After my second Christmas Bird Count (I'll cover this in the next post) in a couple of weeks on January first, I was ready for some fast/sweat-inducing hiking on the the 2nd. So, we set out from home and did a hike that connected some local preserves. It was a bit gray, but the blanket of snow made for a nice backdrop for pops of red (and Eliot's new hunting safety hat). We need to keep working on our winter tree identification skills and animal prints for that matter, but there were a few old favorites we remembered. Below are some photos from the hike.
Beech leaves still clinging on.
A surprisingly active spider.
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill these wells on trees for the same reason that we drill holes to make maple syrup. Many hummingbird species feed from these sap wells and some even time their migration to align with Sapsuckers. They are the only woodpecker in North America that migrates.
American Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), called winterbloom by some, has a showy flower in October and November. Quite the floral treat for winter eyes. The petals have fallen here and now only the calyx remains. Aside from being one of the only winter flowers, witch hazel also has medicinal and historical uses. Native Americans first taught European settlers about how to use it for inflammation and it is still commonly used as an astringent. Another use that I've heard my mother's side of the family talk about is it being the best species for divining rods to locate water (a skill my Grandfather had because, logically, he was the seventh son of the seventh son). That's a story for another day.
Clematis vitalba (Old man's beard or travelers joy): A plant that emulates the hairstyle I most wanted in 1987
Physalis alkekengi (Japanese lantern): cool, but nonnative
A Thanksgiving walk at Wright-Locke Farm and over through Whipple Hill was a nice way to focus on gratitude. We were able to meander around various ponds and wetlands and even spotted some beautiful Hooded mergansers. I just realized that these ducks nest in cavities in trees like Wood ducks and that they are also known to put their eggs in the nests of other Hooded merganser nests. This nice little chunk of nature sure is an oasis for people seeking glimpses of wild. There were lots of bird nests (many of which had pieces of plastic woven in), a White-throated sparrow practicing a very rusty song, alders, oaks and their various acorns, beeches, beautiful signs of herbivory like lace on oak leaves, and ice chunks reflecting the blue sky. Though, I did take my nice camera to Boston, I forgot it on both walks, so these are just iphone shots.
We spent Black Friday at Castle Island where we found an adorable little flock of Dunlin and I got some sea water mist on my face, which is important to do as often as possible.
Today we enjoyed another beautiful day in New York. We went birding with some new friends and they taught us quite a bit about good places to go and birds to see. We might have mistaken a Baltimore oriole for an American robin had they not been there to encourage a closer look. Here, you can see her frolicking in the waves of Lake Cayuga. I am not sure what the oriole was thinking or what might have been wrong to keep her in upstate New York until November, but I am worried about her tonight as I am cuddled up in a down comforter and the wood burning stove is keeping us warm. I get REALLY distracted when birding and not collecting data, so I spent some time skipping rocks and admiring milkweed going to seed. The lake was lovely with fall foliage atop crystal clear water.
Embarrassingly, I am a bit rusty on my gull identification and struggled a bit. So, tonight I am putting an old friend back on my nightstand: Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Birds. There are many field guide options, but this is the one I learned on way back when I took ornithology at Earlham during my sophomore year and my life was forever changed. My mailbox number is chicken scratched on the first page next to a pressed and carefully taped 3 leaf (????) clover, a penciled in Medford, MA address, and one page of a very sweet letter from my Grandma Martha. My Grandmother was an avid birder, but this particular letter she wrote in the voice of the amish doll she was sending for my tenth birthday. How clever.
There was a carpet of floating fall foliage on the clear Cayuga water, which I could watch for hours. See video in my instagram account: sarahkatherinewagner