May 2009


The Pathfinder Campout was a lot of fun, and I think we can chalk it up as a huge success. But it really wore me out, so I’m a bit too tired to write about it much tonight.

I was too tired to play “Go Fish” with Beth when I got home, so she tried to get Penny to play:
Beth and Penny playing "Go Fish"
Penny was too tired as well (we took her with us on the camp out, and she spent the WHOLE time chasing sticks). She’s sleeping now too, which really shows that when it comes to some things, she has more sense than I do.

I’ll write more about the trip tomorrow.

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It rained pretty much all day today. Yesterday too. It’s supposed to lighten up a bit overnight, but we still may have scattered thunder showers tomorrow evening. Which is great since I’ll be camping with my Pathfinder club. That means I have a TON of things to do tonight to get ready, and it also means I probably won’t post again until Sunday.

When I got home I put on my rain coat and rain pants, grabbed my camera, and went outside. I really wanted to see if I could find any new blooms to log before May ends. I didn’t see any new ones, but I did fool around with the camera enough to get a semi-decent shot of the Cancer-root (Orobanche uniflora) that has been stymieing me so much of late.

Orobanche uniflora

Orobanche uniflora


I had to manually set the exposure time to prevent the petals from getting overexposed, and I also fooled around with manual focus. I had the camera on my mini tripod too, and set it to delay two seconds before taking the shot. That way when I pressed the button and let off, the tripod would have time to settle before the pciture was made. Whew!

I also took another shot of a pink lady’s slipper, and it came out semi-okay too:

Cypripedium acuale

Cypripedium acuale

I should have increased the exposure time on this one though, as there is no white here to wash out the picture. These are almost finished now too. There was one less than a yard away from this one that had already faded into oblivion.

I also tried my hand at capturing an Indian cucumber-root in bloom:

Medeola virginiana

Medeola virginiana

When we camp this weekend I will be on the lookout for some Solomon’s seal. The only place I’ve ever seen it is at the Haggett Farm when we camped there last year over Memorial Day weekend. So it should be in bloom again now. We’ll see!

Photinia melanocarpa

Photinia melanocarpa

OK, so it wasn’t mountain laurel, and it wasn’t mountain serviceberry either. Mr. Smarty Plants got back to me with a positive ID, and it was (drum roll please)…

Our expert, Joe Marcus, has identified your plant as Photinia melanocarpa (formerly Aronia melanocarpa), Black Chokecherry, a native.

So there you have it, from an expert. Wikipedia has it listed under the “old” name, “Aronia”. Apparently, there has been some controversy as to whether this plant (and others) belong to Aronia or Photinia.

I had some correcting to do. I have one of these growing by the utility pole in the corner of my yard, and I had photographed it and uploaded it to the WIkimedia Commons. I had also logged its blooms, all under the mistaken moniker of Amelanchier bartramiana. I think I’ve got that sorted now though. While I was at it, I also uploaded a hi-res version of the one I posted here.

This afternoon I took a little more time trying to photograph the Orobanche uniflora, but I still couldn’t get it right. There are a couple of problems to overcome. First, it is a white plant, and the petals tend to get overexposed. Second, it’s under a bush, so for me to really see the camera, I needed to lie down on the ground. Third, it was raining, so I opted to not lie down. Fourth, the autofocus tends to not work well when the object doesn’t fill the screen sufficiently, so instead, it focuses on the background. And without lying down and looking at the focus, it’s hard to tell if that’s what it’s doing. I did try some manual focus, and that worked out OK, but I’m still overexposing the petals. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Today, I finally found the first One-flowered Cancerroot (Orobanche uniflora) of the season. Last year I saw the first on on May 26. May 25 is pretty close I’d say. I’ve been checking the spot where I saw it last year every day for about the past two weeks, and finally today – there it was. I took three pictures, but none of them are post-worthy. I’ll try again (with a tripod) tomorrow.

This plant is a parasite and lacks the capacity to make chlorophyll. That’s why it’s white. The other plant I know that’s similar is Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora). I find it curious that they both have the specific epithet of uniflora, meaning “one flower.” They even look similar, but they are pretty easy to tell apart. The Indian Pipe looks more like a fungus than a flower, will bloom late next month, and stay in flower until September. The Cancerroot will only be in bloom for a week or two (if that). It looks more like a flower than a fungus.

I didn’t really have time to take a good picture today – Va and I needed to hustle off to a church board meeting. But I did take a few minutes outside before leaving for the meeting to poke around the yard. While I was trying to get a decent photo of the Cancerroot, I heard an awful raucous noise out front. It sound like crows, only louder and… more eerie. So I abandoned the flowers and mosied over the the road. It was a pair of crows, and they were fighting! First they’d yell at one another. They were in adjacent trees. Then they’d take flight with the smaller one chasing the larger one. They’d land again and yell some more. Then they’d repeat the whole thing, working their way up and down the road as they battled it out. I don’t know who won, because I had a meeting to go to.

When we got to the meeting, I checked in on a bird’s nest the kids found at school today (and which Va told me about). It had two eggs in it when school got out, but in the two and a half hours between school and when I checked it, one of the eggs disappeared.
IMG_3077_sm
Maybe our stoat had an early supper.

Today was the Pathfinder Club’s annual yard sale. I got up early (for me), and got the kids up too. We ate some breakfast, picked up Joy (she’s a Pathfinder who lives near us), and then set out for the church. First order of business was to move several tables up to the yard. Then fill them with the items that had been donated to us.

While we were doing this, some kids excitedly told me that there was a ferret outside where we normally park our equipment trailer. Cool. I dropped whatever I was doing it and hot-footed it over there. It was somewhat cornered, as the little alcove where we park the trailer is brick on three sides. The fourth side was blanketed with kids. I grabbed my camera. I think it was an American mink (Neovison vison) a stoat (Mustela erminea), known as an ermine when it wears a white coat. Only one shot came out OK-ish:

Stoat (Mustela erminea)

Stoat (Mustela erminea)


As soon as I got the picture, I directed the kids to step back and let it escape. Which it did. Eventually finding its way into the sanctuary! For all I know, it’s still in the church building somewhere, but maybe that’s not terrible. We do have a few mice it could help us out with.

Once the yard sale was in full swing, the kids kept coming up to me and asking “how much for this?” They were asking because they wanted to buy it. I’m sure the Pathfinder parents really appreciated me selling their kids even more toys, but… such is life. Usually, I would answer “ten cents” and the kids would hand me a dime and stash the toy away somewhere.

Then one of the kids came up to me and asked, “Do you think this is real?” He was holding a small blue egg (made me think of a robin’s egg). I took it from him and said, “I don’t know”. I squeezed it lightly, thinking it might be a wooden egg he had found on one of the tables. That’s when the egg exploded, sending white and yolk all over the two of us. He took it right in the face. I took it all over my hands and shirt. I guess it was real! Maybe even a robin’s egg!

We cut the sale off at 1:00pm, and then started packing up the leftovers for Goodwill. They wouldn’t take most of it, but I was glad they took some of it. Joyce took the rest home and Ken unloaded it somewhere at their place. We are camping on their farm next weekend, so we’ll reload it Sunday and then haul it to the dump afterwards.

I think the flower that stymied me yesterday is a mountain juneberry (Amelanchier bartramiana). I have one of these growing at the edge of my yard, and I compared the blossom this afternoon. They are pretty much identical. The thing that threw me was that my specimen is a bush, and it’s three feet tall or so. Of all the ones I saw on Mount Major yesterday, none were higher than 18″.

I’ll wait until Mr Smarty Pants gets back to me before making any such declarations though.

Beth, Penny, and I took a walk down to Sandogardy Pond this afternoon to give Va a chance to mop the floors. While we were down there, I found some Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana) in bloom. I wasn’t expecting that yet, but after checking my records for last year, it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. My first log last year for that plant was June 3.

Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana)

Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana)


I’m actually rather fond of this plant. The root smells and tastes like cucumbers (thus the name). It’s still not a great idea to collect much of it though, as there just isn’t very much of it around. I’ve read that its lack of abundance is due to overcollection in the past, but I kinda find that hard to believe. How many people know about this stuff anyhow? Still, the roots are pretty small, so it would take a lot of it to make a meal. So maybe it doesn’t take many collectors to reduce its population substantially.

I also notice that the bullhead lily (Nuphar lutea) has bloomed. It was at least a hundred feet off shore, and I was not equipped to wade out there to take a picture, so I didn’t. Besides, I had forgotten my large memory card, so I had set the camera to record small images. At full size, the small memory card will only hold eight images.

Today after church several members went up to Mount Major in Alton, NH for a hike. My family was among them.

As soon as we headed up the mountain, Va slipped on some mud and injured her knee. So she went back to the car and waited for us. I don’t think she much enjoyed the hike. 😦

There were plenty of wildflowers in bloom, including lots of false lily of the valley, blueberry, clintonia, and striped maple. Plus one that at first I thought was mountain laurel, but after having looked in my books and scouring the internet, the only thing I know for sure is that it is not mountain laurel.

Another flower I don't know

Another flower I don't know Maybe mountain juneberry?


I have emailed “Mr. Smarty Plants,” which is actually a gang of botanists connected to the Native Plant Information Network at the University of Texas at Austin. I’ve asked Mr Smarty Plants questions before, and have never been disappointed. I expect I’ll not hear anything until Tuesday though, what with this being a holiday weekend.

When we reached the summit of Mount Major, we hung out a bit and took in the view of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Lake Winnipesaukee view from the summit of Mount Major

Lake Winnipesaukee view from the summit of Mount Major

Group photo at the summit

Group photo at the summit


Then we got buzzed by an airplane. On his first pass, I think he was easily within 200 feet. Maybe 100, but heights are deceptively difficult to estimate. We could see the pilot an his passenger pretty easily though.

While we were up there, the temperature dropped about ten degrees. I didn’t have a jacket (and I should have known better, but we were hustling to get our stuff together before we left the house this morning, and a jacket was one of those items I forgot). The trail down was shorter than the trail up, and thus… steeper. But it had some interesting rock formations:

Beth, between a rock and a hard place

Beth, between a rock and a hard place

Penny certainly seemed to enjoy the hike. It was one of those rare outings that seemed to wear her out. We hiked three miles, but I don’t know if that was each way or total. Penny, on the other hand, ran up the mountain and back down again at least six times. She’d run ahead, and then run back to us. Then go on a side excursion. Then find us a stick to throw. And if anyone took her up on that proposition, she’d chase the stick and return it post haste. She was one tired dog when we got home.

Penny on the way up the mountain.

Penny on the way up the mountain.


At the bottom of the mountain, I happened to spot another flower I wasn’t sure of. I suspected it might be a lupin, and when I got home to check that out, my suspicion was confirmed. It’s funny the a wildflower enthusiast such as myself, who spends tons of time outdoors snapping photos of flowers had never seen this one before. It’s maybe the most famous flower in the state. Anyhow, here it is.
Lupin

Lupin

Now I need to get to bed. We don’t have anything planned tomorrow (unless I am greatly mistaken), so maybe I’ll get to sleep in a little. My sore legs would sure like that!

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