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

Friday, March 31, 2006
Manchester-Essex Woods
It was forecast to be 70 today so I dropped Emily at school and headed north to the woods. The last few weeks spring was like a car having a hard time starting. It would start, then sputter to a stop repeatedly. Today the engine of spring finally caught and it purred like a new Mercedes.

New growth on spagnum moss is a wetland.

A garter snake crossed my path and was patient enough to let me change lenses, make camera settings, and lie down face to face with it. I took 20 or 30 shots and then wished it well as we went our separate ways

If you don't think this picture is great, you try chasing a turkey through the woods. If it was in the clear I could outrun it but the undergrowth gave it an advantage. Truly a handsome animal

A mourning cloak butterfly eating sap running down the stump created when beavers gnawed it through.

There were turtles basking everywhere. Imagine what it must be like for them after months buried in the dark mud.

A real find, wood frog egg masses! The wood frog chorus was almost deafening in the small vernal pools. It would go dead silent as I approached, but I did catch a glimpse of a few frogs. The sun was too bright to do them justice but egg masses surrounded the stems growing out of the water.

posted by Dennis 12:01 PM
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The Path
A late afternoon walk led to some discoveries in the Forest River area.

Hairy cap moss sporophytes.

Tamarack tree blossom starting to emerge.

posted by Dennis 1:09 PM
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Sunday, March 26, 2006
The Path
I took a very quick Sunday morning walk around The Path carrying only a pocket camera "just in case." A few days ago I'd had a turkey vulture hissing at me from 20 or so feet away. I had no camera to capture the moment and didn't want a repeat performance of that negligence. The camera was a Canon S2 IS and it's super macro mode let me capture the earliest flower of the year.

Whitlow grass, a member of the mustard family, is always the first true flower of the season, beaten out only by the skunk cabbage. It doesn't get much attention because it's so tiny and hard to see.

posted by Dennis 11:53 AM
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Saturday, March 25, 2006
Saturday in Manchester-Essex Woods
It was a gray, chilly March morning but I went on a four hour walk in the Manchester-Essex Woods, hoping to find Trailing Arbutus, the state flower. No luck on that scrore, but there were other things to see.

A small tree recently felled by beavers and a good view of their teeth marks.

A larger tree almost gnawed through.

No tree left standing.

The long boardwalk crossing Cedar Swamp.

Cattails in Cedar Swamp.

It wouldn't be New England without granite in all of its forms from bedrock outcrops to loose boulders.

Manmade art on Pulpit Rock Trail with granite put to good use.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia), not yet in bloom, gets its name from the color of its roots.

Holes drilled in tree bark at regular intervals. A search of the Web tells me these may have been made by a yellow-bellied sapsucker. Any ideas?

Another tree, a different pattern of holes in the bark.

posted by Dennis 2:30 PM
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Sunday, March 19, 2006
The Path
It was a cold Sunday morning, 27 when I left the house and mid 30s by noon. It took me 3 hours to walk the 5 mile path looking for signs of life. The effort wasn't fruitless but with the ground still frozen in places, the efforts of the new season lie hidden.

Red-tailed hawk being mobbed by crows

Mallards on ware pond.jpg

The path into the Forest River Conservation Area

British soldiers lichen on a post

Haircap moss growing sideways to disorient the viewer. When you'd brush the stalks clouds of spores would be released.

This leaf is from a Hepatica plant in Wyman Woods that is in a race every year with a nearby Coltsfoot to be the first to flower. It's earliest flowering date recently has been April 8, still a few weeks away.

Pussy Willows in full bloom.

Alder catkins.

A plant emerges from the leaf litter in the wetlands.

A beautifully colored skunk cabbage begins to rise and open in the wetlands.

A grouping of beautiful skunk cabbage.

I don't know what this wetland plant is. Can you identify it?.

More alder catkins.

posted by Dennis 1:05 PM
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Saturday, March 11, 2006
Manchester-Essex Woods
A walk along Rocky Hill Road and back toward Hobbs Pond revealed winter is almost gone. Snow and ice only hang on in the shadiest spots.

Leaves embedded in melting ice

Cedar Swamp on the edge of the woods

The gate on Rocky Hill Road

A pine cone and partridge berry on the forest floor

Turkeytail grows in an old log

Is there any other way?

A surveyors stake, for once planted by our team: the Manchester-Essex Conservation Trust

A very old moss-covered log fallen across a free running brook deep in the woods

The snapping point on a dead fall

Pine needles arrange themselves on a bed of leichens

Peeling bark that shelters insects during the winter. There was a beatle hiding under this bark. I had to find him a new home.

Ice melts back in the leaf litter

An old well alongside Rocky Hills Road

posted by Dennis 11:46 AM
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Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Manchester-Essex Woods

Today I ended a very long streak of work with a morning off in the Manchester-Essex Woods with Rob Kipp. It was 35 degrees but the water was starting to run in the streams and you could feel winter slipping away. This is the season when anticipation builds because everything bad lies behind and everything good lies ahead.

Spagnum moss and retreating ice

Rob Kipp

Tree bark with lichens

Antique teapot decaying in the leaves

Signs of deer and ticks to come

Clubmoss with spores in a circle of retreating ice

Teabury with red berry emerging from the thawing ice

Melting snow bares the leaf-covered ground

A tree well on its way to being recycled

Was anyone there to hear it?

The boundary between winter and spring

posted by Dennis 12:37 PM
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