We Honor You

Make a Wish

By Sgt. Charles Leo Michaud (my grandfather) ▪️ May 2017

Did you ever wander on an evening when the air was still and cool,

Down by the rippled pool and little garden stool, 

While the moon was palely gleaming – did you abide by Nature’s rules? 

Well, I took one of those nighttime strolls through the garden, glowing bright

On a starry night – under a silver light. 

I heard the cricket on the knoll and saw the firefly in flight. 

It was as I chanced to glance above me that I saw away on far

A flashing bar – a shooting star.

And it fell into it’s home, the sea, where it’s fallen brothers are. 

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The Ultimate Camoflauge

Her spots will keep her safe … 

She is safe, she is hidden & mama is nearby. I love the book Lost in the Woods by Carl Sams & Jean Stoick. Gives such wonderful information about these young ones with amazing nature photos. 

Some think that a fawn that is laying alone is in need of help. Take a look at this infographic for more information. When in doubt contact your local wildlife rehabilitator for advice. If you are in Pennsylvania visit www.pawr.com to find the rehabber closest to you. 

Here is the first little one we found just this morning. Look at how the spots really help her blend in! 

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The Mayapple Quest

It all started one morning, on my way out to start my day, when I noticed a patch of emerging mayapples. The tree and shrub leaves had not fully awakened from their winter slumber making the new patch of plants easy to see. The young students that I teach lovingly call this plant “the umbrella plant” due to its very umbrella like shape! There are many fascinating facts about the mayapple including that it is poisonous to humans and that it also has some cancer battling properties! Another interesting thing about this plant is that they are all connected underground with a rhizomal root system – where you see a patch, to put it simply, they are all a family.
One evening after the spring warmth and rain had visited and made all of the flowers come alive, I decided it was time for a walk to investigate the Mayapples that I have finally noticed on the property. I am sure they were there last year and it was only my observation skills that needed a refresher. I decided that instead of visiting the path on the driveway I would head up on the back side of the house where I had seen some earlier in the week (after we did a quick owl prowl one night – that’s another story!). I found a HUGE patch of the plants and then went to look for the flower.
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In order to have a flower you need a plant that has 2 “umbrellas” out of one single stem. In this large patch, there are no doubles. They are all single plants. My mind is confused and not understanding, to the point where it tells my body that “you just aren’t looking hard enough, maybe you should lay on the ground and look through the field of plants, surely you are just missing it!” So yes, after some time on the ground, I still only see singles. I move to another patch, and another and yet another all on the upper side of the property. All single stems. No flowers. I decide to head down to the stream bed and back to the original patch I saw. (Please note that this is about an hour later and a mile of walking, laying on the ground and scratching my head!) I should have just gone to that patch first – there are some flowers!!!
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But it still lingers in my head – why so many plants with a single stem and no flowers? Why so many plants in the colonies on the upper side of the property? There had to be a hundred in the first colony I found. I need to also remember that I have only had the opportunity to explore about 5 acres of the family’s 70.
IMG_20170509_200727It turns out that the single stemmed plants could be young plants and this could be a young colony. Once a seed is dispersed to make a new colony (one article says that the Box Turtle is the primary seed distributor along with squirrels, grackles, white footed mouse, fox, raccoon and opossum) it will take at least 5 years for the plant to grow and another 8 years for those plants to produce a flower. After the plants flower they have decreased rhizome growth and a decreased chance of being forked and produce a flower the following year.
So, now the questions are
1. Do we have very young colonies OR
2. Do we have older colonies that produced fruit last year?
Only time will tell.
As always – for more nature photos you can follow me on Facebook or Instagram!

New Spring Ephemerals!

Oh what a spring this has been! My appreciation for the spring ephemerals has reached an all time high.

“An ephemeral plant is one marked by short life cycles. The word ephemeral means transitory or quickly fading. The spring ephemeral, refers to perennial plants that emerge quickly in the spring and die back to their underground parts after a short growth and reproduction phase. ”

I have been on hike after hike looking for these amazing flowers and I was very excited to find some new ones on our property.

Cut-Leaved Toothwort

This little one is a member of the mustard family and gets its name from the tooth-like segments on its roots. The deeply lobed stem is another clear giveaway. The plant grows 8 to 15 inches tall. It is a woodland species commonly growing in rich soil with significant leaf litter. You have to be quick to catch a view of it. It blooms before the leaves are out on the trees and after about two weeks goes to seed. I was excited to find this plant growing along the road edge of the property, a place that I walk frequently.  We have such a large deer population and their path of destruction is larger than I anticipated. I need to find a place where the deer can’t go – finding steep embankments is my goal right now. If they can’t get to it they can’t eat it.

Toothwort

IMG_20170412_143701Super excited to find this one – a new one for me, anywhere! “It is found in moist woodlands usually in edge habitats and blooms from April to June. A member of the mustard family, it is typified by a four petal flower which blooms in a cluster on a single stalk above a single pair of toothed stem leaves each divided into three broad leaflets. After flowering, narrow seedpods appear just below the flower cluster. It grows approximately 30 cm (12 in) tall.”

I found this one tucked up next to a tree on a pretty steep, but short, embankment. The deer couldn’t get to it to step on it OR to eat it!

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The Beauties in Bloom

So you know it is spring when your phone has nothing but the wonderful awakening that the season has to offer – and for us and our property it is all about the daffodils right now. This winter was very weird and we had some early risers in February. They began to emerge from the ground but luckily most of them knew to stay put because colder harsher weather was on its way.

The all yellow ones bloomed first and we are starting to get some of the fancier, different varieties blooming now. Enjoy!

These are only a fraction of the photos I have taken – for more photos be sure to follow on Facebook and Instagram!

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Woody Woodpecker

pileated 2Woody Woodpecker is in my top 5 for all time favorite cartoons. I didn’t know it at the time, but he is modeled after a real woodpecker – the Pileated Woodpecker. They are HUGE (almost the size of a crow), they are beautiful, and they are destructive. They are known for their size and the brilliant red tuft of hair that stands up on their head. They have a very distinctive drumming noise – one that once you hear you never will forget. They have an unmistakable flight pattern and can be heard near and far. (You can become acquainted with their noises on the All About Birds website.) They make rectangular shaped holes in trees and eat carpenter ants and other insects living in the tree. This picture is one that was in rehab at Wildbird Recovery over the past summer probably after a collision with a car. Look how beautiful she is. Look a the beak – the destruction that it can give is like no other.

I was walking in the woods a few weeks ago and came across a very weird-looking dead tree. I have never seen this beofre! It was shredded and pieces of bark and wood were thrown on the forest floor. With the massive amounts of damage, it could only be one thing. The Pileated.

I will admit that there was a piece of me that was glad that he was picking on the dead tree and not the side of my house. I can’t imagine the damage he would have done to my siding, both aesthetically and financially! We have have enough woodpecker issues, you can read about the fiasco with a downy woodpecker here. We still haven’t recovered!

Here is a photo of the amazing head feathers of the one that was in rehab – something you pileatedwill probably never see! Just beautiful.

Thanks to my friend Beth, first of all for all of her amazing work and dedication to help local birds in need, for being so passionate about nature and environmental causes (her entire life) and for letting me share the woodpecker photos!

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Weirdest February Ever

To put it lightly, this has been the weirdest February ever. We have had record breaking wp-1488221025570.jpghighs one day and then snow the next. I am certainly not complaining about all of the outside time I have been able to have, but you have to admit – it’s FEBRUARY and it is not supposed to be 75 degrees. It’s just not normal. The poor daffodils are not going to be sure what to do – I think that in this warm spell they grew 5 inches!

On some of the warmer days we had last week I was able to head wp-1488220992809.jpgoutside and explore a bit. It was nice to be able to get into the stream without worrying about multi-flora rose snagging my pants and jacket or dodging the poison ivy plants. We have a small stream that runs through the property and in the summer months it is small enough that it almost dries up. I am always optimistic that I will find some salamanders or other interesting macro invertebrates, but I usually end up empty handed. Luckily today this was not the case. I spent some time walking along the stream bed and looking for “the good rocks” that will protect some of the tiny little organisms that live in the water. I found some leeches, some snail eggs and then I found this guy.

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He doesn’t look like much, but I will admit I was taken aback when I flipped the rock. There were 3-4 of them hidden under the protection of the rock and I was able to snap a few quick pics before they burrowed into the soft silty soil. They were about a half an inch long so I was impressed by their quickness and all of their little tiny legs.  I sent the picture off to a coworker that knows more about stream ecology than I will ever know and her reply was “That is an aquatic sow bug and it is HUGE”.

After heading inside it was time to learn a bit more about these little things. I love the fact that macro invertebrates (critters you can see with your eye, with no backbone) are also pollution indicators. Some macros can live in very polluted water and some like my favorites – dragonfly nymph and caddisfly larva – can only live in super clean water. Some like the Aquatic Sow Bug are somewhere in the middle.

The Aquatic Sow Bug is a crustacean and is in the same class as shrimp and crayfish. They have a hard outer exoskeleton and will eat just about any organic material they come upon. They are fairly common in small streams and springs. They shed their skin as they grow and absorb oxygen using gills located on the underside of the abdomen.

Not a bad find for a weird February day!

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Listening to a Tree

Every morning before I head out for the day I take a minute to just listen, just breathe. One day this week I was drawn to look toward one of the Black Walnut Trees, like it was calling. 

I need to get myself back in touch with nature, this winter and the happenings in our world have caused a funk like I have never felt before. When the tree called that crisp morning I knew I needed to listen

I walked closer to the tree and noticed it had some shading of light and dark like I had never seen on it before. The coloration was certainly caused by a natural event either with wind or rain or snow, but the naturalist in me needed to let go of the “why” for the shading and just accept it. It was beautiful. The air was cold, my breaths came slowly and my eyes closed. It was time to just breathe. Just listen. Now I was ready to start my day, and everyday. 

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” J.K.Rowling 

New Year, First Bird

I have spent the last 4 years bringing in the New Year helping with a portion of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. (This year marks the 117th year of the count making it one of the longest running Citizen Science projects ever.) Our portion of the count always happens the Saturday between Christmas and New Years, putting this year’s count on New Years Eve. We meet early (but not as early as some) and get a good morning start.

It … Was … So … Cold. I am not typically much of a complainer but everyone has their limits. This day was about 25 degrees, which is bearable, but this annoying persistent gentle wind would not stop bringing icy temperatures into my core. This wind pushed all of the birds into hiding and energy saving mode. We would all get excited when we saw movement only to realize it was a leaf blowing across the bitter landscape. We only had decent results if we we lucky enough to have a bird feeder near each stop. Our numbers were definitely affected by the wind – in 4 hours we saw 27 species (down from 35 species the last few years) and under 500 birds (down from 1500 last year). Our numbers for this particular part of the count haven’t been this low since 2010.

I did manage to get a nice shot of a feisty Mockingbird to document the day. We were so desperate for a raptor that even the tops of some trees started to look like talons. As disappointing as it was, any day you can spend with friends and volunteers is an amazing day. I drove home and got warmed up and went out to dinner with the Bubbas. Driving home I was still in birding mode and got the Rock Dove, aka Pigeon as my last bird of 2016. They might not seem like much, but they do share an important part in American history, so I am happy.

wp-1483459569349.jpgWe don’t do much for New Years Eve so it was nice to sit around the fire, watch a movie and just relax. I was in bed by 10:30 listening to some favorite podcasts and spent the changing of the year snuggled in bed surrounded by my furry family. Wake up time (I should actually say breakfast time) for the little furry monsters is about 5:30 AM. I am not sure if they woke me up or if it was the outside help. I was in the state of not really being awake but semi coherent and that when I heard it. The unmistakable call of the Great Horned Owl. Excited for my first bird of 2017 to be one of the raptors we wanted to see yesterday, I vowed that a first day hike would be in my schedule for the day. I wanted to see if I could find where the Owl was roosting for the day. Our New Year’s Day was amazing. The crazy wind was gone and we were surrounded by sunshine.

The hike came easy and I was warmed by the sun and the physical activity which was welcomed after the overindulgence and sedentary times of the holidays. I headed to the one and only place I thought the Owl would be – the Big Pine. This is the only tree near the house that would give the Owl any good shelter and a sufficient hiding spot. I headed to the tree on my way up the hill to the clearing and looked up into the tall, thick branches waiting to see the yellow eyes staring back at me. Unfortunately for me the owl had moved on.

Even though I didn’t get to see the Owl, I got to spend some wonderful time outside, alone and with the land that surrounds us. I know the Owl is here (the Barred and Screech are here too) and for now, knowing it is here, is all I need.

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Winter is Here

Whether we like it or not, winter is here. I am actually OK with it, I am absolutely a creature of the sun and am looking forward to the extra glimpses of sunlight even if that means only getting it a minute or two at a time. We haven’t had too much snow yet but I did manage to capture this image this morning of one lonely little snowflake.

wp-1482439562510.jpgI am amazed at the snowflake process. High in the air a tiny little cold water droplet must freeze itself to a piece of dust or pollen – this is what forms the ice crystal. As the ice crystal falls to the ground water vapor freezes onto the crystal giving it it’s unique shape. Shapes are different depending on the temperature and humidity. Each individual snowflake is unique and one of a kind because of the path it takes to get to its destination.

As we move past the Winter Solstice remember – “Our time here is magic! It’s the only space you have to realize whatever it is that is beautiful, whatever is true, whatever is great, whatever is potential, whatever is rare, whatever is unique, in. It’s the only space.” Ben Okri