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Archive for April, 2010

Mystery Quiz #3 – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

MYSTERY QUIZ #3

It’s not often that you see the tracks of this particular mammal in the snow, but occasionally, when it snows in the early fall and spring, you can find them near ponds. Hint: their hind feet are a lot bigger than their front feet. (Tracks will be identified in tomorrow's blog.)


Jelly Fungus – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

JELLY FUNGUS

There is a group of fungi referred to as jelly fungi, due to the fact that when it rains (or, in this case, rains and snows), their dry, shriveled fruiting body softens and becomes rubbery and gelatinous, appearing much like jelly. They don’t have a regular shape, and come in several colors. The orange and yellow forms are sometimes referred to as “witch’s butter.” Look for jelly fungi on rotting logs and stumps.


Land Snails – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

LAND SNAILS

Land snails are gastropods, whose members also include aquatic snails (including marine snails) and slugs. The name gastropod means stomach-foot, which is well-deserved, as members of this group all get about by gliding on a muscular structure on the bottom of the abdomen, called the foot. A close look at a snail reveals two sets of projections, or tentacles, on the front of its head. The two longer ones on top reach up, whereas the two shorter ones beneath them tend to reach down. The top, longer tentacles have light-sensitive organs at their tips, making them the snail's version of eyes, although they only perceive light, not images. The shorter tentacles below them feel, taste and smell the environment in search of food and water and possible predators.


Marsh Marigold/Cowslip – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Marsh Marigold/Cowslips (Caltha palustris)
Although this plant is not a true marigold, part of its common name is accurate — you find it in marshes and other wet areas. As a member of the Buttercup family, its gold sepals look wet and shiny, like the petals of many buttercups. They reflect ultraviolet light from all parts of the flower except for the very center, providing a nectar guide for pollinating insects. Thoreau observed that Marsh Marigold has little scent, but “speaks wholly to the eye.” It also speaks to the palette of some, who, after several boilings, consume the young, iron-rich leaves, said to surpass the taste of spinach. Raw, the leaves of Marsh Marigold are toxic.


Wild Oats Visitors -Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

SPRING POLLINATORS OF WILD OATS/SESSILE-LEAVED BELLWORT (Uvularia sessilifolia)

This diminuitive member of the lily family appeared irresistable to a wide variety of insects as I recently sat on the forest floor observing a patch of wild oats. Perhaps flies, bees and other insects can smell something I can’t.


Snapping Turtles Mating –

 SNAPPING TURTLES MATING

Our largest turtle, the snapping turtle, is breeding in the shallows of ponds right now. I came upon two mating snappers in a nearby pond, and just as I was going to photograph the consumation of this reptilian activity, my labrador couldn’t resist the thrashing going on in the water, and leapt in to join them. The female submerged and the male exhibited a startled look indicating that this interruption was perhaps not appreciated. In a month or two, female snapping turtles will be climbing out of the water and onto land, seeking sandy soil in which to lay the eggs that result from this month’s mating.


Emerging Red Tree Leaves – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Here I’ll be sharing some photographs I’ve recently taken as well as some of my favorites from my forthcoming book Naturally Curious. I’ll be updating my blog periodically with new images, new stories, and more glimpses of New England in all seasons.

YOUNG TREE LEAVES OFTEN RED

Have you ever noticed that young leaves emerging from tree buds in the spring are often colored a shade of red, and that this redness disappears as the leaves mature? While there is not a complete understanding of this phenomenon, studies have shown that these young leaves have less damage from herbivores (plant eaters). It is possible that the pigment anthocyanin, which produces the red color, makes red leaves less discernible to some insect herbivores, or makes insect herbivores more discernible to predators.