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

Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Manchester-Essex Woods
It seems all we have gotten this spring are bright windy days. It was beautiful and I spent five hours on the Ancient Line Trail and the beautiful Cheever Common Loop.

The woods at dawn.

Goldthread is now flowering.

Another goldthread.

Birch trees near the boardwalk.

Someone has both a good imagination and artistic sense turning a boulder into a trailside monster.

Heron Pond at dawn.

Another view of Heron Pond.

Partridgeberry growing in moss.


Patterns in moss.

Marsh marigold in bloom.

An interesting view of skunk cabbage.

Bracket fungi growing on a dead birch.

A garter snake poses patiently.

A heath-like plant in flower.

A moss covered trail across the wetlands.

Ground pine, a very common plant in the woods.

Canadian mayflower.

posted by Dennis 12:05 PM
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Sunday, April 23, 2006
Salem Woods
Another bright windy day, great for a hike but not a good one for photography. In Salem Woods things are really happening with columbine, saxifrage, and bluets all in bloom.

Tall meadow rue begins leafing out.

Saxifrage is in full bloom on most of the cliff faces.

This flicker was putting on quite a show high in the trees.

Small but beautiful bluets are everywhere.

posted by Dennis 2:11 AM
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Thursday, April 20, 2006
Manchester-Essex Woods
It was not the best photographic weather with bright sun, clear skies, and gusty winds. I was forced to work close to the ground where things were less affected by the wind. However, there were some exceptions, and some surprises. I walked from 7 till 3, a long day on the trails.

Bearberry grows on the rocky ledges along Prospect Trail.

Partridge berry still has uneaten berries from last fall.

Skunk cabbage is leafing out in all of the wetlands.

Could this be the "bear den" on Bear Den Trail?.

I have no idea how I spotted this in the leaf litter but there it was. The leftovers from an owl's dinner some time this past winter.

Turkeytail fungi.

I found this egg mass in a small pool of water filling a tire track in the woods. A truck had passed by recently but had veered around this wet area so the egg mass survived. Who knows for how long.

Here is an early arrival, in fact its leaves weren't even out yet. My guess is that it's a wood anemone but am willing to be corrected.

A headstone near a trail sign marked Bishop's Grave.

One of the few squirrels I've seen in the woods.

Another turkey, or perhaps the same one in a different spot.

Canadian mayflower is leafing out.

An apparent attempt to make one trail intersection look like Times Square.

Marsh marigold is going to explode this weekend.

Poison ivy vines against a birch bark background.

posted by Dennis 2:05 PM
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Sunday, April 16, 2006
Manchester-Essex Woods
Friday dawned warm, clear and windless, a perfect day to leave work behind and walk in the woods. This time I struck out for the farthest reaches of the Woods and made it all the way to Hamilton.

The beaver is now comfortable enough to snack while keeping a close eye on me. It has a stash of evergreen branches anchored underwater that it draws on when hungry. It appears to live, not in a lodge, but in a borrow that it enters through an underwater hole in the embankment, much like a muskrat.

Wading through some ankle deep water takes you off the beaten track into a part of cedar swamp that looks ancient.

The dew point was so high my camera and lens were covered with moisture. When the light softened from a passing cloud, ordinary things took on a luminous glow.

I know I photograph too many skunk cabbage but this pair was particularly handsome and irresistible.

This granite boulder marks the Hamilton-Manchester line near Chebbaco Road. Chebbaco Road is apparently the place to be on BIG night if you want to see the salamanders and wood frogs crossing the road to the vernal pools.

A sign honoring the memory of a loved one and I can't think of a better way to be remembered.

posted by Dennis 2:56 AM
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Wyman Woods-Hepatica
The Hepatica was in all its glory at 10am this morning. This is the first plant to blossom in a small patch of these extreamly rare plants. I'll likely post more of these because they are usually the first showy plant to flower and start off the intense season of wildflowers,

posted by Dennis 8:04 AM
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Wyman Woods
The Hepatica is out in Wyman Woods so I went to photograph it. It was too late in the day and the blossoms had closed up. However, while talking to Linda Hall she noticed a garter snake coiled up in the leaves so I too a few pictures.

A small garter snake in the leaves.

posted by Dennis 11:42 AM
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Manchester-Essex Woods at Sunrise
I arrived at Heron Pond just as the sun rose. The beavers were slow to make their appereance but the wait was made enjoyable by the bird song and the beauty of the pond covered with a soft fog.

Here's what I went for, a photo of the beaver with the 400mm lens.

He seems to want me gone.

Trees illuminated by the rising sun.

Patterns and reflections in the still surface of the pond.

One of the redwing blackbirds attracting mates in the swamp.

posted by Dennis 5:37 AM
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Sunday, April 09, 2006
Manchester-Essex Woods
I was at the woods just after sunrise to see if I could capture the beavers at work. I wasn't able to do that but one of the three beavers I saw swimming in Heron Pond was as curious about me as I was about him. He swam toward me, getting as close as 20 feet or so and followed me along the shoreline. Courtesy of his kindness, this post is mainly beaver shots, but there was also more to see and enjoy. Toward midday I sat on an ancient lichen covered boulder (off the Ancient Line Trail) and had lunch, then started the long hike back.

The beaver in Heron Pond.




Periodically the beaver would slap the water with its tail, making a loud cracking sound and sending up a shower of spray.

Beaver and pattern of reflections in the water.

A tree leans waaaay out over the pond.

Another one of the many stone walls lacing the woods.

A century-old marker on the Old Manchester Road marking the line between Manchester and Essex.

Marsh marigold growing in a wetland. In a few weeks the plant will feature large yellow blossoms. This is one of our showiest wildflowers

One of our less admired plants opens to show the flower head hidden inside.

Spagnum moss in a wetland.

Pine needles on the forest floor.

A woodpecker's fresh work on the Old Manchester Road. The birder's consensus is that they were made by a Pileated woodpecker.

Sedge tussock on the edge of a pond.

posted by Dennis 11:50 AM
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Saturday, April 01, 2006
The Path and Leggs Hill
Took a walk along The Path, through Wyman Woods, and over Leggs Hill this morning.

Cypress spurge is starting to bloom in the sandy soild of the Forest River.

A swan nests in Coy Pond in the Leggs Hill area.

Wyman Woods is strung with stone walls from the early days when it was a farm.

All winter, when there isn't any snow cover, spotted wintergreen reminds one of the spring to come.

posted by Dennis 1:40 PM
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