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

Monday, May 29, 2006
Some old friends, Carl and Susan, invited us to a Memorial Day party at their place in the Adirondacks. They have about 10 acres on a lake and the plant diversity is absolutely amazing. The property has been handed down through the generations and is largely untouched except for some logging years ago and the small area where two houses stand near the shore. While sitting on the deck I watched an osprey glide overhead and while canoeing we drifted along next to a swimming snake. This small camp has as much diversity as the 1000+ acres I usually walk. Here I show just a little of this Eden.

A view on the drive up to Ticonderoga.

The road into the point.

Red trillium with Carl in the background feigning interest.

A close-up of red trillium.

Carl on the emerald staircase leading to Eagle Cliff.

Carl near the top of Eagle Cliff

A view from the cliff.

Wood sorrel.

Purple violets.



Star flower.

Lily of the valley.

Wild saspiralla.

Low bush blueberry with just a few flowers left.

Fringed polygala.


American toad.

False solomon's seal

Coral root, a leafless orchid.


Blue bead.

Foam flower.

Yellow violets.

A frog sits patiently for his photo.

Large toothwort.

A yellow swallowtail.

A pink and yellow fuzzy moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) rests on the lightpost in the morning.

posted by Dennis 7:14 AM
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Saturday, May 20, 2006
Manchester-Essex Woods
After two weeks and 14 inches of rain (about that same depth that I got in my basement) I finally got back into the woods, unsurprised to find many of the trails still running brooks. Winter was hardly over and for the better part of May we found ourselves housebound again. The problem for me is that plants are better dressed for rain that I am (even Gore-text wasn't up to this rain). So while I sat home suffering cabin-fever, their life went on, unobserved. Goldthread has all but disappeared, but new plants are just emerging.

The runoff from the rains cascades down a small waterfall along the Grassy Ridge Trail near the Pulpit Rock Trail.

Another small waterfall along the Old Manchester Road.

On the hillside above Cedar Swamp sits the first Pink Ladyslipper of the season. This was within a few nundread yards of the start of my walk in the next 5 miles I saw one other ladyslipper and it hadn't entirely bloomed yet.

A good ID photo of dwarf ginseng.

Sessile-leaved bellflower.

Blue flag isn't in bloom yet but when I saw this backlit still life I couldn't resist photographing it.

Wood anemeone.

A slug makes a meal of a plant along the trail.

Past their peak by a few days, I missed most of the flowers during the rains.

An inchworm takes a walk along a leaf.

Leaves on the bottom of an inches deep pool in the woods.

Wild sarsaparilla.


Indian cucumber not yet in bloom.


Starflowers are everywhere.


A fungi grows on a log alongside the trail.

posted by Dennis 4:18 PM
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The Secret Spot
Yes, there is a secret spot in Marblehead, the home of the Morel mushrooms and the milk snakes that guard them. Seriously, it is surprising how often I have seen milk snakes in the same area where the morel mushrooms grow.

A two-foot long milk snake stretches out in the grass on a cold rainy day. I saw him while picking morels, but didn't have the camera. I went home, got the camera, and returned. The cold weather had made him lathargic and he was still there, only a few feet from where I'd first seen him an hour earlier.

The milk snake takes a defensive posture when stroked but exhibited no agressive behavior.

A morel mushroom.

Poison ivy leafing out.

posted by Dennis 3:49 PM
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Monday, May 08, 2006
Audubon Sanctuary in Marblehead
I am giving a wildflower talk and walk to a garden club tommorow so took a walk through the sanctuary to see what's in bloom.

Wood anemone grows in dense patches.

A small group of wood anemone flowers.

A closeup.

Poison ivy leafing out.

A red-backed salamander.


Low bush blueberry flowering.

Trout lily.

posted by Dennis 8:01 AM
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Manchester-Essex Woods
A beautiful morning with soft light and no wind. With lots of new flowers out I moved at a crawl and didn't cover more than a few miles.

Dwarf ginseng.

Pussy willow.

Sessile-leaved bellflower.

Marsh marigold.

Marsh marigold.

Nothern white violets growing in the moss under a skunk cabbage.

Wild sasparilla.

Wild sasparilla.

Deer lichen.

A shrub flowering in the wetlands.

Cedar swamp scene.

Cedar swamp scene.

A starflower that hasn't yet flowered.



Rattlesnake plantain, an orchid that will bloom later in the summer.

posted by Dennis 3:54 AM
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Thursday, May 04, 2006
Santa Barbara
This is an intermission from my usual posts. I just got back from a week in Santa Barbara where I spent a large part of every day climbing the front range of mountains. With elevations up to 3400 there are quite a few zones of vegatation and almost all of the flowers were unfamiliar. All of the photos were taken with a 4 megapixel Canon S2 IS camera that has some real strengths and weaknesses. The biggest strength is the way the rotating monitor lets you get eye level with newts, beetles and slugs.

I was really surprised when I ran into this horned toad at close to 3000 feet on Montecito Peak. Until this sighting, I had only seen them in terrariums.

Here's a side view of this beautiful animal.

Lizards are everywhere in the hot sun.

The largest lizard I saw, perhaps about a foot long.

This black swallowtail caterpiller feeds on fennel. Google "Papilio polyxenes" to learn more about these interesting ceterpillers.

San Yasidro Falls.

Prickly Pear Cactus on the verge of flowering.

This rat was on the trail. It was only after taking these photos that I realized he was ill.

One of the many small waterfalls on the climb to Tangerine Falls

Another falls along the same beautiful route.

Tangerine Falls plungs 80 feet to a pool.

A California Newt crossing the the road.

This newt, just a short distance away, that didn't make it. This is the reason that many communities put small tunnels under roads so animals like this have safe passage.

A newt in one of the pools below Tangerine Falls

This plant's fine hairs on its leaves capture the nightime dew.

Indian paintbrush.

The cursed poison oak.

Hummingbird sage.

Another California newt.

Canyon sunflower.

Pearly everlasting.

A California poppy, the state flower. This one, on the San Yasidro Trail at about 2500 feet was the only one I saw all week.

Sour grass has a tasty stem.

Tree poppy.

Another tree poppy.

Manzanita berries

Manzanita flowers.

Manzanita trunks and branches.

A beetle, perhaps a bombadier.

Another beetle.

A vetch of some kind.

A banana slug.

Another view of this beautiful six-inch long slug.

Monkey flower.

Monkey flower with the trail in the background.

Blue dick.

Blue eyed grass?

Saddlerock trail overlook.

The view over Santa Barbara from Montecito Peak.

Spanish bayonet.

California mugwort.


I wish I could take this boulder along with me and use it as a background for all of my flower photos!

Cascades and pools on Cold Spring Trail.

posted by Dennis 7:31 AM
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