Archive for September, 2014

Mushroom walk

A couple of weeks ago, the Piscataquog Land Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy hosted an event at the Manchester Cedar Swamp preserve. Since it was in one of my favorite bits of protected property and was about mushroom hunting, I was all over it. Reta McGregor kindly donated her time and expertise and I learned quite a bit, including which parts of a bolete mushroom are edible (hint, not the spongy part). I even found a mushroom she’d never seen before. It was a toothed mushroom and very lovely. Anyway, I got there a bit early and did some scouting with the OM 90mm. In addition to a bounty of mushrooms, there were newts and indian pipe. Alas, no newts would pose for me, but I still had a nice time and found some worthies.

Cortinarius corrugatus

Cortinarius lodes

Two different species in the same genus and they were everywhere. I didn’t manage to ID everything though. These two still elude me. I think I need to get a few more mushroom books. They can look so different during their lives, that I think you need to have many photos to compare with. With my one book, it’s hit or miss.

Leaving it all behind

The understudy

In one section of forest there was a good crop of late-flowering indian pipe and a few of them were blushing mightily.

Fit of shyness


Undammed!

Or how to get over beaver dams in your kayak without going swimming!

Sometimes my inner slacker tries to get the upper hand.

A while back in August I decided to rack up the kayak and put it in the water. Even that much I had to talk myself into since the rack wasn’t even on the car, much less the boat. But strap it up I did and headed off to a man-made lake I’d paddled before but with limited success. Limited because it was my first season as a paddler and I didn’t know how to deal with beaver dams. Last year it totally bummed me out because my favorite paddling is river paddling. I like the hemmed in quality of the banks and vegetation; never knowing what you’ll find around the next bend. This section of the lake is really a narrow stream and marsh, so it was wonderfully windy. The tranquility is like no other I’ve experienced. Birds, frogs, turtles and yeah, the occasional beaver or muskrat. I love it all. Sure, the open part of the lake has its appeal, but not like the back channel. So what to do about beaver dams?

Surface tension

On this 2nd trip to the lake, I knew one was there, but didn’t do any planning or research as to how to tackle them. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. And then when I got there the wind kicked up considerably and so I almost didn’t even get the boat down. I almost decided that it was too windy and I hate paddling in the wind. But I’d driven almost an hour and it was just plain stupid to give up. Plus I remembered how sheltered it can be on a narrow channel below the shrubline. In the water I went. Still no plan as to how to get past the first dam, knowing full well it was a really short paddle unless I could figure out a way to do it and not either dump myself or my camera bag into the drink. It’s a drybag, but still.

The first dam

The First Dam

So there it is. The one that got me. I could hear it laughing. So I sat there a while studying it and thinking. I probed the water depth with the paddle and found it to be about mid thigh. That’s if the bottom was solid. No way to tell. I tried paddling very fast and hard to see if I could build up enough momentum to clear and ended up wedging the boat in the breach. It was when I did that that I figured out how to get over. The water on the immediate other side is very shallow and sandy. All I needed to do was to get the kayak through the low part enough so that I could get my feet planted on the other side, well on the top of the dam itself actually. Then I could stand up (oh how it pays to do squats!) and use my hands to guide the boat between my feet. Step forward, slide boat, step, slide then sit back down and paddle. It worked. On my first try I didn’t walk the boat far enough from the breach and I was practically floated back down over the dam, but managed to stop myself in time. Woo hoo! I was on the other side of the dam. I did a little victory lap. Take that, rodents!

I felt so great after that I didn’t even mind when it started to gently rain.

A separate domain

After several bends I had to thread my way carefully though shallow water and pickerel weed to find yet another dam. Luckily this one had another water-level breach. That’s the key. The boat has to be able to get across the structure somewhere and it has to be low enough for me to get my feet onto it and be able to stand. Anything above the waterline wouldn’t be possible. Not with this technique. I had just barely enough room to make a running start at the breach, so to speak. Wedged the kayak, secured the paddle under the deck bungee, got my feet onto the top of the dam itself, raised myself to standing while gripping the sides of the boat and gave it a pull. Step, slide, step, slide, step, slide – this time a little further so I wouldn’t drift downstream too far. Back in the boat and paddling upstream. Not too shabby.

The second dam

The second dam

Upstream from this one there was a lot more evidence of the beaver population; lots of prints on the banks and little tunnels and openings in the bushes where they’d come and go. It was cool, but I didn’t see one. Bummer. I wanted to rub it in a little. Luckily I didn’t because they had the last word.

The third dam

The third dam

Curses, foiled again!

Then I found that going downstream over the dams was really fun, so I got a bit of my own back.

See you next year beavers!


Elusive wildflowers – Part 13.1 – Pinesap

It’s the year for arriving late to the pinesap party. After years of looking for this unusual flower I found the mother lode in Weare, NH. OMG they were everywhere, but just past their full bloom stage. Darn it. You can bet I won’t be late next year.

Unmask, unmask!


Elusive Wildflowers – Part 13 – Pinesap

Now this time I really mean it.

Elusive.

E.

LU.

SIVE.

Hard to find. Hidden. Fugitive. Intangible.

I’ve been hunting this flower ever since I became fascinated with its cousin the indian pipe. That was in 2011. Since that time I have found it once.

Once. (shades of Johnny Dangerously)

It was in Hollis NH and the flowers were long gone by. Just dry brown sticks. So I revisited the following year.

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

But then. On a spontaneous trip to the Musquash with my husband. Lo – Pinesap.

Earthlings rejoice – we have pinesap!

Irony of Ironies that I should find my most sought-after wildflower (well, kinda…the list is long) practically in my own backyard. My surrogate backyard is how I usually refer to the Musquash. It was right on the edge of one of the main trails, standing tall and proud in its pale glory. Stopped me in my tracks I can tell you. My husband thought I was nuts, but he understood as he’s heard me wax poetic about this strange flower many times. Good thing he didn’t have his phone with him or he’d have really good blackmail footage of my dance of joy. Pretty much for the rest of our walk he would hear me say, in a dreamy monotone “pinesap”.

Another irony is that I missed the blooming by days. The flowers are not quite dried up, but appear to have been pollinated and are past their prime. Like indian pipe, this flower lacks chlorophyll and so isn’t green and produces no leaves since without chlorophyll it cannot photosynthesize energy from sunlight. Instead it uses fungi in the soil to tap root systems of other plants to siphon energy for themselves. The plants I found are almost a foot high. I couldn’t believe how big they were.

My guide book says that there are early and late-blooming specimens and that they are actually different species. They bloom from June to November and I found these in August. That probably makes them early given the fact that NH is a northern state. In addition to being bigger, another difference from indian pipe is that there are multiple blossoms per stem. Check it out –

Pinesap

Sure, they’re not the loveliest things in the world, but they’re so interesting. They’re supposed to propagate well once the seeds have been scattered and judging by that group up there, we’ve got a lot of seeds to spread. I’ve already put a reminder in my calendar to check back next year. I know right where they are so can go to them fast.

Another name for pinesap is false beech-drops, another saprophytic flower that I’ve tried to photograph in the past, with somewhat limited success (mostly because I missed the blooming). The other day I founds some hanging out with ferns and it really made them stand out (plus they were actually fresh). Normally they blend right in with the undergrowth and because each flower is only 1/2 an inch long when bloomed, they tend to get really lost. This is as good as I could do given the conditions (basically I was on a slope of a ditch next to a snowmobile trail).

Beechdrops

Like other plants without chlorophyll, beechdrops exist as parasites on beech tree root systems. They’re self-fertilizing and spread like crazy.

So anyway…expect to see pinesap again next summer. I’m going to try to be diligent about finding them in their early stages with lush blossoms. I’m so excited!