching for the perfect shot of Yellow Mandarin, I found these leaves that looked similar:

Rose Mandarin

But wait a minute!  Is that a PINK flower underneath?

Rose Mandarin

Indeed!  Another new flower for me:  Rosybells or Rose Twisted Stalk or Rose Mandarin.  Again, Latin names seem to be changing.  My Newcomb’s calls it Streptopus roseus.  The USDA plant database calls it Streptopus lanceolatus.  Threatened, endangered, or of special concern in several states, the plant database doesn’t even recognize its presence in New York.

Rose Mandarin

Peterson’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants suggests that young shoots make a nice addition to salads; the red berries that will appear later in summer, while mildly cathartic, make a “pleasant nibble.”  But I could never bring myself to eat a plant that is endangered!

Bells in the Woods – Part I

I had half an hour between appointments and while it was a tad breezy, the light was perfect.  I headed to College Park to see if any new spring flowers had popped open.

Yellow Mandarin

Yellow Mandarin is also known as Fairy Bells.  The Latin name I found in the most places was Disporum lanuginosum which is most likely what your flower field guide will list.  The USDA also lists Streptopus lanuginosus and Prosartes lanuginosa with the latter being the preferred name.  How’s that for confusing?  At any rate, they all seem to agree that Yellow Mandarin is in the Lily family.

Yellow Mandarin

The yellow-green bell-like flowers dangle beneath the leaves and would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for them.  In late summer, if all goes well, you’ll see bright orange-red berries where the flowers used to be.

Yellow Mandarin

I could find no reference to this berry being edible by either humans or animals.  Strange… Usually you can find someplace that will tell you who eats it!

Yellow Mandarin   Yellow Mandarin Range Map from eFloras

More bells tomorrow…

Squish

There is a large patch of Yellow Clintonia at Jamestown Community College’s “College Park” – also known as the 100-acre lot.  Well, there was… Until a big old tree snapped off and fell on it.

Tree Crashed Down on my Yellow Clintonia

There are a few plants that didn’t get squished and I’ll keep watching them.  They are still sporting tight little buds.  I found them in bloom May 27th in 2007:

Yellow Clintonia - Closeup

So many things are happening early this spring that I thought I should keep an eye on them if I want to try pictures again this year!  But no… still buds.

While investigating the fallen tree, I happened to find a rather large patch of Wild Sarsaparilla – also still buds:

Wild Sarsaparilla

I think that’s my first time finding this plant anywhere… which is embarassing, since Newcomb’s calls it “very common.”