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Last Call For Calendars

Orders for the 2018 Naturally Curious Calendar can be placed by writing to me at 134 Densmore Hill Road, Windsor, VT  05089.  The calendars are printed on heavy card stock and measure 11″ x 17″ when hanging.  There is one full-page photograph per month.  They are $35.00 each (includes postage).  Please specify the number of calendars you would like to order, the mailing address to which they should be sent and your email address.  Your check can be made out to Mary Holland and orders that reach me by November 15th will arrive at your door by mid-December (in time to be given as Christmas gifts).  After the 15th, orders will be filled as long as my supply of calendars last.  Thank you so much!

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Mystery Photo

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What is this white foam at the base of this White Pine, and how did it get there?  Please submit answers under “Comments” on my blog site, http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com.

Clubmoss Spores Maturing

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Creeping along the forest floor are small (6” high), evergreen perennial plants that resemble mosses or miniature conifers. Their leaves are usually narrow, shiny and pointed and frequently of similar size. These fern allies (not true ferns) are referred to as clubmosses.   What look like individual plants often are upright stems that come off of one horizontal stem that grows along or under the ground.

Clubmosses evolved some 410 million years ago as one of the earliest groups of vascular plants (plants with special tissues, xylem and phloem, to conduct water and food, respectively). Roughly 300 million years ago, tree forms of both clubmosses and horsetails along with ferns dominated the great coal swamps of the Carboniferous geological period. Fossils reveal that tree forms of clubmosses once reached heights of 100 feet.

Pictured is Bristly Clubmoss (Spinulum annotinum, formerly Lycopodium annotinum). Like all ferns and fern allies, it reproduces with spores, not seeds, and thus has no flowers. The spores are borne on the single cone, or strobilus you see at the tips of the upright stems, and they are maturing now. A slight tap at this time of year will produce a voluminous cloud of yellow spores.

Post Published Prematurely

11-1-17 pine siskin 187If you received a post this afternoon on the 2017-18 Winter Finch Forecast it was prematurely published.  I was trying to schedule it to be posted on November 10th, when it will now be reposted.  Pardon the repetition!   (Photo:  Pine Siskin)

Black Bears Raiding Brood

11-1-17 bear binging 049A7147Previously this fall I posted about Black Bears foraging ferociously in the fall in order to store fat (sometimes doubling their weight) before hibernating. That post showed an ant-infested tree that had been ripped apart. As winter approaches, signs of bears’ frenetic gorging (hyperphagia) increase dramatically. Protein-rich sources such as Bald-faced Hornet nests (suspended from branches) and Yellow Jacket nests (in cavities in the ground) are highly sought after.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the claws of the bear that attempted to raid the hornet nest (suspended ten feet above the ground) were able to reach just the bottom portion of the nest, tearing the outer multi-layered, paper envelope but not reaching the brood-containing cells within. The Yellow Jacket cells containing brood (eggs, larvae and pupae), on the other hand, were all removed from the ground nest and consumed. All that remains is a portion of the outer envelope and a few adults.

 

Trailing Arbutus Flowering!

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One of the first wildflowers to burst upon the scene in April is Trailing Arbutus, Epigaea repens – a true harbinger of spring. This plant is also referred to as Mayflower and Plymouth Mayflower, as it was a welcome sight to the Pilgrims after their first winter.

It is a first for me to find this plant in flower at this time of year; I have never even heard of this occurring. The flowers are often well hidden beneath leathery, evergreen leaves, so can survive the cold temperatures in April and May, but they face much greater challenges flowering in late October. Most of their main pollinators (bumblebees) die with the first hard frost, which most of northern New England has experienced. And even if, by some stroke of luck, a lingering bumblebee did land on and pollinate a blossom, it’s very doubtful that even with our warming climate, there would be time for fruit to form and mature.  Certainly the energy used to produce fall flowers is an expense the plant can ill afford in its efforts to reproduce.   (Photo taken 10-28-17 in Hartland, VT)

New Children’s Book in Animal Adaptation Series Released

e-AnimalTails (002)My latest book, ANIMAL TAILS, joins ANIMAL EYES, ANIMAL NOSES and ANIMAL LEGS as part of a children’s series I have written on animal adaptations. Readers are introduced to the many different ways animals use their tails, with two-page spreads for each of the photographs. ANIMAL TAILS is available from independent bookstores, online and from the publisher (click on cover image on my blog). This book (or possibly the whole series?) might make the perfect Christmas gift for your favorite 3 to 8 year-old!

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