pameladean: (Default)

This is very long and detailed, so I’m going to try to put in a cut tag.

All right, I can't get that to work, not if it was ever so. I'm sorry.

 

On Tuesday Raphael and I went to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. The forecast was for a sunny, almost windless day with a high of 87. The air quality was moderate. I complained about this the day before and Raphael asked if I'd prefer not to go. But Sherburne is actually a good place to go on a less than perfect day, because there's a seven-mile wildlife drive with stopping points for viewing whoever happens to be around; also a tiny oak savanna (1/10-mile loop) trail and a prairie trail with an oak grove in the middle with a bench (1/2-mile loop). And it's September; hiking season will be over at some point.

We got a late start but arrived with about five hours of daylight ahead of us. Sherburne is near Sand Dunes National Forest, and its soil is also sandy. It's a lightly rolling landscape full of marshes, pools, and prairie, broken by lines and clumps of trees. You drive through a short stretch of mature restored prairie to reach the actual wildlife drive. It was awash in blooming goldenrod and blue and white asters and rich brown grasses.

 We stopped at the Oak Savanna Trail and had a sandwich, read the list of plants presently blooming (six kinds of goldenrod, four kinds of white aster, two kinds of blue aster, rough blazing star, and boneset) and then walked out on the tiny boardwalk. We examined what looked like an abandoned bald eagle's nest through one of the spotting scopes provided, and then started looking at spreadwings (yet another kind of damselfly) in the tall grass that the boardwalk runs through.

 Here is an image of a spreadwing that one might see in Minnesota, though I don’t know if that’s what we did see.

 http://museum.unl.edu/research/entomology/Odonata/lere.html

 A flicker of motion in the distance caught my attention, and I looked up to see three sandhill cranes landing across the prairie near the road we'd come on. "A family," said Raphael, looking through the binoculars. "See the juvenile?" I did see the juvenile, which did not have all its red in yet but was almost as large as its parents. The cranes started walking through the grass, not unlike herons stalking through shallow water; occasionally they would bend their long necks down and poke around in the grass roots, and occasionally one of them would make a sharp dart and come up with food and swallow it.

It was hard to decide whether the cranes were more awesome through binoculars or just as tall shapes against the pale road and prairie, bending and straightening, wandering apart and together again. If you didn't look through binoculars you could also see meadowhawks darting around, the spreadwings rising to catch tiny insects and settling again to eat them, the unexpected wind shaking the oak leaves and the grass and the asters. From time to time a darner moved across the larger prairie, veering after prey or just powering along.

At last a truck came fairly fast along the road, raising a cloud of dust, and the cranes paused, considered, opened their huge wings and rose up, gawky but graceful, and flew away low over the grasses. We went back to looking at smaller wildlife

I was trying to spot a spreadwing through the binoculars when I saw what looked like an animated tangle of brown grass. I said to Raphael, “There’s some kind of mantis there!” and when Raphael expressed astonishment, I added, “It’s very stick-y,” which allowed Raphael to come up with the actual name: It was a stick insect. It took a few moments for me to describe its location and for Raphael to see it, and then I had trouble finding it again through the binoculars, but it was busy clambering around against the wind, so we did both get a good look at it. It was only the second stick insect I’d seen in Minnesota. The other was at Wild River State Park. That one was much larger and was rummaging around in a pile of leaves at the edge of the parking lot. This one was fascinating because its camouflage was so great, and yet it did have to move around, so you could differentiate it from the grass if you worked at it.

We’d arrived in the deep of the afternoon when smaller birds are quiet. We heard a few goldfinches murmuring, and a phoebe carrying on, and a chickadee. We left the boardwalk, admiring the asters waving in the non-foreseen but welcome breeze, and walked around the oak savanna loop. The little oak saplings tangled among the other shrubbery were already starting to turn red. White asters poked their flowerheads through leaves belonging to other plants, to startling effect. Autumn meadowhawks floated and hovered and darted, snatching up gnats from the clouds around them. We had seen a monarch butterfly in the asters while we were eating our lunch, and also a dark-phase swallowtail wandering over the grass; now we saw a painted lady butterfly.

We made an attempt to leave, but a darner landed on a drooping dead branch of an oak tree right in front of the car. The sun was behind it and we couldn’t get a good look without tramping heedlessly into the prairie, so we didn’t, but its silhouette was lovely against the brilliant sky.

 We drove on, past tall browning and reddening grasses, clumps of goldenrod, clouds of asters. Darners flew up from the sides of the road and zoomed away. We found at the turning that the refuge had reversed the direction of the wildlife drive since we were there last, which was momentarily confusing; but we found our way, and stopped at the Prairie Trail. I pointed out some thoroughly spent plants of spotted horsemint. We’d seen it in bloom, if you can call it that, at William O’Brien. It’s a very weird-looking plant. Here’s a photo:

 https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/spotted-horsemint

 This observation continued my inability to accurately provide the names of things; I’d just called it horsemint and Raphael reminded me that that particular weird plant was spotted horsemint. There are other horsemints, but they don’t look so strange. As we stood looking over the rise and fall of the little prairie, with folds of alder and sumac, and lines and whorls of different grasses and goldenrod, all truly starred with the blue and white asters, I said that I loved how big the sky was at Sherburne. Raphael noted that it was a slate-blue just now; we assumed that was the haze of the wildfire smoke all the way from the west coast, a somber reminder of far too many things.

 We took the grassy path, startling small grasshoppers out of our way and stirring up meadowhawks from the tall plants and shrubs. We saw a monarch; we saw a painted lady. Passing through a little grove of young alders, on almost every tip of the dead trees intermingled with the living there was a meadowhawk perched. They swept upwards, snatched a gnat or fly, landed to eat again. Raphael showed me how to identify a female autumn meadowhawk: they have a definite bulge just below the thorax, which was easy to see against the sky. Darners zipped past from time to time. If it was a green darner we could usually tell even from just a glance. The others were mosaic darners, but harder to identify in passing.

 I think it was as we approached the oak grove that we started seriously trying to identify the grasses. We’d known big bluestem, aka turkey-tail, for years. After seeing it labelled repeatedly here and there, I could pick out the charming clumps of little bluestem, just knee-high, with their pale fluffy flowers lined up and catching the light. We’d looked at an informational sign at the trailhead, but its drawings of Indian grass and switch grass didn’t look right. Raphael pulled up the photo of the sign about grasses at the visitor center at Wild River, which had struck both of us at the time as much more informative than other attempts to depict native grasses; and we could suddenly identify Indian grass after all. It has a long, narrow rich brown seed head with varying degrees of spikiness; some are quite streamlined and others are tufty and look as if they need combing. And we felt more confident about the switch grass with its airy spreading seed heads.

 Raphael pointed out a beetle on the path, maybe a Virginia leatherwing, and then realized that it looked like a moth. A little research when we reached the oak grove and sat down showed that it was a net-winged beetle, and the entry even mentioned that it looked quite a bit like a leatherwing.

 The bench we were sitting on was made from boards of recycled plastic. At some point Raphael had had enough sitting and went ahead a little way just to see what was there. I’d noticed when I sat down that there were verses from the Bible printed on the back of the bench in some kind of marker. On the left was the passage from Matthew that begins, “Come unto me you who are weary and heavy-laden,” and on the right the passage from John that begins, “For God so loved the world.” These might have been written in different hands. But the passage in the middle was definitely in a different hand, and began, “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine.” The ending of the passage was a bit smeared and I couldn’t read all of it, but at the bottom the name “hunter s. thompson” was clear enough. I followed Raphael and relayed the beginning of the passage. “Hunter s. thompson!” said Raphael, going back to the bench with me. “It’s from <i>Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas</i>.” Raphael looked this up too, and showed me the unsmeared passage on the cellphone.

 Giggling a bit, we went on our way. We were now well around the loop and into the straight stretch back to the car. From the other side I’d pointed out a lovely layering of grasses, goldenrod, a narrow cleft of willow scrub, and a candy-red line of sumac. Now we came to the sumac from the other side. On the path in front of us was a butterfly. “What is that?” said Raphael. “It’s a Red Admiral,” I said confidently, but it wasn’t. It was another Painted Lady. Raphael consolingly told me that they were both Vanessa, very closely related, but the Red Admiral is very common in Minnesota and I was chagrined that I’d misidentified something else as that.

 We came to a little stretch of boardwalk over a marshy area. On a shrub was a shimmery amber-tinged odonate. I pointed it out to Raphael. It turned out to be another autumn meadowhawk, though it looked as if it ought to be an Eastern Amberwing, or at least a Band-Winged Meadowhawk. It had perched on a bit of red-stemmed dogwood, just to be extra-cooperative. We went on through the cattails and willow, past a minute patch of open water and up onto the grassy path again. Raphael pointed out that where the path climbed back out of the tiny marsh there was a nice view over the rest of the open water and the winding marsh with more willow, and cattails, and a shrub we should have known but didn’t. (I briefly misidentified it as more red-stemmed dogwood, because it was my day to misidentify everything; but it had deep purple stems and leaves just starting to turn reddish.)

 On our right for the end of our walk was the brilliant sumac and the cleft of alder saplings, all their leaves fluttering and twinkling in the wind and sunlight; on the left a long slope of prairie grasses interrupted by goldenrod and asters. More darners sailed by. The sky had lost its smoky cast and was a fine late-summer deep blue. We came back to the car and Raphael began to drive away, but I exclaimed at the sight of a big clump of stiff goldenrod covered with pollinators. We didn’t get out, but looked our fill from the car. Big bumblebees, a Ctenucha moth, beetles, ambush bugs. Once Raphael started reading it, I had to edit this entry to correct the Ctenucha moth's name and type, so have another link, since they are very handsome:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ctenucha_virginica
 
There’s one more trail you can actually walk along, near the end of the wildlife drive, but there was a sign at the beginning saying that it was flooded. Before that we drove past long stretches of marsh, open water, and rolling prairie, all patched with clumps of trees. From time to time there would be a wider spot in the road, sometimes a formal space big enough for three or four cars, with a bench or two, or a platform over a low spot with spotting scopes and some informational signs about the wildlife; others just a metal platform with railings, where you could stand and look over the water. We tentatively identified the spot where we’d once common moorhens, which are not so common that we weren’t deeply excited. We’ve also seen muskrats and various ducks in these locations, and once there was a gigantic cloud of mosaic darners all brown and yellow – I seem to recall that some of them were lance-tipped darners, but I may be wrong. This time we heard water birds making a ruckus, but couldn’t see them. Darners came by in about the density that they had been all the while. Over one platform we saw what turned out to be a northern harrier; these guys have an amazing acrobatic flight, and they’re reddish on the underside and bluish on the back. I excitedly called this one a kestrel, which would be smaller and have the colors reversed: bluish on the underside and red on the back. We also very clearly saw a nighthawk with its white wing bars, though the sun was still up.

 We also saw some cedar waxwings fly-catching from a tree with a dead top, and heard a yellow warbler.

 At last we came to a stretch of water, islands, and snags so large that it had two separate viewing-spots. From the first we saw several groups of large white birds. I thought the first were swans, but they were white pelicans. There were also some swans, however. We came finally around a curve of the gravel road to an observation station in a little oak grove, overlooking the far side of this large sheet of water. This is where most of the dead trees are, and here, to our delight, we saw as we’ve seen before several times a very large number of cormorants. The sun was setting by then, off to our right. The sky was pink and the water reflected it. Many cormorants were roosting already, but some were still coming out of the water; they would land on a branch, sometimes settling and sometimes glancing off several different trees before finding one that suited them, or one in which the other cormorants accepted them. It was hard to be sure. Then they would spread their wings out to dry, looking as if they were practicing to be bats for Halloween.

 We found the swans and pelicans we’d seen from the other viewing station, though it was getting pretty dark by then. Cormorants still flew up into the trees and spread their wings. Through binoculars you could see the ones that had folded their wings now preening their breast feathers. Some of them had pale necks and brown fronts rather than being entirely black. I mentioned this to Raphael, who looked it up in Sibley and confirmed that those were juvenile cormorants.

 It was getting quite dark by then and the mosquitoes were starting to think about biting us in earnest. We drove past two more pools; beside one two groups of people we’d seen pass earlier, a third car I didn’t recognize from before, and a man using a wheelchair were standing and gesticulating. We pulled up and got out. The water and trees were lovely in the twilight, but we didn’t see any wildlife. The solitary man went away in his wheelchair, the unfamiliar car left, and we followed, watching the varied texture of the grass and flowers fade away into the dark.

 

Pamela

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
The pattern of the weather has been remarkably consistent for several weeks now: heat and humidity during the week, often with severe thunderstorm warnings and torrential downpours; then a cool front comes in and Friday and the weekend are much cooler and drier. Sometimes the heat pounces on Monday and sometimes Monday is just a bit less pleasant and then the heat sidles up on Tuesday and the window air conditioner suddenly starts leaking water all over the floor, to the great alarm of Cassie.

So we keep having to go hiking on Friday. Then on Saturday and sometimes Sunday as well there are social events, and I also generally have a date with Eric over the weekend. This means that, since there is no way I am doing any major work in the yard in the kind of heat we've been having, and anyway with all the rain the grass is too wet to mow, I am not getting any yard work done. I think there are no social events this weekend (the last one had a MinnStf meeting, which was very pleasant indeed; and then a smaller party on Sunday evening, which was also lovely), so with luck on Sunday evening I might be able to do very basic maintenance before heading off to Worldcon.

In the meantime, last Friday Raphael and I were not really feeling a strong enthusiasm for going hiking -- or, well, if someone else had done the necessary laundry, made us some sandwiches, and teleported us to a nice spot, we'd have been fine with it, but the preparation did not thrill us. However, Friday was a gorgeous Minnesota summer day of a sort that I often fear is on its way out as the hell of climate change sweeps over us. So Raphael, after consideration, remarked to me that while we have visited the Minnesota part of the Carpenter Nature Center several times, there's a Wisconsin annex that is almost entirely comprised of prairie walks. The Minnesota side is a good mix of woods, wetland, and prairie, but it is too woodsy for the level that the mosquito population has reached this year, with so much rain in a month that is often dry if not actually drought-stricken. So a preponderance of prairie walks seemed like a good idea. The drive was also not terribly long. So I did the laundry, and in the morning I made the sandwiches, and we set out, late, because I usually prep lettuce and tomatoes and make salmon salad the evening before, but we did manage to get out of the house.

There was construction on 94 and a terrific amount of slow-moving traffic until we were well past St. Paul, but eventually we crossed over the St. Croix River into Wisconsin, took Exit 2 for Carmichael, and drove on increasingly smaller roads until a short gravel one led us to a clearing with a house, some small outbuildings, a large flower and vegetable garden, and a gigantic Porta-Potty. We weren't sure it was the right place, but one of the outbuildings had a supply of maps and a notice that Henslow's Sparrow, which nests on the ground, was doing so in the area. A pleasant man introduced himself and asked if we'd been there before, and recommended a particular trail when I said we hadn't. We ungratefully went a different way, on the reasoning that the trail he recommended was higher up than most of the prairie walks and would be nice near sunset.

Since we were in Wisconsin, we were up on a ridge; there was a trail called the Ridgeline Trail with views of a valley with a farm in it and the next ridge over. We went along this until we came to the first prairie, and eventually crossed the road to another one. Each prairie had bluestem and other native and, probably, non-native grasses, intermingled with wild bergamot, gray- and green-headed coneflowers, rudbeckia, daisy fleabane, prairie primrose, a little butterfly weed, hyssop, vervain, a bit of liatris (most of it being visited by monarch butterflies). The paths were mown grass and white clover. The distribution of the flowers and grasses was different in each section of prairie we walked through, though most of the plants were the same. The texture and color variations were different, and the sound of the wind in the grasses. We passed a little grove of aspen seedlings, their leaves rustling. We saw the monarchs, and a butterfly that turned out to be a common buckeye. There were sparrows in the grass and in a clump of trees, but they didn't look like the picture of the Henslow's Sparrow. We saw two birds with white tail feathers flying away fast; they might have been meadowlarks, but we couldn't really identify them. And we saw smallish browny-golden dragonflies, flying fast, tilting like turkey vultures on the wind and flapping more than familiar dragonflies usually do. Raphael thought they might be wandering gliders, and a look at the dragonfly book when we got back to the car confirmed that they were. The wandering glider is the most widely distributed dragonfly in the world, migrates thousands of miles, and has been spotted by ships at sea. But this was the best sighting of them that I'd ever had.

We went back to the car and around one more short prairie loop, reluctantly deciding to leave the rest of the Ridgeline Trail to another time, possibly in the fall when there would not be any mosquitoes. The little prairie we walked around last was different from all the others. Next time I should try to take some pictures.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
On Wednesday, Raphael and I went for our first expedition of the year, to see the ephemerals at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. To see the early ones at their peak we ought to have gone last week, but the weather didn't cooperate.

We got a reasonably expeditious start, especially for the first hike of the year, and even though we had to stop at my clinic so I could pick up my medication. We usually get off the freeway at the Northfield exit and go through town to pick up Highway 246, thus giving me a glimpse of Carleton and the Cannon River. But the GPS suggested staying on the freeway til the next exit, going instead through Dundas, and picking up 246 somewhat further along its length. Dundas is not Northfield, but I had fond -- mostly -- recollections of biking there from Carleton for a huge annual used-book sale. I didn't like biking along the shoulder of the road in the dust, but the books were excellent.

I had said to Raphael as I put on my fleece sweater and picked up my raincoat that I expected to be alternately too warm and not warm enough, and this prophecy was amply fulfilled. It was very sunny and intermittently very windy. Up in the picnic ground it was quite chilly. Down by Hidden Falls the air was almost still and the sun really beat down.

One of the pleasant things about Nerstrand is that there are ephemerals even in the picnic grounds and the campground. Anywhere the grass is not mown are trout lilies and false rue anemone and occasional other native wildflowers. You can see the tiny trout lily leaves spreading out through the mown grass. If Nerstrand ceases to be able to afford to mow its lawns, or civilization falls, the trout lilies will fill up all that mown space now occupied by grass, dandelions, and creeping charlie.

The Park Office was closed, so I sat on the bench they have on their west-facing porch and watched for birds while Raphael filled out the form for an annual park pass. One downy woodpecker and three or four little delicate sparrows with a rufous crown and a black eye line, were scratching around in the leaf litter under the bird feeder. And there was one white-throated sparrow, or what I took for one, though we didn't get a good identification until later. We had a sandwich at a very windy picnic table.

Then we walked through the campground, keeping an eye out for red-headed woodpeckers, but we'd arrived at the height of the afternoon and most birds were silent and absent. We went along the short gravel trail pointing out false rue anemone, purple and yellow violets, swamp buttercup, and the leaves of wild geranium to one another. Then we took the very steep path down to Hidden Falls. Larger patches of false rue anemone, clumps of wild ginger, nodding trillium, a few blossoms of cut-leaf toothwort; and as we got down to the damper areas, dark-green horsetail ferns and, below where a stream went down to join Prairie Creek, some marsh marigold blooming away. Things were intensely green and there were many flowers, but it looked strange to me. I finally realized that, while the false rue anemone was more or less on schedule, it would ordinarily bloom in a much emptier landscape where the understory plants were not leafed out, nor the wild geraniums so far along in their own growth. The trees would usually show just a hint, a mist of green, and you could see quite far into the woods because only the trunks and branches of trees and shrubs impeded your view. The view was much shorter and more cluttered this time. In some years there would hardly even be any violets yet, but they were thick along most of the damper trails that we took. And the spring beauty, while we did find some eventually, was not nearly as widespread as you would expect. We had also missed most of the Dutchman's breeches, though we did find a stalk or two here and there.

We went down the wooden steps to the rocky shore below the waterfall, and sat on a bench in the sun for a while. Clouds of tiny insects were dancing in the sun, coming together in a dense ball like a globular cluster and then bursting apart only to coalesce again. I was just about to point out to Raphael that they were a dragonfly's dinner without the dragonfly, when a green darner darted into their midst and started snapping them up. I made sure I had remembered to tell Raphael that Eric and I had seen darners at Eloise Butler, and Raphael told me there had actually been one in the back yard.

Eventually we got up and went back up the other side of the trail, the steeper side with steps. Last year we got to see the Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily in bloom, but it was done this year. There was plenty of false rue anemone, newly-opening ferns, early meadow rue with its flowers like little fringed lampshades, more violets, a little spring beauty, one or two blooming wild geraniums, fantastical ash buds, and hundreds of trout lily leaves, with here and there a patch of blossom in a shadier or cooler spot. At one point Raphael asked me what pollinated trout lilies; we thought it was bees but weren't sure. A little further along the trail, Raphael saw a bumblebee taking a good long time inside a trout lily flower, so that seemed to be that. We saw a number of bumblebees zipping around in the course of the day.

We climbed the trail and sat down on the bench that the park has kindly put just before the really steep part. The wind was fitful. All the green was fresh as fresh. The sky was almost autumnal in the intensity of its blue -- we thought this might be because the humidity was low, but we didn't know. It was hard to get up and go on up the hill, but we did. We came almost immediately upon a large number of extremely weird plants that we were fairly sure we had looked up before but failed to retain the name of. I think, having poked around online, that they were wood betony.

Once back at the top of the hill, we had a hunt for the yellow lady-slipper orchids we'd seen there just once, and then went back to the picnic ground and had another sandwich and took a different trail that crossed Prairie Creek and then gave us a choice of which way to go. We decided to take the White Oak Trail back downhill to the water, since it was such a dry spring; sometimes it's too wet to take the lower trail by the creek at all. The upper part of the trail was full of trout lilies, violets, and false rue anemone, with the occasional Jack-in-the-Pulpit or trillium. As we came down into lower and damper levels again, the false rue anemone came into its own. Along the creek banks it grew lushly with ferns and reeds and violets and some lovely clumps of blue wood phlox, which I think of as blooming much later. We stood on the bridge admiring the phlox on the other side for a while, and then walked on to the where the Beaver Trail intersects the White Oak, and sat down on yet another bench. The light was starting to mellow out, and everything was still the tenderest green imaginable, starred with flowers and yet-emerging leaves and dancing small insects. Several times we saw the shadow of a butterfly -- or maybe just of a blowing leaf.

At last we began the walk back along the creek to the steep trail with the steps. The flowers were still very lush and intermingled, but there were fewer ferns and grasses or reeds. At some point something in the soil or light changed, and the understory thinned out, and there was a bit of what I'd been missing: mostly bare shrubs arching over patch after patch after patch of false rue anemone. "So many windflowers!" said Raphael, and I looked at them closely. The air seemed quite still, but they were still moving just a little on their flexible stems.

Raphael suggested that we climb the half of the Hidden Falls trail that we had previously come down. The light was much better for seeing small things by then, and that half of the trail isn't quite so steep. The main discovery was a single hepatica blossom still hanging on in its nest of three-lobed leaves. The last third of the trail was a bit of a slog, and we sat on the bench at the top of the hill when we got there. The light was mellower yet. Through the green and gray of the woods a barred owl called, and again, and again, and then after a pause yet again. Eventually we went and sat on the porch of the park office. The tiny sparrows with the rufous caps, downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, white-throated sparrows (we saw the white throat this time), and a single chipmunk, flew down to get seeds or suet, or kicked up the litter on the ground. You could hear the whoosh and ruffle of their wings as the birds came and went, and the scratch and rustle of the chipmunk's feet. There was some squabbling amongst the sparrows, and two nuthatches had a battle over the suet feeder. More distantly, we saw an elusive woodpecker that could have been a flicker or a red-bellied woodpecker; and finally we saw a flash of black and white and red as a red-headed woodpecker appeared briefly and then provided a glimpse, a longer look, another glimpse, always moving around to the other side of the tree or flying across the road to hide in trees with too much foliage. On our walk back to the car, a flash of black and red and white showed amongst the plants by the path. "It's a towhee," breathed Raphael, and it was, kicking up the litter much more violently than the sparrows had.

We had our last sandwich at a now really chilly picnic table, and Raphael got me to take the Sibley out of my backpack, and looked up the sparrows. Like the wood betony, they had been looked up before but we'd forgotten. They were chipping sparrows, and the first elusive woodpecker was indeed a red-bellied one.

We drove home in sunset and twilight. Then we had to come back to earth and do the year's first tick check, but that's just part of going hiking.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Last Saturday Eric and I borrowed Lydy's car, since she had plans that did not require it, and went to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. We'd missed the previous week because Eric was out of town. It was a chilly, cloudy day, but we'd decided not to try to cram the garden into Sunday along with grocery shopping and hearing Sister Tree at the Powderhorn May Day celebration.

The steps down to the front gate were lined with the spotty leaves of Virginia waterleaf, which blooms somewhat later than now. But off a few feet in the woods was a glimmer of rue anemone, all pale pink, with their varying numbers of flower petals and their three-lobed leaves. Just outside the gate, the wild ginger leaves were big and all unfurled. Inside the gate the vivid gold of wood poppies and a patch of false rue anemone, five-petalled white flowers and little clutches of three leaflets, waved in the wind. A patch of white trout lilies was blooming on the upper part of the path that leads down to the shelter. After dithering a moment, we went downhill past the shelter and through the woods to the far side of the garden, overlooking the swamp. Virginia blubells were blooming richly, looking ethereal in the strange overcast light. There were more wood poppies. Elderberry bushes were blooming. All the trillium that had been in bud was blooming. The trout lilies that had been blooming two weeks ago were mostly done. Their gray-green, spotted leaves lay in overlapping layers as if someone had raked them all in one direction; maybe borne down by the ample rains of the last week or so. There were brilliant patches of moss hopefully holding up its fruiting bodies.

The heptatica was done, but white, purple, purple-and-white, and the tiny yellow violets bloomed along the same path. Two weeks ago I told Eric that certain plants were either tall meadow rue or early meadow rue; now I could say that they were definitely the former. We had avoided the marsh last time because it had been so wet, but now we decided to go at least as far as the fine new boardwalk, raised some feet above shallow water and mud scattered with the now-huge green leaves of skunk cabbage, would take us. More Virginia bluebells, the leaves of flag iris, the first pale soft new needles of the tamaracks, and a wide swath of marsh marigold, with smack in its center a sign saying, "Swamp Saxifrage." We discussed, as we went past the end of the new boardwalk, admiring the new red-banded green horsetail ferns, whether the name of the marsh marigold had been changed. I eventually looked up swamp saxifrage, and it's something entirely different that clearly blooms later in the year, since there was no sign of it now. We came around the bend of the path and saw a tom turkey. Around him here and there, tearing up grass and shoots and resolutely ignoring him, were four hen turkeys. We admired their green and bronze, and the general magnificence of the tom. He ruffled up his dark back feathers once or twice, but decided not to actually go to the trouble of spreading his tail.

We went on up the hill, looking at fern fiddleheads, some covered with fine hairs that made them look gray, some growing tidily in the circle of the rust- or cinnamon-colored fronds of last year's greenery, some still reddish with just a hint of green. We came back to the area around the shelter and decided to go left past the huge patch of periwinkle and up the steep hill to the meadow. On our left as we went ferns were coming up all over; on the right were wood poppy and false rue anemone and finally the periwinkle, blooming happily away. We sat down on a bench for a few moments. We had been hearing a pileated woodpecker laughing in the distance, and as we sat it flew over our heads, landed on a tree halfway up the hill, let us see it for a few seconds, and ran around behind the tree trunk. Then it flew on up the hill and disappeared.

We went up the steep hill to the meadow and found that they had burned most of the near side since we were last there. There was not much going on in the meadow yet even where it had not been burned, but we went up the hill past the juniper tree to look for prairie smoke. The wind hit us with a huge gust as we labored up the slope, and almost blew my hat away. We did see a patch of prairie smoke, not yet open; and standing on the hill briefly we turned to admire the grove of paper birches, now in small green leaves, and saw a little redbud in full bloom at their feet. We went under the arch of the wild plum that frames the entrance to the meadow. It was blooming but past the best. We did see another wild plum in full bloom on the other side of the garden, but I can't recall quite where now. It had a lovely scent.

We decided that it was chilly and getting dark, and we had had a fine time, so we went on down through the white pines and out the front gate and so back to the car and dinner at Pho Tau Bay.

Pamela
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Three hikes, behind an LJ cut for your convenience, and in rather less detail than some earlier ones:

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park )

Frontenac State Park )

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve )

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October 2017

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