pameladean: (Default)
Trying to catch up with hiking posts before I forget everything. We try to hike every week but have missed a number of weeks because of the weather. But here's another one we managed.

Last week Raphael and I were very reluctant to leave the house, but we decided to go somewhere nearby and possessed of varying degrees of strenuousness. We went to Hyland Park Reserve, which is part of the Three Rivers Park District. We started at the lake where they rent out canoes and kayaks, hoping to see some Eastern Amberwings. We did see some; they are always both so familiar and so startling, small but very intense. Then we drove to the Nature Center, and after admiring the garden around it, set off through the woods to our first destination. We passed the Creative Play Area, which was a sea of mud, and Raphael remarked that either children would not be playing there or their parents would be very sorry that they had. We sat down on a bench that faces but doesn't really have much of a view of a pondy area. There's a screen of sumac and wildflowers in the way. The sumac was richly and abundantly going to seed in a very deep red. I remembered seeing deer down there a few years back, but the area where they'd been grazing was all water now. We stood up and used binoculars for a bit, but the light was dazzling on the water. There were some smaller ducks and some larger ones. On the way back to the car when the light had changed, we saw some identifiable wood ducks and some smaller dabbling ducks.

We headed for a little path that leads to the edge of another pond, but it had become a stream. We accordingly went on a more official path through a patch of woods and sumac. A woman running by remarked that she was seeing a lot of butterflies today. When we got to the pond, one ramp of the dock was waterlogged and the other muddy. We took a brief look at the water-covered approach, and some kind of heron flapped out of the grass at the pond's edge and back into it again further on. "Was that a heron?" I said, but it was hidden now.

On the muddy but passable side a woman, two children, and some toys were disposed in the sun. We edged past them, exchanging greetings, and the larger child showed us what he had caught in an ice cube tray. I remarked that the ice cube tray was a good idea, and he came after us to say that he had also caught about six leeches, so we shouldn't go swimming. We promised we wouldn't.

We've often seen kingbirds and swallows, as well as many dragonflies, swooping over this pond. Today dragonflies were a little scarce, but the turtles were out in force, dozens of painted turtles sunning themselves on a number of fallen logs and tilting snags. It took us a little while to notice the snapping turtles; the more remote ones looked like rocks and the nearer ones like swellings in the tree trunks and longs. But there were three snapping turtles lying along the logs. Raphael thought they looked like jaguars on branches and I thought they looked weirdly like wombats. They were too wide for the logs, so they were dangling their legs over the sides. Two remained alert, with their heads up; the third let its head dangle too. One of them was arranged across rather than along a branch, so its long tail also dangled. They were both imposing and very funny indeed.

We hung over the railing, looking at a few damselflies, watching a turtle swim up to the surface and put its nose up to breathe and another one climb onto a log and slide back again. Then I saw the heron again. It was shaped like a green heron but its markings were off. It had a streaky breast and its back was dark but not exactly green. I pointed it out to Raphael, "Green heron?" "Or is it a bittern?" said Raphael. When it stuck its neck out it looked very like a green heron, but they are usually so shy that I'm never sure of my identifications. The heron perched on a log, occasionally walking along it and stretching out its neck to look for food. Then I noticed the second one, some ways further along the shore. That one stalked into the reeds and came out with a frog, which it either washed in the water or kept having to get a new grip on before it could finally swallow it. The other heron preened itself extensively and then started flipping its very short tail around and suddenly puffing up and deflating a crest on top of its head. "I think they must be juveniles," I said. "The only other time I got a good look at a green heron it was a juvenile."

Shortly after the crest-puffing, the further heron flapped towards the near one, then veered off and flew away, followed by the second heron. We took another long look at the snapping turtles and turned back to walk around the tiny prairie restoration adjacent to the pond. There were dark-winged grasshoppers and meadowhawks. Goldenrod and yellow coneflower were blooming, along with some stiff coreopsis and a few white asters. As we climbed the hill towards the upper part of the prairie, we began to see monarch butterflies. I managed to see six or seven all at once, which was many more than we'd seen together for some time.

I was not having a great day physically -- it turned out that the pollen count on the Weather Underground page was wrong and I should have taken an antihistamine before leaving the house. While I do get drippy and stuffy with allergies, sometimes my main symptom is just a dragging fatigue. So we sat on several benches and enjoyed the rolling layers of tall grasses in their autumnal rich brown, broken here and there by clumps of goldenrod and bordered by dark green oak trees.

There's another trail we often take and we discussed it, but neither of us felt really up to it, so we looked up the green heron when we got back to the car -- indeed, our birds had been juvenile green herons -- and drove home through the summer evening.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Ooof. Well, I voted in the Hugos, in the nick of time. I had actually, in the course of trying to keep up with the field, already read almost all of the legitimate nominees. I made an earnest attempt to read the others, and even got right through a number of the shorter ones, just in case there was a hidden gem, or a trick ending to a drearily predictable beginning. Alas, there was not. I didn't vote in a number of categories, including the dramatic presentations, short and long, because I didn't have enough information. I read quite a bit in the Related Work category but was not much enlightened. I'm glad that's over.

I'm still working on setting up the Patreon. I hope it won't be too much longer. There's a myriad of tiny decisions that are surprisingly difficult to make.

The weather has been wild and not altogether predictable; though the overall implications are grim, I love looking at the Scientific Forecaster Discussion on Weather Underground and seeing remarks like "The models have not been notably helpful in determining convection" and similar sentiments. I actually feel for the forecasters quite a bit. In any case, the effect on me so far has been mild compared to tornadoes, dangerous straight-line winds, repeated flooding, the loss of trees, the death of campers in the BWCA, and damage to buildings, cars, and people in both northern and southern Minnesota. Mostly it's meant that scheduling hiking has been difficult. Raphael and I did make it to Hyland Park Reserve two or weeks ago and to William O'Brien State Park last week.

Hland had a resonable number of dragonflies, notably widow skimmers; also swallows feeding their young in snags sticking out of a pond, a young bullfrog making its rubber-band noise where you could actually see it, an osprey and one youngster on the osprey platform, and a space of emergent vegetation cut down almost to the waterline, which I thought at first must be the work of park staff getting rid of unwanted plants, but turned out to be the work of a very assiduous muskrat. The muskrat was closely focussed on its task, so we got the closest view of one that either of us has ever had. It shied once at something we weren't sure about, unless it was alow-flying skimmer; and again when we walked around to its other side. But it soon returned, nibbling away and letting us admire its little blunt face and tucked-in ears and even its long flexible tail. The meadows were full of wildflowers, wild bergamot, coneflowers, butterfly weed, a tiny white flower I can never recall the name of, some leadplant, anise hyssop, and more.

At O'Brien we saw more widow skimmers, a twelve-spotted skimmer or two, an Eastern amberwings or two out over the water, a stray Hallowe'en pennant or so, many blue dashers, and some powdered dancers and meadowhawks. Both the lake and the river were very high, so that the sandy verges we can usually walk upon were under water. We decamped to the prairie sooner than usual; it was abundantly flowery, with wild bergamot in greatest numbers, but also gray- and green-headed coneflowers, black-eyed Susan, purple prairie clover, leadplant, horsemint (a very weird plant indeed), and much more. Goldfinches were calling everywhere; the thistle has begun to go to seed, so it's their nesting time, and their "potato-chip, tato-chip, chip-chip-chip" was everywhere. Once or twice we saw them swoop by, but mostly we just heard them. On the upland prairie trail we stopped by a group of five or six dead trees, one live tree, and a dense growth of bushes. It was full of birds: a cedar waxwing, a nuthatch, two elusive woodpeckery birds that were not flickers but were probably sapsuckers, a brilliant and enormous robin. We heard Eastern wood peewees but never saw one; the same with wrens, except that Raphael was pretty sure of one wren sighting. Swallowtail butterflies were also abundant, including a giant swallowtail that ws very impressive indeed. There were the usual bluebirds and tree swallows on the lower prairie and around the parking lot where the birdhouses are.



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