Seasonal Signs
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Dennis Curtin's journal of natural events in and around Marblehead, Massachusetts

Sunday, August 17, 2003
Cape Cod
I have been on a one-week vacation on Cape Cod, spending much of my time walking the conservation lands in Barnstable. Our beach house was in Hyannis, about 90 minutes from here and a stone's throw down the beach from the Kennedy compound. It was hard not to let my imagination drift back to Joe, Jack, Bob, and Teddy sailing by our house when growing up in the 1930s. Much of what I photographed is also found in Marblehead, but there are some exceptions--especially the Green Fringed Orchid and Indian Tobacco. The orchid was growing all by itself in the middle of a meadow in the shade of a Juniper tree. The Indian Tobacco was also a single plant, growing next to the parking lot in an area that is mowed at times. One of the more interesting finds was the Swamp Rose Mallow that was growing in both fresh and salt water ponds. It's 6-8" flowers are quite dramatic, especially where it grows in dense stands. The last picture shows Lauren, Margaret and Emily midway through our traditional turtle hunt. Using nets and hands the girls chase turtles like crazy, boating as many as they can. They got 27 two years ago, and 21 this year. After a short canoe ride all of the turtles are released back into the general area in which they were caught.


Ground Nut

Swamp Rose Mallow

A stand of Swamp Rose Mallow

Indian Tobacco

Green Fringed Orchid

Turkey Tail Fungi

Turtle hunting

posted by Dennis 7:09 AM
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Saturday, August 09, 2003
Off My Beaten Path
Recently I received a pleasant surprise, a photo from Nijole Paskauskiene who lives in Lithuania. Although separated by a long distance, we both love nature photography for similar reasons. As Nijole says "every day look around me and see a lot off wonderful things." It would be nice if we all shared that view of life and our too short journey through it.

Photo taken near a lake Zirnojai

posted by Dennis 3:16 AM
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Hellborine Orchids
There is only one kind of orchid that I've found in Marblehead, and it's only in one small place. It's had a tough year. A small patch of maybe 4 or 5 Hellborine Orchids grows on the path between Wyman Woods upland and Salem Harbor. This spring while the Marblehead Conservancy was doing trail work the Town delivered them 3 loads of wood chips. As luck would have it they were dumped right on this patch. It took three weeks to get them removed and I feared that the orchids would have been lost. Just about when I was going to write my "local extinction" story, they appeared--sickly and fewer in number, but at least there. I took a few photos, planning to come back in a few days to do a better job at it. When I returned the Town had cut them down on one of their routine mowings along the edges of The Path. I've always been ambivalent about this mowing, but it does keep down the woody plants and lets wildflowers, at least those that aren't mowed down, a better environment. By next year at this time, I'll have let the Town know where the orchids are and see if we can't give them a better year than they had this year.

Hellborine Orchids in full bloom

posted by Dennis 1:39 AM
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Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Leggs Hill and More
This morning I took a quick walk around Leggs Hill and photographed Spotted Knapweed and Showy Tick Trefoil (a member of the pea family). Other than wildflowers I discovered a beautiful bright orange fungi growing on a fallen tree, and another tree bearing basket-sized bunches of seeds. It threathened rain but then the sun broke through. A rabbit that didn't seem to be too anxious let me get within a few feet before bolting into the brush. As a bonus I'm including a photograph of Steeplebush growing in an open meadow behind the Collins School in Salem. Chris Burke showed me this wonderful spot, on or about the ancient way that led to the great pasture. It's a fitting setting for Steeplebush, a native plant often found in old pastures.

Spotted Knapweed

Showy Tick Trefoil

Fungi on dead tree

Seeds hanging from Summac-like tree


posted by Dennis 5:46 AM
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Monday, August 04, 2003
Salem Woods
We had a tropical downpour most of yesterday afternoon, and it's expected to resume today. I'll take this foggy morning interlude to post some more photos from yesterday's walk through Salem Woods. I was surprised to find Pale Corydalis still in bloom, since in most places it's gone entirely to seed. I found it on the bluff above Thompson's Meadow along with Blue Curl (see below). Thompson's Meadow is actually a freshwater marsh and, although in Salem, until the 1950s it was the source of Marblehead's drinking water. On the way there, I took a turn I'd never taken before and discovered a new, large meadow that's one of the prettiest I've seen. It's nice to know I haven't seen every place and that things as nice as this remain to be discovered.

Pale Corydalis and seeds

Meadow above Thompson's Meadow

Thompson's Meadow

posted by Dennis 2:50 AM
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Sunday, August 03, 2003
Salem Woods
I spent four hours in Salem Woods this morning, where I met Chris Burke, head of Friends of Salem Woods, and his wife. I got some nice pictures but only have time to post two because it's thundering out and I have to shut down. The photos are of a tiny flower called Blue Curls (Trichostema dichotomum), a member of the mint family. One shot shows why so many flowers have a protruding lower lip--it's a place for bees and other pollinators to land.

Blue Curls

Blue Curls flower with bee

posted by Dennis 1:19 PM
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Saturday, August 02, 2003
The Path Again
Here are a few more images from today's walk.

Bullthistle flower

Cabbage butterfly on Chicory

Joe Pye weed

posted by Dennis 3:30 PM
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The Path
It rained till mid morning then stopped with the sky overcast and the light beautiful for photography. A 5-mile walk around The Path turned up lots of new plants. One of the most interesting was Common Mallow (Malva neglecta) also known as a "cheese" from the fruit, which is round and flat like a wheel of cheese. Asiatic Day lilies have been blooming for awhile, each flower lasting only a day. Creeping Bellflower has been growing in a number of places along The Path for a month now and is on it's way out. Sea lavender is beginning to flower in the Forest River marsh. It's a beautiful plant but the flowers are so small, no photo just it justice.

Calocera viscosa fungi

Common Mallow

Asiatic Day Lily

Creeping Bellflower

Sea Lavender

Sea Lavender flowers

posted by Dennis 3:07 PM
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Wyman Woods

There is a wonderful stand of Indian pipes in the woods. These flowering plants contain no chlorophyll so they thrive in deep shade. They feed off decaying organic matter broken down for them by fungi in the soil and leaf litter.

Indian Pipe flower

Stand of Indian Pipe

posted by Dennis 2:43 AM
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Friday, August 01, 2003
The Path in the Wyman Woods Wetlands
It's been raining most of the day but I walked down The Path during a break and photographed some plants I'd seen yesterday in the Wyman Woods area. They are Water Parsnip and one of my favorites, Buttonbush. Buttonbush is a wetland shrub that puts out gold-ball sized blossoms that look like small antenna covered satellites.


Water Parsnip

posted by Dennis 12:59 PM
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Leggs Hill
I've been going over the Legg's Hill most mornings, even when the weather hasn't been good. Every day things are different so even without photos to take, it's a joy to take a half hour or so to enjoy the changes. There is quite a bit of milkweed in this area so with luck I'll run across some Monarch butterfly larva. I've already posted photos of Queen Anne's Lace but it's so photogenic, I've put up another one.

Wild Garlic


Queen Anne's Lace


Milkweed seed pods


posted by Dennis 10:30 AM
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Salem Woods
It's been over a week since my last entry because I put my back out in Salem Woods and then got hit by a long stretch of bad weather and loads of work. I have a lot of catching up to do, first on my last visit to Salem Woods. I got some great photos of Spotted Wintergreen in full bloom. It was right alonside the trail, out in the open. I photographed the Thimbleweed on my way out after hurting my back, then went back a week later and it was all gone. Good thing I shot it when I could. While photographing the Pineweed there were two red tailed hawks overseeing my efforts from atop the power lines.

Spotted Wintergreen flowers




Apple, ready to eat

posted by Dennis 10:30 AM
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