Thursday, April 30, 2009

Northern Mockingbird

I knew I was hearing a Mockingbird--countless song imitations one after another. A few years back they used to hang out down the bottom of the hill from where this one was singing. Finally, I caught a glimpse and went totally frustrated trying to get off a shot. Then my friend flies up on a pole in the middle of an old parking lot, completely exposed, and starts singing away!

Here's my friend getting started...

And now really belting it out!

Then it's across the street for some cat and mouse in the trees...

And finally a bit of acrobatics...

Now, that's a real Mockingbird! A Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos. Amazingly, lots of folks ask for recommendations on how to rid themselves of their noisy neighbor. I'd love to have a few around!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Japanese Barberry

Japanese Barberry, Berberis thunbergii, can be found sparsely in a few locations around the lake. Its long slender thorns can be easy to miss, especially once it leafs out.

Yes, by it name we can assume that it's a traveler, coming into New England around 1875. It is considered invasive, but what's in a name? It's beautiful and certainly isn't overtaking anything as far as I can see.

A couple of views of the flower buds...

Tomorrow, we start the bird series! Until then, here's a shot of a lovely couple during last evening's sunset.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Fruits of the Red Maple that seemed to come out of nowhere.

One of my spots around the lake.

Yesterday I expanded my territory. When my friend asked about my travels, I now had incentive to make this long-planned trek.

My usual route is in cyan. The new route is magenta. I probably haven't been back in there for over twenty years, so although this new adventure was goal-oriented, I did manage to come up with new species. New entries are coming in faster than I can process and catalog. I guess I already know what I'll be doing this coming winter...

Monday, April 27, 2009


Here is Fetterbush, Leucothoe racemosa, also for good reason named Dog Hobble. Yep, you guessed right. Chomping down just a few leaves will leave a dog, cat, or horse in all kinds of trouble.

I find it odd to irritating how often I am presented with only the showy flowers--especially on the web, but there are many 'plant guides' that follow this religion--for a plant or tree. (I've held back on my rant for as long as I can!) See, this bush is known for its rows of little white bell-shaped flowers. But what I find equally beautiful is this early growth of flower buds.

And just as much so the remains of last year's fruit.

Here's a view of all the action going on now. No leaves. No flowers. Absolutely beautiful! :-)

Getting bird shots is an interesting challenge. I've never had a shrub suddenly tear loose from the earth and go flying across the lake. And it's a good thing too, or we'd be looking at weekly-only posts. That's why I am so stunned and pleased with today's shooting. I have three brand new and terribly fascinating bird entries coming up after a few scheduled posts go by. This time I think I have my identifications down pat. In fact, I'm quite confident that I have the real Mockingbird! Yes! No impostor will sneak by me this time! :-) The other two? You'll just have to wait and see. They're awfully cool too!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cinnamon Fern

These ferns have captured my attention. Since the discovery a week ago, I have visited them nearly every day. Their growth has been incremental up until now and I don't know what to expect in the coming week. The photos here are from early in the week.

Out on a limb, my usual stance these days, I will tentatively offer an identification of Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea--a fern known to enjoy splashing around in the water.

I will try to stay with these, documenting their progress. And if things work out well, I will display the process in a new kind of presentation. More on this soon...

Gretchen and I exchanged comments on Rabbit Wednesday and I promised to include the lovely quote she so kindly sent along.

This will be a collection without order, made up of many sheets which I have copied here, hoping afterwards to arrange them in order, in their proper places according to the subject of what they treat; and I believe that before I am at the end of this I shall have to repeat the same thing several times; and therefore, O reader, blame me not, because the subjects are many, and the memory cannot retain them and say 'this I will not write because I have already written it'.

~ Leonardo da Vinci

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sensitive Fern

The Sensitive Fern seems to conjure an image of withdrawing from touch or bursting out with tears, but it name refers to its rather touchy nature regarding frosts. I was exploring a field bordering swamp when I fell upon a few patches of this remnant of last year's growth. These fertile spore stalks winter over and it's said they protect the next year's growth. That is, clearing them out in the fall might hurt next spring. I've read that perhaps due to their sensitivity to cold that they will be late comers this spring. And curiously, for all their sensitivity, the appearance of the leaves is not that delicate.

I like the lovely colors in the stalks and the incredible detail throughout all the branching.

I suspect that these specimens are from two years ago as all that's left is a skeletonized structure.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Well, that's it for the mammals! They were a lot of fun and certainly easy to identity. It's now time for me to settle into a bit of botanical confusion... :-)

I am fairly sure that this is bud and bark of an ash tree. (Not many trees have opposite branching, which does help here.) Once the flowers extend I may have a more conclusive ID. If that doesn't get me there, leaves will soon to follow. This seems not to be a common tree around the lake.

In general, it is this stage of development that might not be well documented. Of course, I do remember early frustration as I scratched my head over dried up pods and flowers, that is until I found a few good resources.

I'm excited over the next couple of posts--in the first we'll look at one species' leftovers from last year; in the next we'll catch some glimpses of an early starter.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mother and Child

With all Tuesday's rain, I did my lake excursion by car. As I came up over a rise, here was a raccoon coming along the side of the roadway. Being a nocturnal creature, I figured this poor thing to be rabid. I thought I'd get off a few quick shots before calling environmental police.

But something in its behavior was wrong. It was quickly moving away from me. A rabid animal might not have acted so naturally.

Then I noticed the little something in its mouth. Here was mother raccoon moving one of her children. I estimate her little one to be about two weeks old.

I must offer apologies for the shots. Auto-focus was turned off from some earlier photos (sigh...), and I was shooting one-handed without the viewfinder while driving. I did feel bad disturbing her and her little one but I don't think I put them out too much. Our whole encounter lasted less than a minute or two before she was over the wall and out of sight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Although this beautiful creature has been frequenting my yard for some time, I have managed to see only a blur as I blunder into its space. Yesterday's rain kept me under cover and provided the long-awaited opportunity.

Although around here they're commonly know as rabbits or bunnies, its formal name is the Eastern Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus.

I'm really excited to be able to change pace by moving into the animal kingdom. And it's not over yet! Tomorrow's post, although a bit off in quality, will hopefully prove most interesting. I know it blew me away!

Sometimes I begin to wonder where the next new material will come from. Will the supply run dry? I'm slowly coming to believe that that just cannot happen. The more I get out and simply look around, the more incredible diversity that opens up before me. For instance, I have posts stubbed in for the rest of the week and there's still material backed up for research and processing. Now that's job security! :-)

p.s. Here's how I usually see my little friend--no fur, just blur!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Vinca minor is flowering

Common Periwinkle, Vinca minor, is an evergreen perennial classified as invasive. Imported in the 1700's from Europe as an ornamental, it is said to take over forest floors, choking out native species. Regardless, I really like this little one. The leaves are bright and shiny and the flowers so pretty. Around the lake it grows in shady spots and doesn't really seem that overpowering. I'm sticking up for it. After all, it does provide a nice touch of green, as it did on my Christmas post.

Today is my fourth day in a row for a mini vacation of sorts--it is sadly back to work tomorrow. Each day I have been happily collecting photographs and specimens. Identification is proving a good deal more challenging than the gathering. I am without comfortable tools for determining species by newly developing buds. No worries... I may soon have to post a bit without names until leaves develop--there are some very lovely buds...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blossom Updates

Within the scope of my wanderings, I am finding new growth subtle. It's not the explosion I expected, at least not yet. I guess I have never paid such close attention to Spring's beginnings, even after many years as a groundskeeper.

Here are blossoms we have previously visited. These shots were from yesterday to illustrate the long-lasting nature of these flowers--male and female pussy willows, followed up with a male swamp maple.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Green Updates

Although I am still collecting dried specimens from last year's life cycle, this year's new nature is visibly stirring.

Raspberry is leafing out with vigor.

Mullein is greening up and throwing off new leaves at a growing pace. The wintered over basal leaves of this biennial will be hosting a tall flower spike and we'll get to see the progress during the coming months.

I don't yet have an identity for this little one. I'm going to dig into The Field Book of American Wild Flowers. (Thanks to Gretchen for the recommendation!) It's really a whole new world for me--a world of green, that is. Bushes are budding out and little plants are breaking ground and I have much research ahead--just the way I like it!

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves.
~Gilbert Highet

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yellow and Brown

I have found only one vine of Horse-nettle, Solanun carolinense. The fruit, although only a third of inch in diameter, has a shape reminiscent of tomato. Makes sense, as a member of the Nightshade family.

This has been one of those discoveries that hang around here for some time waiting for a good ID. Once again my trusty Guide to Wildflowers in Winter comes through. In fact, the other night I used it to make three identifications, two of them in this post!

Here's the fruit of the Moth-mullein, Verbascum blattaria. This specimen is the second and last year of this biennial. Closely related to the Common Mullein, this plant has some really beautiful flowers. I'll be on the lookout as the warmer seasons come in.

Let's get a bit more color in this post! I'd placed those female swamp maple blossoms in a glass or water. They must have been fertilized as they're now spinning off some samaras. How cool is that!

And just for a little fun, I'm playing with my watercolor plugin again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bits of Brown

Sweet Pepperbush is a common find around the lake. I notice that recently the fruiting stalks are breaking over. At first I thought it was localized but I'm seeing this change everywhere I look. I also notice some tiny and slow developing buds.

While walking by the Buttonwood introduced back in December, laying in the sidewalk, right in front of me, was a Buttonwood fruit. Unbelievable! I've been poking around under that tree for months looking for one of these!

Here it is after dissection.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bits of Yellow

I grew up with Forsythia bushes all around, their bright yellow blossoms a sure sign of spring. My thoughts are to only present species that grow wildly around the lake, meaning no around-the-yard plantings allowed. I found small Forsythia in two places close to the shoreline so I'm slipping some in here.

There are quite a few dandelions popping out, all with flower heads snug against the ground. It's hard to tell from the photo but if you look closely, you'll see some ants at work. I wonder if there's pollen or nectar to be harvested?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Eastern Phoebe

This little friend wouldn't let me get very close and yet seemed to play a game of never straying too far away. I am a little bit unsure if it's really a Mockingbird as I'm used to seeing white spots on the wings while in flight. But, it is the closest I can come with my Audubon guide book.

Update: Gretchen has helped guide me to a better identification here. Thanks Gretchen! :-)

My research is leading me towards the Eastern Phoebe but I'm not sure. Some sources have coloring described with olive green, some with brown. One sure sign is a wiggling tail but I didn't see that behavior.

Here are a few more photos from the same outing.

And one of these days I will get a close shot of a Red-tailed Hawk. There were three of them circling way up there during Monday's outing.