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Archive for the ‘Fall’ Category

In late September last year, I visited Newport, Rhode Island. The weather was beautiful – the sun was strong, the sky was clear and blue, and it was a perfect chance to walk along the cliff walk where the mansions look over the ocean.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

I noticed this bright yellow flower, which I was sure was a goldenrod, growing from the rocks. I was surprised to see a goldenrod by the ocean, since I’ve mainly seen them in sandy waste areas by the side of the road. This goldenrod was more plush than its relatives, with healthy leaves and full flower heads.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Its leaves are toothless and parallel-veined. It sometimes hybridizes with the Rough Stemmed goldenrod and can be found along the coasts near salt marshes, dunes and beaches. This one is a showy one, but on New York shores and south to Florida, they might not have such a plume-like head. There are many goldenrods in New England, but the key aspects to look for to tell them apart are the silhouette and whether the leaves are feather-veined or parallel-veined. Something new I learned while looking up this flower is that underneath the plant are  rhizomes – the plants close in proximity to each other all may come from the same original plant and may actually be clones.

Goldenrods signal the end of the summer. It was nice to see this flower out in late September – it can bloom through November in some parts – on a day when it felt like summer was going strong.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

I caught a bee enjoying the goldenrod nectar. Goldenrods are insect-pollinated – the bright yellow attracts the bugs and the sticky pollen sticks to their legs so it gets passed around. If you are interested in finding insects, goldenrods are a good place to start! But insects aren’t the only ones who have enjoyed consuming this plant. The leaves are edible and have been used for some healing remedies (the Latin name for goldenrod Solidago, which means to make whole, coming from its medicinal use in healing wounds). Apparently they also contain rubber, which was once used to make tires!

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It’s getting a bit cold here in Sweden and there are few flowers left blooming in the wild. Berries and acorns adorn every tree and bush and mushrooms are popping up everywhere. Swedes seem to have a special place in their hearts for mushrooms and mushroom hunting and it isn’t uncommon for people to pick their own mushrooms here. I was always told not to eat any mushrooms I found in the wild, but apparently if you are well-practiced in their identification, it is possible to avoid poisoning yourself.

One mushroom that really sticks out and is most definitely poisonous is the Fly Agaric or in Swedish Röd Flugsvamp (meaning ‘red fly mushroom’).

Röd Flugsvamp or Fly Agaric

Röd Flugsvamp or Fly Agaric

It gets its name because it was once used in powder form, sprinkled in milk to kill flies. This mushroom starts off by looking like a white egg, and slowly grows into what you see pictured above, which is an example of a mature fly agaric (with a flat hat and white spots).

Flugsvampar, or ‘fly mushrooms’ (the agaric genus Amanita), characteristically have free gills (located under the hat), which in Swedish are called ‘skivor’ (literally meaning ‘slices’ or ‘disks’). As an immature fruiting body, it looks like a white puff ball. Once mature, they have white spots on the cap (or ‘hatt’ = hat) and a ring round the stalk (or in Swedish ‘fot’=foot) of the mushroom. There is also a kind of sock at the base of the stalk (in Swedish ‘strumpa’ = stocking) which in English is called the volva. Sometimes the white spots wash off in rain, so don’t use that as the only identifier. Not all flugsvampar are poisonous, but most of those in my Swedish mushroom book (9 total) are listed as poisonous, very poisonous or at least inedible. Fly agaric also has hallucinogenic properties if ingested.

There are so many different kinds of mushrooms, and now that I am learning about them I am seeing them everywhere! This seems to be a much more complicated thing to identify than flowers since mushrooms can look very different depending on age and may vary greatly in color. I am starting with at least learning the parts of the mushroom and I hope to explore more new fungi soon. For now, the red fly mushroom is a good start. It is the easiest to identify with its recognizable features and is quite thrilling to come across it, bright and cartoon-like, in the forest!

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Northern Flicker

It has been so long since I last posted! My camera broke and the winter arrived, so I went into hibernation. I have been so inspired lately by the beautiful birds at the bird feeder, that I’ve decided to go into my archives to try to identify some birds I have photographed.

These photos were taken in September in Boston. I had some trouble identifying this bird at first, but thank goodness for google! I googled “brown bird black spot chest” and found it right away. This Northern Flicker is quite distinctive because of its spots and red nape crescent on the back of the head, which you can just barely make out in one photo. I had seen this bird foraging on the ground, but it turns out it is a woodpecker that also looks for insects on the ground. Flickers are large woodpeckers that are often seen on the ground in open areas (reference: Sibley Guide to Birds).

Northern Flicker, Boston, MA in September

Northern Flicker, Boston, MA in September

I couldn’t tell right away if it was a Yellow-Shafted or Red-Shafted Flicker because I didn’t catch it flying to see the under part of the wings. But odds are that this is a Yellow-Shafted (Taiga/Eastern) Flicker because I saw it in Massachusetts and the face is brown, not gray. This is a female Flicker because the face is all one color, there is no black malar (the feathers along side of the lower jaw) as is found in male Yellow Northern Flickers (the malar is red in Red-Shafted males). For more information, check out the website www.eol.org.

In this photo, you can just catch the red mark on the back of the neck. She is in the process of looking for insects in the grass, most likely ants.

Northern Flicker, Boston, MA in September

Northern Flicker, Boston, MA in September

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I saw this flower in both Stockholm and in Massachusetts. It is quite unique; 2 yellow lips upward, 3 yellow lips downward, and a yellow spur that extends back. Its unique orange middle (a swollen corolla tube) is the egg in the middle of all the butter, which gives it the name “butter-and-eggs”.  It is also known as common toadflax (Latin:  Linaria vulgaris).  Toadflax comes from the corolla’s “mouth” looking like a toad’s mouth and the leaves look like those of Flax.  I found these in a field on the south shore of Massachusetts in early October.

Common Toadflax, Hingham, MA October 2011

Butter-and-eggs can be found in roadsides, waste places, dry fields from June through Oct in the North East U.S. and July through Sept in Sweden (throughout).  It is a member of the snapdragon family.  The flowers are in stalked spikes and its narrow leaves go up the stems.

I found the following flowers in a construction site in Stockholm on my way to work in August, still wet with rain.

Gulsporre, Stockholm, Sweden, July, 2011

In Swedish, this flower is called Gulsporre which means yellow spur.  I found it growing in an area that had been torn up for construction of a road in late July.

Gulsporre, Stockholm, Sweden July, 2011

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Wild Turkeys!

Out in the suburbs of Boston, I saw a gaggle of turkeys making their way across the lawn. These birds are so interesting looking, and are a bit creepy and funny to watch!  It is amazing to me that they have done so well living in the wild, but apparently they are omnivorous and the suburban woods  are good places to forage.  The best time to see turkeys is early morning or late afternoon when they go foraging. These pictures were taken in the afternoon (also taken from inside the house, so they didn’t turn out as clear as I would have liked).

Wild Turkeys, Outside Boston, MA

Wild Turkeys, Outside Boston, MA

There are six species of wild turkey, these are most likely the Eastern Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris), the same species the Puritans encountered in New England in colonial times.  I think they were all female because males are a lot larger than females and should have a kind of “beard” that hangs from their chins. Be careful if you come across turkeys with their babies, they will fight you (broods appear in June, the babies are called “poults”).  They also attack shiny objects, so if you are attacked that might be the reason (mostly during breeding season).  If you google “wild turkey boston, MA” you will discover that Boston and the surrounding suburbs have witnessed an increase in the number of turkeys who even make it into the city. Some people have seen groups of them of almost 20 at a time and they tend to stop traffic and have harassed residents.

I especially liked the article on “How to Live with Turkeys” http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/wildlife/living/living_with_turkeys.htm

More information on wild turkeys in Massachusetts: http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/wildlife/facts/birds/turkey/turkey_home.htm

An NPR story from 2006 on wild turkeys: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6504117

It is only September, but thinking of turkeys makes me excited for Thanksgiving!

Wild Turkeys, Outside Boston, MA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At the end of October, I traveled to Barcelona.  The temperature was in the sixties and I was pleased to see many flowers blooming.  I had traveled from Boston, where the fall was starting and the golden rod, the last flowers left, were pretty much gone.

What was fun about the Spanish flora was the cacti!  Being from the Northeastern part of the U.S., we don’t have naturally growing cacti so it’s a special thrill to see cacti growing in the wild.  As I was walking a path near Park Guell, I took a snapshot of this huge prickly pear.  In Spanish, it is called Nopal Estricto.  Nopales is the vegetable made from the prickly pear.

This kind of cactus is the most cold-tolerant cactus.  New fact: all true cacti species are native to the Americas.  Therefore, this one found in Spain is a transplant… I wonder when they first came over? The prickly pear is on the list of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

I hope to some day get a photo of the prickly pear in bloom or with some fruit.  This one looks like it must be pretty old, it is very big and it holds the scars from people carving into its stems. In cacti, the stem has evolved to be photosynthetic and succulent and the leaves have evolved into spines through adaptation to dry and/or hot climates.

Prickly Pear, Barcelona, Spain

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This weekend, the sun was out and the smell of fall was in the air.  The leaves are starting to turn here in Massachusetts and I’ve been soaking up every moment of good weather to be outside.  Last week it rained all week, but right in time for the three day Columbus Day weekend we got sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s.  Perfect for a walk outside in the woods!  I keep thinking about Stockholm at this time, and I heard they got their first frost the other day, the light is fading quickly these days.  I am more thankful for the sun here now.

 

Walden Pond, Concord, MA

 

I walked around Walden Pond with a friend of mine, the lake was quiet with a few brave swimmers, some kayakers and some fishermen.  Walden Pond State Reservation is at 915 Walden St. (Rte. 126), Concord, MA.  If you follow the path around the pond, you will come across the site where Henry David Thoreau lived for 2 years in ‘an experiment in simple living’.

 

Site of Thoreau's House, Walden Pond, Concord, MA

 

In 1894 he published a book about his experiences there called Walden, or Life in the Woods.  Thoreau was interested in natural history and botany and traveled quite a bit to explore nature.  He chronicled the changing of the seasons and noted in his journals about the ecological patterns of the woods around him.  I find that I am also trying to use this blog as a journal to write down all the things in nature I see around me.  I love taking these excursions and re-discovering beautiful places like Walden Pond.  It helps me take a moment and think about the world around me and appreciate the world around me and really live in the moment.

 

H.D.Thoreau Quote, Walden Pond, Concord, MA

 

 

Walden Pond, Concord, MA

 

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