Seasonal Signs
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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

Friday, April 30, 2004
The Path
I took a long 5 mile walk around The Path through town and found a few things of interest. Two are garden escapees that have established themselves in the wild: Lesser Celandine and Periwinkle.

Lesser Celandine


Trout Lily with the petals flared back in the sun

Jack-in-the-pulpit pushing up through the ground

posted by Dennis 2:55 PM
. . .
Audubon Sanctuary
The light was beautiful and there was no wind so I made an early morning trip to the Audubon Sanctuary on the neck. It was full or birders, all looking up. Then there was me, looking down. We passed like ships in the night, each oblivious to the others world. The trip was worth it though, with Trout Lily and Sessile-leaved Bellwort both in blossom.

Trout Lily

Sessile-leaved Bellwort

Wood Anemone with blossom open

A grass, so far unidentified

Beautiful bracket fungi that have been growing for years

The front pond

posted by Dennis 6:56 AM
. . .
Salem Woods
A late afternoon walk in Salem Woods took me to new places. The feeling was definitely one of anticipation. It's as if all of the action to-date was just opening the theater and arranging the props. The real show is about to begin. The bloodroot of last week is now followed by Marsh Marigold at a little stream crossing and Columbine on rocky ledges.

A garter snake in the leaves at eye level

A camouflaged rabbit, one of a pair crossing the trail

A fleeing rabbit

Columbine on a rocky ledge

Columbine blossom close-up

Marsh Marigold at a brook crossing

Tussock Sedge's new growth

Tent caterpillars first appearance

posted by Dennis 1:51 AM
. . .
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Something to Look Forward to
We're still weeks away from Pink Lady Slippers in Salem Woods, but one lone seed pod from last year rises above the area like a flag. It's an invitation to return to see the flowers in bloom.

Lady Slipper seed pod

posted by Dennis 2:58 AM
. . .
Its Season is Past
On yesterday's walk I found little new, but found that the Hepatica have now passed on for the season. The plant's energy will now go into building the leaves that always follow the blossoms. Shown here are bracts. The flower is somewhat unusual in that it has no petals. The bluish flower blossoms are sepals below which there are the bracts, or modified leaves, shown here.

I also found a quarter-sized painted turtle dead on the road. It was sad to think it had been conceived about this time last year, wintered over in its shell in the nest, and then hatched out this spring only to die so soon. Its brief one year of life was so confined. Not to dwell on this aspect of nature but I ran across two dead hawks in the Forest River area yesterday. I suspect both had died at pints over the winter and been preserved in the snow pack until recently. I'll spare you the photos of this side of nature.

Hepatica sepals

posted by Dennis 2:46 AM
. . .
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Salem Woods
The woods are full of small azure blue butterflies that appear to flash blue as they beat their wings in flight. I haven't been able to get close enough to these nervous butterlies for a good picture, but you'll recognize the flashes of blue. They are about the size of a quarter.

Sping Azure

posted by Dennis 7:02 AM
. . .
Forest River and Other Places
The day was cloudy bright, great weather for photography although I did get caught in one short spring shower. After spending three hours in Salem's part of the Forest River in the morning I took a late afternoon walk to Leggs Hill and Marblehead's part of the Forest River. I didn't see much in the way of new flowers but here is the "catch of the day."

A "fairy circle" in the Forest River outlining an old tree location

A rock in the woods with a pool on top

A common but uncommonly beautiful lichen

Mayflower leaves

Brook, actually the Forest River itself, running wild through its namesake area

Skunk cabbage meadow in the Forest River

Tree fallen over old stone wall

Swan at Coy Pond

Violet at Wares Pond

posted by Dennis 3:02 AM
. . .
Monday, April 26, 2004
Salem Woods
Sunday was a glorious day, dawning cold and clear and slowly warming to a spring-like temperature. I took a long three hour walk through Salem Woods in the morning then a quick trip back in the late afternoon. The reason for the double-dip? The discovery of Bloodroot in full bloom. A magnificent and very short-lived blossom dots portions of the hillside not far from the Lady Slippers but hidden from the trail. On the afternoon walk I met Deborah who gave me the names of many things I didn't know, one of them the British Soldiers shown here. Lots of other flowers in bloom, early saxifrage and bluets among others.

British Soldiers, a lichen

Early Saxifrage


Wood anemone, wind flowers

Bloodroot rising through the leaf liter--hello spring!

The Bloodroot flower head on

Bloodroots wrapped in their protective leaves

posted by Dennis 5:01 AM
. . .
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Earth Day; Marblehead Time
Saturday was Earth Day clean up and I walked many of the open spaces photographing crews at work cleaning litter and planting trees. In the afternoon I then led a walk of Steer Swamp for Audubon. There are lots of new things emerging every day. The Canadian Mayflowers are starting to blossom in Steer Swamp and Strawberries are in full bloom.

Cyprus Spurge in the Forest River

Soon-to-be pine cones on Tamarack Tree in the Forest River

A Morel mushroom in the Forest River, appearing a week later than last year

Dandelion first appears, it will be a faithful companion all summer

Garlic Mustard, a ubiquitous invasive

Strawberries in Steer Swamp

Earth Day volunteers gather at Community Center

Any hat will do

posted by Dennis 4:07 AM
. . .
Friday, April 23, 2004
Hollyhocks in Baghdad
Our own intrepid Beth Houghton, driving force behind the "Discovering Marblehead" book, is looking for wildflowers in Baghdad. Dressed in desert fatigues, helmet, and flak jacket, she cuts quite a figure. So far she has only found a few flowers on any kind, ironically some of them are Hollyhocks, symbols of our good old town. I'm sure Beth will have many stories to tell when she returns from this very hot combat zone, unlike anything most of us have experienced.

Hollyhocks in Baghdad

posted by Dennis 5:54 AM
. . .
Ware Pond
Last weekend Quinlan, Connor, and I went to Ware Pond to test our luck at catching some small fish. We did net one stickleback, but while trying, the crows went wild. Assuming they were mobbing a hawk or owl, we headed in the direction of the sound. Just then the crows flushed a red fox and chased it along a fence and across a neighboring yard. Nice sighting so close to home.

Quinlan and Connor at work

Ground ivy in flower at Ware Pond

posted by Dennis 2:20 AM
. . .
Around and About Marblehead
The day was mostly cloudy, but not overcast so the sun would break through periodically. All in all a great day to hit some of the wildflower hot spots to see what is happening. I was surprised by how far things had gone in just a few days.

Wooly Bear Caterpillar at Audubon Sanctuary

Mayflower popping up, but not yet it bloom, at Audubon Sanctuary

Marsh Marigold, one of the showiest wildflowers, in Goldthwaith Reservation

Another View of the Marsh Marigold in Goldthwaith Reservation

Wood anemone (wind flowers) about to blossom in Wyman Woods

Skunk cabbage well along in Wyman Woods

Hepatica won't be around much longer

Horsetail infertile stems along The Path in Wyman Woods

Horsetail leafless fertile stems with spore bearing cones on top along The Path in Wyman Woods

posted by Dennis 1:40 AM
. . .
Sunday, April 18, 2004
Salem Woods
It was a clear Sunday morning with warm temperatures and light breezes, perfect for my first spring walk through Salem Woods. I saw lots of things, but one stands out. An encounter with a red-tailed hawk. I first saw it land on a branch about 300 yards away and began bushwacking cross-country to see how close I could get. With dry leaves on the forest floor, my approach was hardly stealthy, but both the hawk and I were patient. Within about 15 minutes I was only about 15 feet away from it. As if to greet me it began to open its mouth and make a coughing-like sound, soon depositing the remains of a mouse at my feet. I took that as a real compliment because the mouse meant more to him than to me. Even though finished with it, the hawk was making a statement of some kind. I took about 50 photos of him (her), talking to it all the time as it eyed me curiously. At the point where it became bored, it lifted lazily off the branch and glided to a low branch on another tree a hundred or so feet away. I left it alone and found my way home.

The red-tailed hawk on a branch

Garter snake in the leaves, probably a female

Skunk cabbage

Club moss

Birch trees

Ferns emerging

Bluff over Thompson's Meadow

Turtles basking in Thompson's Meadow

posted by Dennis 5:07 PM
. . .
Friday, April 16, 2004
Hepatica Revisited
Today dawned with clear skies so I waited until 9:30 when I was sure the blossoms would be open on the Hepatica. Sure enough, there they were in all their glory. Today I photographed with the D60, a macro lens, and twin lites to counter the wind. The flowers were dancing in the breeze the whole time I was shooting them but the flash kept them relatively sharp. I'll shoot them again when there is no wind so I can get maximum depth of field.


Hepatica eben closer

posted by Dennis 7:29 AM
. . .
And We're Off
The pussy willows have been out for a month now, the skunk cabbage is starting to explode in the wetlands, and the red-winged blackbirds are singing in the cat-tails. Best of all, the Coltsfoot, Hepatica, and Whitlow Grass are in bloom. These three flowers are the first to bloom every spring preceded in Marblehead only by the Skunk Cabbage. The Coltsfoot and Whitlow Grass have been in bloom for a week now but Hepatica first bloomed two days ago during a cold rainy spell. I went over yesterday to photograph it with a Canon D60 and a new Song F828. With the F828 I was able to set the camera on the ground and shoot straight ahead or even upwards gaining a new perspective. To get these angles with the D60 would have required that I lie down and scrunch my head sideways, a position more suitable for an 18 year old. I think I've fallen in love with the F828. Check out the photo of the hairy cap moss!

Hepatica in Wyman Woods

Whitlow Grass in the Forest River

Hairy-cap Moss on Leggs Hill

Coltsfoot along the path.

posted by Dennis 3:18 AM
. . .
Sunday, April 04, 2004
It's been a Long Time
Last August on a vacation to the Cape, I decided that there were some books I wanted to write and get out of my system. As a result, I no longer had time to keep the Seasonal Signs blog up to date. Now with spring coming, it's time to resume. The first wildflowers, skunk cabbage, are making their appearance. Here are some of the signs of spring that I have noticied over the past few weeks. Things will start accelerating soon with Hepatica due in the next week or so. The first signs, the pussy willows and willow trees, appeared about three weeks ago.

Willow trees start to turn yellow against the sky

Pussywillows come out along The Path

Last years fallen leaves in the woods

Water lily pads rising to the pond's surface

Last year's milkweed pod dried on the ground

A Saw-whet owl probably killed by one of the two horned owls wintering in Wyman Woods

The first skunk cabbage always appears on the hillside in Hawthorn Pond area

The last snow melts in thw wetlands of Wyman Woods

posted by Dennis 12:32 PM
. . .

. . .