amphibians


The eastern phoebes we found in that canoe a couple of weeks ago aren’t there any more. I don’t know if they met an ill end or if they have fledged and gone, but in their place we found these today:

Another Eastern Phoebe clutch

Another Eastern Phoebe clutch

I took a lap around my woods to see if the dewdrops had bloomed yet. A few had!

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

The wintergreen is still bearing last year’s berries. They seem to get bigger just before they drop. This one was about 50% larger (in diameter) than they are in the fall.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

I also found that the partridge berry was in bloom…

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

…as was the whorled loosestrife…

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

…and the cow wheat.

Cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare)

Cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare)

David and I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. I wanted to see if the sheep laurel was in bloom. It was. This might be the best shot I’ve ever gotten of it.

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

The beach at the pond was covered with these guys:

Pickerel frog  (Rana palustris)

Pickerel frog (Rana palustris)


I think they are pickerel frogs, but it could also be some other species. They were so small that David thought they were insects at first glance. I knew better because I’ve seen them here before. They were only about a quarter inch long, and as we walked along the beach they were jumping out of the way. There were thousands of them.

Last night we had a gray tree frog on our glass door.

Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor)

Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor)


As I tried to take its picture, it leapt off the door and onto the siding. I stepped out and tried a little flash photography (the above being the result).

I wasn’t sure at first if I had correctly identified it because the color seemed off, so I looked it up. That’s when I found out what the species name versicolor means. Yes, they can change their color like a chameleon, only not nearly as fast. I think that’s pretty cool. No wonder they always seem to match the bark of the tree they are on. I don’t often see them, but I don’t think they are uncommon.

Today before church started I went out to the Pathfinder trailer to fetch a backpack. On the way I spotted a plant I had never noticed before.

Orange Grass (Hypericum gentianoides)

Orange Grass (Hypericum gentianoides)


I thought it looked like a little tiny St Johnswort, and as it turns out, that’s exactly what it was. I was running late so I didn’t have a chance to take a careful photo of it. We’ll have to settle for this very hurried hand-held shot instead. I read up on this one too, and now I think it may have been a good idea to be late for what I was doing rather than pass this one up. The blossom only opens when there is strong sunlight. Maybe I’ll get another chance soon.

I sure hope so.

Today I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond. Since I have been bike riding of late rather than walking, she hasn’t had a chance to come along (it’s hard to take a dog on a bike ride).

When we got there, it was a tad crowded, with eight or ten people swimming in the pond and another dozen or more sitting on lawn chairs on the beach. Kids were immediately drawn to Penny, and Penny made it clear to them that she would like them to throw sticks. So they did. Meanwhile, I took pictures of some of the flowers blooming at the water’s edge.

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata)


I found some Indian tobacco growing all up and down the beach. I posted a shot of some of this yesterday, but I think this one is better. Another lobelia is water lobelia (L. dortmanna).
Water lobelia (L. dortmanna)

Water lobelia (L. dortmanna)


I think this is the prettiest lobelia. They are somewhat more difficult to photograph, as they grow out in the water complicating the use of my tiny tripod, and there’s not a lot of flower there making it hard for the camera to find what to focus on. But this photo came out pretty nice.

Pretty soon Penny was trying to get me to throw sticks instead of the kids (they were throwing them into deep water where Penny has a hard time retrieving them). The kids followed and began peppering me with questions.

“Whatcha doin’?”
“What kind of plant is this?”
“Are you taking pictures of frogs?”
“Do you want me to catch one for you?”

I didn’t want them to catch any frogs, but was powerless to stop them. They only caught one, and it was an unusual one.

Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)

Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)

No telling where its fourth leg went. My guess is that it just never developed (I was going to say that it was born without it, but duh – all frogs are born without legs).

Penny was getting pretty tired, and the kids kept throwing sticks for her. She needed to rest, but wouldn’t as long as there were willing stick throwers about. I ended up calling her away so she could lie down and drink.

The kids tried to follow as we set out down the trail along Little Cohas Brook, but their parents called them back. We went down to the bridge (where the trail crosses the creek) and I spotted what I initially thought was a stand of Joe Pye weed. I went in for a closer look.

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)


Nope. It was swamp milkweed (Asclepias incaranta), and it had a large contingent of butterflies. Nice. This is a milkweed I don’t see that often.

Penny followed me into the mud for a look at the milkweed, but unlike me, she was not careful to keep her feet clean. So we went back to the pond. I threw a stick in the water to get her to go in and wash some of that off. It worked, and she was soon presentable again. Then we headed back to the house.

Washington, NH is the home of the Washington Adventist Church, the first church where Adventists met to observe the seventh day as the Sabbath. It is a historic place. Last spring our local church was invited to provide church services for a few weeks there this summer. I volunteered, as did my friend Dan Orlinski. Another pair of our church leaders volunteered for an earlier date, but today was my date.

I suggested to Dan that rather than get up real early and drive there, we ought to just camp out Friday night. Dan is an avid outdoorsman, so he agreed without hesitation, and when I invited Beth, she was likewise enthusiastic.

So yesterday after work the three of us set out. I had meant to stop by the Pathfinder trailer and fetch my dutch oven on the way, but that somehow slipped my mind. Oh well.

We arrived at the Washington Church around 7:00pm. I unlocked the building (having been given the combination to the lockbox containing the key), and we went in to look around.

Washington Adventist Church

Washington Adventist Church


I have camped here with our Pathfinder club three or four times, but had never been inside the church, so this was a nice treat.

We locked it back up, pitched our tents, and then relaxed a bit. Then we hit the sack. Beth and I shared a tent, and Dan had one to himself. I slept as well as I always do on a campout, which is to say not very good. 😉

I got up at about 6:30 and began preparing breakfast. A few years ago I made a “penny alcohol stove” from an aluminum beer can (which I got from the city recycling center). Google that for details if you’re interested. It weighs almost nothing and cost me a penny to make (except that I still have the penny). It burns for about ten minutes I guess, but I didn’t time it. That’s long enough to boil a quart of water, but I was making pancakes and eggs, not boiling water.

I had intended to cook the pancakes on the dutch oven’s lid, but having neglected to bring that particular item with me, opted to use my backpacking mess kit instead. It is not optimal for cooking pancakes, as it’s pretty hard to get underneath them to flip them over.

Frying pancakes

Frying pancakes


They tend to get scrambled during the flip, resulting in this:
Scrambled Pancakes

Scrambled Pancakes


They still tasted great even if they weren’t much to look at.

In addition to forgetting the dutch oven, I also forgot to bring a fork or a spoon. We keep that sort of thing in the Pathfinder trailer, so I don’t usually have to think of it. So I didn’t. Lacking a spoon, I fashioned one from the handle of the pancake bottle (seen the the photo two pics back). It worked out pretty well.

I also made up some scrambled eggs, and they came out about like scrambled eggs are supposed to. Beth passed on the pancakes, but eagerly ate some eggs. I ate some of everything.

After cleaning up the dishes, we took a short hike. There is a trail on the church property there called the Sabbath Trail, and it’s about a mile long. We didn’t do the whole mile right after breakfast though. It features 31 stops along the trail with a bench at each stop and a slab of polished granite with an episode recounting the history of the Sabbath etched into each.

We had to cut the hike short because we were supposed to open the church up at 10:00am for Sabbath School, and then a church service at 11:00. So we hustled back to camp and changed into our church clothes.

Several of the Seventh-day Adventist Church pioneers visited this church, including Joseph Bates, James and Ellen White, and J.N. Andrews. Beth was excited at the prospect of sitting in the same seat that these people had sat in 100 years ago, but since she didn’t know which ones they sat in, she decided to sit in them all. And she did, including in the balcony.

I set up Beth’s electric piano (plugged it into my car – it has a battery compartment, and I bought batteries for it, but even with that, it wouldn’t turn on). Then Dan led out for Sabbath School.

After that, we had a church service. No one was there except for the three of us. We were there in case someone else showed up, but no one did. A couple of hikers walked by, but they didn’t come in. Dan pointed out that there were enough of us there so that someone sat in every seat. Even if that someone was Beth.

I had prepared a sermon, and I will be giving the same one in Concord next week. This was good practice though, and I will change it a bit. Beth and I played Amazing Grace for special music – with me on the alto recorder, and her on the piano. We also played it with Beth on the organ (they have a very old, but working pump organ).

Then the church service was over, so we changed clothes again and finished our hike on the Sabbath Trail.

Along the way we saw several American toads, including this one:

Infected American toad (Bufo americanus)

Infected American toad (Bufo americanus)


It has what I think is a fungal infection around its eye. I have seen toads with this malady before, and initially thought it had gotten mud on its eye. But I don’t think this is mud. This will probably kill the toad, either directly (from the infection) or indirectly (from not seeing a predator approach from the right).

Soon, we crossed a bridge over a creek, and next to the bridge found some swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris) growing:

Swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris)

Swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris)


These look a lot like whorled loosestrife, and are in fact in the same genus.

I also found a stand of partridge berry (Mitchella repens).

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)


These are past the flowering stage on my property. I still see a few here and there, but for the most part, they are finished.

I was delighted to find this violet wood sorel (Oxalis violacea).

Violet wood sorel (Oxalis violacea)

Violet wood sorel (Oxalis violacea)


I haven’t seen any of this in about five years, and that was before I started carrying a camera around with me everywhere I went. Thus, these are the first photos I’ve taken of this species. 🙂

To my further delight, I found several patches of dewdrops (Dalibarda repens).

Dewdrops (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrops (Dalibarda repens)


Until today, the only place I knew where any of these grew was on my property, and as I’ve written before, I don’t know how long they will survive on my place since the neighbor has cut down trees, converting my shady woods into sunny woods. Well, now I know another place to find them. I might have to make an annual trek to Washington to get my dewdrop fix.

After the hike, we returned to the church (and our camp site), and sat down for lunch. I was planning to cook some Ramen noodles on my penny alcohol stove, but couldn’t figure out what on earth I had done with it. I found it later in the wrong section of my backpack, but before lunch, it was nowhere to be seen. Instead, I ate an apple, some “broccoli slaw” (which I had never had before – it’s not bad, but I don’t know if I’ll have it again), and… some raw Ramen noodles. Beth insisted that some of her schoolmates do this all the time, and she likes raw Ramen. Well, I do prefer mine cooked.

After we ate, we struck the tents, packed the car, and headed home. It rained while we ate lunch, so the tents got wet. I have them pitched in the backyard right now to dry out.

Today I was putzing around in my woods looking at some of the blueberry plants when the thought occurred to me that some of the early blueberries might be ripe by now. So I went to a small patch that always blooms early.

Ripe blueberry

Ripe blueberry


Yup! Ate that one and two others. This little patch is at the base of a tree at the edge of the yard. It gets more sun than the ones growing in the woods, and I imagine that’s why it blooms and ripens earlier than its sylvan counterparts.

So that’s a plant.

Not far from the early blueberries I spotted a grasshopper of some sort.

Animal

Animal


I don’t know the species or the genus. I could look up the order I’m sure, but I just don’t have it in me tonight.

As I walked through the yard, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. It was this pickerel frog (Rana palustris).

Pickerel frog (Rana palustris)

Pickerel frog (Rana palustris)


This guy didn’t want anything to do with me, but I continued to chase him down anyhow. I suppose that makes me a paparazzi. For frogs. As I persisted in my efforts to capture his (or her) likeness, I would move the long grass out of the way, and as my hand approached, the frog would jump away. I finally approached with my camera instead of with my hand, and the frog didn’t seem to care about that. It’s as if it were saying, “Oh! You’re a photographer! You should have said so!”

I usually see one or two of these each year, so I’ve met my quota now. I will report this sighting on a site run by Fish & Game (they are interested in that sort of thing).

So now that I have given you a plant and two animals, we shall shoot for the middle ground – slime mold!

Slime mold!

Slime mold!


This is a weird life form. Scientists used to classify it as a fungi, but unlike a fungi, it moves. It also seems to exhibit simple brainlike functions. For example, if you divide this stuff into multiple clumps (much as this one is divided into three already), the clumps will find one another again and recombine. And get this quote from Wikipedia:

Studies on Physarum have even shown an ability to learn and predict periodic unfavorable conditions in laboratory experiments.

Awesome!

I’ve not felt great the past couple of days. Some sort of sinus problem kept me home from work yesterday. It has since moved into my throat and chest, but as bad as it feels there, it’s a ton better than in my head.

I have a new laptop. My old hard drive was getting pretty full, and the screen was showing its age. It’s not a new new laptop, but rather, something we had kicking around at work. I also got a new hard drive for it, and have spent the evening installing the OS and copying files from my old laptop to this one. While stuff was copying, I took Penny to the backyard for some stick throwing, and also to play with a piece of #14 welder’s glass that I ordered online (it came in today).

What kind of fun can a guy have with #14 welder’s glass? How about… photographing the sun!

The sun through a piece of #14 welder's glass

The sun through a piece of #14 welder’s glass


It has something of a green tint, doesn’t it? So I adjusted the white balance to make the sun white.
Sun with white balance set to... the sun

Sun with white balance set to… the sun


These are not great shots, but they are also the first ones I’ve ever taken of the sun. The camera didn’t much want to focus, so I set it to infinity manually. I think 93 million miles is close enough to infinity as far as the camera is concerned.

Now if I lived a bit farther to the west, I might use this to take pictures of the upcoming eclipse. Yeah – that’s on May 20. But I won’t get to see that here. Instead, I will wait until June 5 and take pictures of the transit of Venus. That won’t happen again for another 108 years, so if it interests you, you’d better get on it now. Google it if you must. The Innernets know all.

I also made a lap around the front of the property.

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

American toad (Bufo americanus)

American toad (Bufo americanus)


OK, the taxonomists have moved the American toad out of the Bufo genus and into some other genus. They keep doing that to a lot of frogs, and I just can’t keep track anymore. To me, it’ll be Bufo for a while longer.

While I was out doing all that, Va whipped out the mop. The mop and the dog are not compatible with one another, and since I was feeling better than I had been, I offered to take the dog down to the pond (even though there was only an hour of daylight left, and the sky was clouding up). I’m glad I did.

Lily of th valley (Convallaria majalis )

Lily of th valley (Convallaria majalis )


The lily of the valley was in bloom. There wasn’t a whole lot of available light, and macro photography does not much benefit from flash, so I did what I could. Jack up the ISO to about 800, minimize the f-stop, open up the shutter, and hold the camera as still as I could. I still need to make another attempt on that infernal tripod mounting hole.

We got to the pond, and the dock had been rolled out. So I walked out onto it and steadied my camera on a post to take this shot.

Sandogardy Pond

Sandogardy Pond


It was a nice evening, even if it was threatening to rain. Penny and I continued on, and I found the corn lilies in bloom.
Corn lily aka blue bead lily aka Clintonia borealis

Corn lily aka blue bead lily aka Clintonia borealis


I was out here a couple of day ago (before the black plague/Ebola or whatever took hold of my sinuses) and managed to harvest a few leaves from these. Peterson says they taste like cucumbers, and I would have to agree. I ate half of them raw, and I cooked the other half and had them with butter. They are pretty OK! You do have to get them before the leaves fully unfurl, otherwise, the flavor is way too strong.

Then Penny and I headed back to the house. I had been throwing sticks for her almost non-stop since we had left, and she was starting to get tired. She needs that. When we got home, she lied down next to her water bowl and just about emptied it. Yes – that’s the sign of a good walk!

These are shots I took mostly at my place this week. We’ll start with this little guy.

Eastern newt  (Notophthalmus viridescens)

Eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)


He didn’t want to hold still for me after I took this first shot, so it came out the best. It was overcast and rainy and heading towards sunset when I took it.

Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

Starflower (Trientalis borealis)


The starflowers have bloomed now. I’ve been watching them for a while, and this week was the first time this year I’ve seen one open. There are lots of them in my woods right now.

Here’s another one I’ve been watching, the Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense). This one has only partly opened, and that’s still farther along than most of them in my woods.

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

The dwarf ginseng is still in bloom for the most part, but this one has already fruited now. They aren’t in season for very long.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolia)

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolia)


They do have edible roots, and I dug a few up and ate them last year. They were pretty good. These are along the stone wall bordering my neighbor, and he has cut a lot of trees (he’s getting ready to build a new house). So that lets a lot more sun into my woods, and I don’t know if these will bloom here again or not. They might get out-competed by sun-loving plants next spring. We’ll see.

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)


I guess I’ve done the gaywings about to death now, but I liked this triplet. So here you go again.

My chokeberries are blooming now. Most blossoms are still closed, but there are a few brave ones here and there.

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)


The red stamens fade quickly to pink, and then to brown. I like them best when they are red.

I’ve got plenty of wild sarsaparilla to go around. This one is just beginning to bloom.

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)


Not all of them make flowers. I’d say maybe a quarter of them do. I have no idea why that would be though. Maybe it’s the conditions here, or maybe they are dioecious (i.e., male and female versions).

Here’s another chokeberry. This one has nice and red stamens.

Another chokeberry

Another chokeberry

And finally, here’s another amphibian for you.

American Toad (Bufo  americanus)

American Toad (Bufo americanus)


If amphibians were bread, this post would be a flower sandwich.

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