Celebration!

Smaller Enchanter's Nightshade

Enchanter’s Nightshade

We’ve been trying to do it for years.  Something always distracts.  A different creek to explore.  Getting lost confused bewildered.  Starting too late to finish.  Too much snow.  My camera.

Today we finally accomplished our goal.  We were determined.  We set out early.  We refreshed our memory on how to REALLY use the compass and topographic map.  Not the pretend way:  “I think we’re right about here…  That’s cool.”  And most importantly, I left my camera at home!  (The pictures in this post were taken at other times.)

The thing is, the path we hiked used to be a road.  If you look it up on Google Maps, it will show as a road.  But I’m here to tell you:  It ain’t no road!  Not any more.  Some of the sluice pipes designed to divert water away from the road are still in place.  Others are tossed about, rusted, useless.  Some parts of the old road are clear, wide open, easy to walk.  Other parts are so densely covered you can barely fight your way through them.  Or they are completely impassible due to a beaver pond that must be circumnavigated.

100% DEET kept the bugs at bay.  A 12-inch sub and a tub full of watermelon and cantaloupe kept the hunger at bay.  And away we went paying attention to the wildflowers and the beauty and the signs of  wildlife along the way.  Lack of a camera, kept distraction at bay to a minimum.

Leaves from some of my favorite spring wildflowers remained – Foamflower, Trillium, Hepatica.  I even saw leaves of flowers I DIDN’T see blooming here before – Bloodroot – and made a mental note to come back next spring to watch for their blooms.  Midsummer flowers in the woods are not as plentiful, but you can find them if you pay attention.

Enchanter’s Nightshade takes advantage of tiny pockets of sunlight that filters down through the trees.  The tiny white flowers of this native plant have bits of pink if you take the time to look closely.

Enchanter's Nightshade

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, the genus name, Circaea, comes from the Greek enchantress Circe who “possessed magical powers and a knowledge of poisonous herbs; she could turn men into swine.”  (Source: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CIAL) Whether this species is magical or poisonous, I could not say.

Shinleaf in the Grass

Shinleaf

Also plentiful on the forest floor were Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica or maybe it was P. americana… See: I should have brought my camera).  According to the Lady Bird Johnson website, “The Pyrolas yield a drug closely related to aspirin; the leaves have been used on bruises and wounds to reduce pain. Such a leaf plaster has been referred to as a shin plaster, which accounts for the common name of this plant.” (Source:  http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=PYEL)

Shinleaf Closeup

At the far end of the road, we emerged from the woods and in the open spot were all the sun-loving roadside flowers – Crown Vetch, Oxeye Daisy, Day Lilies and more.

Lolli scared up a turkey that turned to feign attack.  I wonder if she could be sitting a second clutch of eggs?  We were most impressed by signs of bear activity.  A large puddle in the middle of the road had recently been stirred up, the mud not yet settled.  The grass around the puddle was spattered with fresh mud from what must have been a delightful wallow!  There was a perfect bear track in the mud of the road, and the grasses and plants off the road were beaten down, showing the direction of the bear’s travel.  We couldn’t have missed him by more than an hour.  A few steps beyond the bathtub puddle was a patch of grass and plants that was completely beaten down.  We wondered if the bear had slept there, or even just rolled around.

It was a great day of hiking and exploring.  I want to go back and enter from the other end of the road – WITH my camera this time!

 

 

 

Roadside Gardens

Who needs a garden when the roadsides provide so much beauty. I’ve had an itch to photograph them, but you don’t want to stand along a busy highway to do so! Instead, I headed for some dirt roads that I figured would not be highly trafficked. Here are just a few of the flowers blooming along the highways (and dirt roads) of Western New York in early July.

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Wild Parsnip and Sweet White Clover

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St. John’s Wort

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Chicory and Evening Primrose

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Fleabane

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Purple Clover and Bird’s Foot Trefoil

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Black-eyed Susan

My favorite stretch of country road was lined on both sides with Day Lilies:

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(Trying to) Savor Summer

I wrote this for our local papers and our work blog.  Wanted to share it here, too…

Dixon Grove

I took some time to savor summer by taking a few photographs in Dixon Grove at Camp Timbercrest one evening when I arrived too early to pick up my daughter for her night off.

by Jennifer Schlick

It’s 2:00 a.m. I’m wide awake. I’m sitting on the couch next to an open window, the cool night air streaming in making me feel cold enough that under other circumstances would cause me to go to the closet for a sweater. I won’t put on a sweater, though. I will soak in the cold – absorb it into my skin – in the hope that it will sustain me twelve hours from now when the heat and humidity will make it hard for me to breathe, when the brief walk from my car to work causes sweat to roll down my back. This is summer. Not my favorite season.

Not my favorite season, and yet yesterday for breakfast my cereal was covered with fresh, locally grown blueberries. My dessert at lunch time was a juicy, sweet peach, no sugar needed. And supper included fresh, local corn on the cob and a thick slice of homegrown tomato seasoned with basil leaves picked fresh from my own garden. Summer has its benefits.

Some nights in summer I’m awake because the heat makes sleeping impossible. Such is not the case tonight – my thermometer reads a delightful 66 degrees! (If only the neighbor realized this, he could shut off his air conditioner, open his window and listen to the crickets and katydids.) My sleeplessness tonight is all about the fact that I can’t turn my brain off. Ideas are bouncing around in my head, plans for fall and winter that we are making at Audubon even though summer is only half spent. The calendar pages are filling with offerings – something for everyone – classes to learn about nature, workshops to develop new skills, and opportunities to do the “green” thing. What’s the best way to market these great programs and events? How do we let people know what’s happening? What’s the best way to organize the website so people can easily find what interests them? Should we have online registration? Should we require payment in advance? What if there are still spaces after the registration deadline? How will we let people know they can still register?

“Stop!” I tell my brain. “Just stop.”

That stuff will all work itself out. Breathe. Just breathe. Embrace the moment. Take a deep breath. Someone is having a campfire and the smell of wood smoke is drifting in through the window. The newspaper delivery man has a companion; is he teaching someone new how to do his route? The dog lies limp and relaxed at my feet. I follow her example and close my eyes.

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By the time I re-awake, the cardinal and the crow are having a conversation and it isn’t too early to put on the coffee. I think about the day ahead, the week ahead, but without the sense of panic. A film crew will be at Audubon today to capture the excitement of banding 4 baby Kestrels. A new week of day camp will begin with 36 children eager to explore the world they share with wildlife. Merle will be there, filling the office with her laughter as she pieces together our snippets to make the September-October newsletter. The buildings and grounds crew will work on the bridge replacement project. Another of our summer learning series programs will unfold as a group of 15 people gather to kayak the Conewango with a naturalist. Everything will happen as it is supposed to happen; things will fall into place.

CampfireA friend of mine posted as his Facebook status the following observation: “August? What happened to May?” I could totally relate; the days are zipping by and sometimes I forget to slow down to savor the present because I’m too busy planning the next thing. Today, I will savor the moment. I will forget everything while the kestrels are banded. I will take some time to photograph the volunteers at work, and maybe a few of the emerging late summer flowers while I’m at it. I will walk around the ponds in the late afternoon sun and listen to the green frogs and the bullfrogs. I will stop at the farm market and buy fresh produce. And somehow, in between all that, the other stuff will get done, too. The grant requirements will be fulfilled. The website will be updated. The newsletter will get polished and corrected. I will trust my very competent staff and volunteer crew to do the things on their plates without my intervention – brilliantly, as they always do. I will breathe deeply and attend to each moment as it happens and everything will get done.

Jennifer Schlick is the sometimes frantic program director at the very busy Audubon Center & Sanctuary, located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, NY and Warren, PA. For information about the many events happening at Audubon this summer and throughout the year, visit jamestownaudubon.org or call 716-569-2345. She invites you to come on down and savor some summer at Audubon.