Saturday, August 30, 2008

Goldenrod Party (Cutler version)

More goldenrod action, featuring a slightly different cast of characters than the CRP. Including gigantic bumblebees carpenter bees,

goldenrod soldier beetles, and the attractive Ailanthus Webworm Moth.

And there's a lovely flower with a yellow center

--oops, my mistake--it's a yellow crab spider eating a cabbage butterfly.
And another yellow flower lover--the ruby-throated hummingbird! More blurry photos, alas, with the best shot from behind, but this one was perched for quite a while before feeding so I took in a long long look. What a charming bird.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Goldenrod Party Continues

Today's party animal (and they are "partying" indeed) is a yellow and black long-horned beetle, leading the novice naturalist in me to think...hmmm....maybe there's some causal relationship between the yellowness of goldenrod and its popularity with yellow and black creatures...

I looked up the beetle and it turns it is the destructive (if you value black locust trees) Black Locust Borer Beetle. While their main food is the black locust, they love the yellow stuff.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mushroom in a tree

It hasn't rained in a while so the mushroom situation has calmed down around here. But there is a beautiful large satiny fungus under the pine tree in front of our house that is still hanging in there.
Makes a dramatic stage for our cicada skin collection (we found fourteen of them around the base of the pine tree).
And during an afternoon walk to Noanet Woods, I spotted a mushroom in the crook of a tree.

Who might be responsible?
Could it be you, red squirrel?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bees and Blooming Goldenrod

Today the focus at the Charles River Peninsula turns to goldenrod. It is in bloom and it is attracting zillions of bees, wasps, hornets, and other bee-like creatures. It is interesting to watch the diversity of insects on a single bloom.

Also, the monarch butterfly caterpillars are out--

this one was camped out on a tiny milkweed right in the middle of the trail.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mammals at the Charles River Peninsula

A red fox! A mangy red fox... Caught it on video as it slipped behind some bushes, and then got some longer distance shots (with a pile of brush obscuring its face, sorry...)

But that's not all!

I was peeking at the river and I saw a large lump in the water which, every once in a while, seemed to move. A turtle? My first close ups were not terribly conclusive. (Though I do seem to see a little paw there). Then it started to swim and I realized it was either a beaver or an otter. The side view close up is also confusing (I think it is biting an itchy tail or leg). I'm guessing beaver. Or maybe it's just a muskrat.... [UPDATE: Definitely a muskrat.]

Great Meadows

On my way home this morning, I couldn't resist stopping at Great Meadows in Concord. A beautiful late summer day. That's not a duck above, it's a Common Moorhen. Also got a nice shot of a gorgeous female yellowthroat,

a blurry hummingbird (better than nothing!),

and, of course, a great blue.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fowl Meadow (Blue Hills Reservation)

I got my grading done a little early today, so I decided to take a walk in an area I just discovered (though it is rather close and pretty obvious). I've long noticed a large wetland along the Neponset River east of Route 128. I picked up a Blue Hills map yesterday while Lily watched the otter at the Trailside Museum in Canton and sure enough, there is a trail system in that wetland with parking right off of Brush Hill Road.

The main trail is called "Burma Road" and it is a long straight grass and mud road that stretches all the way from Brush Hill Road to the highway. It is largely wooded, though it offers glimpses of marshland along the way. About 3/4 mile down the road, there is an intersection. If you take the right hand path (I didn't explore the left hand path), you'll eventually get to the banks of the Neponset and a much narrower and brushy path that runs about a mile along the river toward the highway.

It meets up at the end with the Burma Road. (Note: On the Blue Hills map there are a couple of paths in this area that I saw no signs of in reality).

'tis the season of hummingbirds (got a great look at a female ruby throat--no photo though--that perched on a branch about ten feet away before it buzzed away) and pewees (who taunt me by perching on branches that confuse my camera's auto focus). Also had an odd encounter with a group of wrens who were making catbird-like whines back and forth. I've read that carolinas do this, but these looked more like house wrens. Here's the blurry evidence.

And on the way out, to add to this season's buck and doe sightings, a fawn.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Flycatchers at Cutler

I don't know...Willow, Alder, Acadian. I'm going to say Willow, just because its the most likely around here. I did see a teeny tiny one today too, Least probably.
Note: the recent Cutler, uh, "discovery" doesn't seem to have dissuaded joggers, mountain bikers, families with kids in carriers, etc from the trails of the lower half of the property.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Backyard Turkeys

We were eating breakfast this morning and my daughter suddenly points to the window--"Turkey!" Sure enough, there was a wild turkey wandering through our backyard, apparently looking for the rest of its family.

One of its cohort was in our front yard, and they were making interesting vocalizations back and forth (not "gobbling") trying to regroup.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A tour of the local National Wildlife Refuges

This was the last real day of summer vacation for me (next week I need to start thinking about the fall again). So I decided to do something new and mildly adventurous: visit three of the National Wildlife Refuges in the Sudbury/Wayland area. I enjoy Great Meadows in Concord, so I picked the other two Great Meadows sites, plus Assabet River.

I started with the Sudbury/Weir Hill NWR, and frankly, was a little disappointed. Unlike Great Meadows in Concord, which is all marsh all the time, the trails at Weir Hill are mostly woodland, with tiny glimpses of the marshland.

Highlights: mushrooms galore (some purplish ones),

a wood frog hopping down the trail, and a (visible) pewee. The pewees are still singing, but only in fragments.

The full view of Sudbury's Great Meadows, it turns out, is only available from the road (or canoe)--about a mile's worth along Water Row Road. I stopped at the lone viewing point and snapped a photo through my car window.

After Weir Hill, I moved on to the Griscom Trail, also woodland but somehow more pleasant. Probably because of the smaller scale, and the thought of Ludlow Griscom camping out in May watching for migrating warblers. More glimpses of marshland. Spent some time on the banks of the lovely Heard Pond across the street. Was that a loon out there in the middle of the pond?

(No, just a cormorant, I think).

Onto Assabet River, which I knew nothing about--only that the site looked woody and that it used to be part of Fort Devens. I thought I might walk to "Puffer Pond" and see if I could find a great blue heron to photograph. A friendly NWR rep gave me a photocopied trail map and seemed relieved that I didn't plan to make much use of the trail system. "Very wet," was the message. The pond is accessed through a dirt road, not a trail per se. Along the way, views of an oriole family, the construction of a new NWR visitor center, and abandoned Fort Devens buildings.

The pond was nice, and I caught the glimpse I'd been wanting of a great blue (flying away). But it made me hungry for more. Should I explore the (wet) trails or play it safe and go home? I had my trusty waterproof Keens on--how muddy could it be?

For me the adventure begins when you go off trail, or at least go down trails that you know most people don't use. In this case, to keep going down the trail meant immediately traversing a 50 yard trail puddle (water from the marsh on one side of the trail spilling into the pond on the other side). Just about enough footing to make it through without submerging the Keens. So when I got to the other side, I had a feeling of exhilaration--finally free to explore!

That feeling lasted for about a half a mile, until I met a similar obstacle, this time with deeper rushing water (pictured below).

I managed to get through by balancing on large sticks on the edges, holding onto stalks of purple loosestrife (finally a use!) and small trees to keep me upright and my feet above water. Onward! I see another great blue heron flying away.

Ten yards later, groan. Impossible. Now the trail puddle was a full fledged brook (pictured below). Water six inches and deeper.

I stood for a good ten minutes on my island trying to figure something out. Two great blue herons flying away. But the edges lacked enough footing to even try. I would have to wade to proceed (and even the Keens wouldn't do for that). So adventure over, I turned back (and wasn't nearly as careful on the return trip so ended up with soaked feet anyway). When I got home, I found out that this part of the trail was in fact "closed" (no signage, unfortunately, though I imagine the NWR rep would have told me had I asked).

But a good day over all, despite the initial disappointment and the wet feet. My reward on the way back, the great blue heron not flying away, just standing there waiting to be photographed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Giant Mushrooms at the Charles River Peninsula

I've been documenting putatively "giant" mushrooms that have appeared on my lawn this summer. I'm chagrined to say that those were not "giant" at all, merely "large." Because this morning in the woods at the CRP I found some that were dismayingly huge. The first one I spotted by the path among the wintergreen. I thought it was a large rock at first. I've tried to provide a sense of scale below.

And looking around, I immediately realized that this was only one of many giant mushrooms in the area (one of the smaller ones, actually). The real giant was truly enormous, flattened to around 10-12 inches in diameter.

I've seen fungi this size on the sides of trees and the like, but never free standing like this.

Also, sounds at the CRP (still dominated by the raging redtail) have moved from bird song to bird call--even the song sparrows are quiet, during mid-day anyway. Distinct calls, such as the towhee's "chewink," stand out, but the rest make me want to study the Birding by Ear CDs again. Finally, a nice glimpse at the local great blue heron across the river.