Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Urban deer move in

Only in recent days have I become certain that tracks of three deer in our yard back in January were real.  My family would tell me they had seen them, and before long I glimpsed them myself, all three, as they grazed peacefully on who-knows-what in the yard and little woods behind the house.  

I first got a few photos two days ago when I happened to have my camera in my pocket as I walked to the car.  Now there were only two--both young (yearlings, I guess)--so Mama was letting them forage on their own.  Yesterday the two stayed so long and looked so much at home that I should have looked around for a U-Haul--they appeared to be moving in for the long term.  I quickly found there was no need to hide indoors, or stalk them with my camera: they were quite comfortable with my presence provided I made no sudden movements and didn't get too close.  I suspect that, if I'd proffered a tasty something, they would have come to me.

 I was caught by surprise: by the time I had switched the camera to the right setting,
they were moving off in the mildest alarm.

 By yesterday they had discovered the branches from recent pruning, 
discarded beside an old. disused swing set.

 After their repast, they didn't so much flee, as mosey off.
The raised white tail is--on these two, at least--more 
an expression of energy than a warning of danger.

 Returning at the end of the day, the two stayed together,
 and one would sometimes nuzzle the other in a way fit to make me melt.
Here they seem to be grazing on vinca--probably just the flowers,
but its a major invasive and they can have as much as they want!
(I wonder if they like garlic mustard?  If they'd eat the English ivy I'd pay them!)

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea that deer are urban animals today.  I guess I'll get used to it in time.  Then, like more rural folk, I can start thinking of them as another &#$%@# garden pest.  Lord knows, in the space of an hour any one of them could clean out the little vegetable we always plant.  

On the other hand, their lives may be short: there are hunters' tree stands in the woods not a mile from here; I was surprised to learn that hunting isn't illegal within city limits.  I thought about shooing them off when I'd thought about this, but this little family is already so comfortable around humans that it would probably be pointless.  And of course, without their traditional predators, deer overpopulate regularly.  Even so, I hope they learn to keep their heads down.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring 2

First the scientific stuff.  Flowering times this year are running about a week behind last year's, so far.  (About which more in a few days.)

Red maple bloomed on about April 15, and you can see its progress here from 4/21 to 4/25.

The black cherry that was still in bud on April 11 and 15th, began breaking its buds on the 17th and leaves are expanding on the 25th.

Silver maple finished flowering before April 18th, since most of the male flowers had dropped by then; the fruits are developing from the 21st to 25th, and leaves are emerging. 

The lovely sugar maple on the corner finally began bud break on about April 21st, and here its flowers open over a period of almost a week.  Binoculars show stamens out by the 25th, though they are not visible in the last photos. 

Norway maples were still in (swollen) bud on April 17th, but their buds began breaking on about the 21st, and flowers were open on my yard tree today, the 27th.

This oak (likely black oak) was still firmly in bud on April 8th, but these began breaking on the 21st, and the male catkins had begun to elongate by the 25th. 

A visit to my parents a few days ago shows progress there.

 My parents' yard in Rhode Island has tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera)
among natives,and resident aliens forsythia and magnolia. 

Finally, a walk around the high school grounds today, April 27th.

 Oak, probably black oak.

 Possibly crabapple; something in the Rose family, in any event.

To multiflora rose, among the first to leaf out and last to drop leaves, I 
grant the status of Honorary Native.
 The male red maple flowers have shrivelling stamens, so their end is near.

 Another crabapple.

 This lovely shrub, silverberry (Eleagnus umbellata) early puts forth leaves
covered with silvery and highly-reflective scales.  Flower buds are also visible.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A walk around Ponkapoag Pond

The pond is the southern corner of the much larger Blue Hills Reservation.

We met a few walkers and a couple on horseback on the trails.

A confluence of circumstances enabled my wife and me, accompanied by our youngest, to take a five-mile walk around Ponkapoag Pond yesterday afternoon.  The pond, part of the Blue Hills Reservation, is a prime nature destination for city folk hereabouts. 

After parking just off a highway exit ramp, we walked clockwise around the pond, encountering white pine forest, oak forest, moss-grown glacial erratic boulders, swamps, little streams, an old Appalachian Mountain Club camp, and the pond itself.  Along the way, I was able to do a little botany among plants preparing, or just beginning, to bloom and leaf out.  My wife particularly enjoyed the walk, since it enabled her to reconnect with marsh marigolds and columbines--among other old friends—she had not seen since walking this way years ago. With the pond as high as it is after a snowy winter and recent rains, we decided to skip the boardwalk through the bog that fills the pond's western end: most of the path is likely underwater. 

This glacial erratic (boulder left in place by ice movement in the last ice age)
is split along a plane that is almost mathematically perfect; how do they do that?

The lichens Parmelia (green) and rock tripe (gray) are growing on the rock.
Rock tripe is supposed to be okay as survival food, but I've never been tempted.

A little wind-blown columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is preparing to bloom atop its mossy rock.

Maple-leaved viburnum (Vibernum acerfolium) is getting ready to bloom;
yellow birch (Betula allegheniensis) is already blooming.

Once the trees have begun to leaf out, the pond will no longer be visible from most of the path. 

My wife and son search for marsh marigolds growing in and near the water.

The marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) are present, but we are too early to catch them blooming.

Someone has constructed a fairy  house by the bridge.

The skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is in bloom.  The plant, named for the smell when bruised, was once a popular garden flower in England since it bloomed earlier than most others.  

The egg-shaped flower cluster is protected by a purple striped or mottled hood-like spathe. 

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), a favorite shrub, is just beginning to bloom. 

Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) still has the remains of last fall's flowers.
The bark of this fall-flowering shrub  is extracted to make the familiar drugstore product.

At the AMC camp dock, Stephen Considers Breaking a Rule.

“Fiddleheads” mark the unfolding of fern leaves.

At first glance, I thought I had a sundew plant, but it's really a fallen red maple flower.
Red maple is finishing its flowering, and the male flowers are dropping.

I had thought all the snow was gone.  It's not obvious why this has survived.

The path becomes a road leading to the bog at the west end.  An Atlantic white cedar bog
is rare enough at this latitude that a long boardwalk is maintained to give access from
the shore all the way to open water.  We skipped it this time, since the water is so high.

Alder (Alnus) has catkins like those of the birches, to which it is related.

 Cattail (Typha latifolia, foreground, with last year's ragged seed heads) is a native marsh species.  Phragmites australis, an invasive that is wiping out native vegetation, is the tall tan grass in the middle distance.  The tall reed waving  commonly lines marshy edges of highways.

Beatrice is ready to go back to Ponkapoag right now.  Whether we walk there again soon, we do plan to stay at the AMC camp again for a week this August.