Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Swamp blooms Along the Rec Path

Take a walk with me along the Rec Path in Shelton, starting at Lane Street. Before long there is a hayfield on one side and a swamp on the other, where the Swamp Rose grows (above). This is one of our native roses, unlike the much more common pink rose we see along the shoreline (Rugosa Rose). All the species below that I found along the swamp edge are native to Connecticut.

Bonus! Under the rose growing in the mud are Creeping Bluets. This was my favorite find of the evening. Update -- not paying attention there, they have 5 petals, not four. That's actually one of the Forget-me-nots. May or may not be native.

The leaves you see are Jewel Weed.

The meadow was just hayed. As always, we are being quietly watched. Do you see it? Let's zoom in on this photo...

She's as quiet as a statue, only slinking away after I started walking towards her. Lots of people were walking up and down the Rec Path, and a couple was sitting on a nearby bench. I'll bet none of them were aware of this deer watching their every move.

Below the boardwalk is the American Burr Reed and its delightfully distinctive flowers.

This seven-foot Tall Meadow Rue also grows along the boardwalk. The leaves are what make this plant distinctive...

...growing in delicate clusters of three. There is a spring anemone with the exact same leaves named after this plant: Rue Anemone.

Leaving the boardwalk, we soon find another tall one: Water Hemlock. Not to be confused with
the similar-looking but unrelated Poison Hemlock.

The leaves of the Water Hemlock are also distinctive and look to me like the garden plant Astilbe.

Here's one of our native thistles: Swamp Thistle. It doesn't really look like a thistle, but take a closer look at the leaves...

Several caterpillar species rely on plants in the thistle family.

On somewhat higher ground now is a Fringed Loosestrife. The literature notes the plant "tolerates seasonal flooding," which is a good thing because that spot does flood occasionally.

Taking a detour onto a side trail where Means Brook and the Far Mill River meet, is the delicate Enchanter's Nightshade, growing perilously close to the Stinging Nettles (*%^&$!!). This spot also floods from time to time, but is usually dry.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Camera

OK, folks, I finally got an amazing replacement camera for the high-end Canon point-and-shoot I lost in the parking lot at Sleeping Giant last fall (after dropping it repeatedly while hiking, I confess).  I've been using an old, malfunctioning point-and-shoot, and just had enough of it. Soooo,  here's the Panasonic G-2, one of the new-fangled Micro Four Thirds camera that is basically a very small, light SLR without the interior mirrors.  Wow, so I can take pictures in the shady forest now without a flash.  But I don't have to lug around an SLR. It's about time! This camera is amazing. I had an SLR as far back as High School, before cameras were digital, but held off on getting a DSLR because they were too expensive and snobby (no video, for starters, because "real" photographers wouldn't want to take video). 

The camera has interchangeable lenses, but they're expensive.  The only disappointment has been adapting to the stock lense that can only go from "normal" power to a 3x zoom.  The point-and-shoot camera I had last fall went from super macro to 10x at the touch of a button.  But I am finding I'm getting just as good pictures by using the computer to zoom in and crop. 

The camera is way fun.  It has a touch screen -- touch the part of the view you want to be in focus, or scroll through your pictures like an iTouch. The intelligent mode is good for lazy photographers like me, identifying faces and locking them into focus even as they move around.  Here's a video that shows how that work.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mouse Nest

My son found a mouse nest wedged in the canoe he was cleaning, with three babies and a mother mouse running back and forth. He set the nest aside and the mother hauled off two of the babies into the woods, leaving this on unattended. Hopefully she'll come back.

What kinds of mouse? I couldn't begin to say. In this area we have the White-Footed Mouse (which can go up in the trees and use bird nests), the Meadow Jumping Mouse, and the Woodland Jumping Mouse (which can jump 6 to 8 feet). Then there are the voles and several species of shrews, which the average person would also call a mouse.
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Tea Party on the Powerlines

New Jersey Tea is in full bloom along the powerlines in Shelton now. It's a low native shrub that forms thickets only a few feet high. The leaves were used to make tea during the Revolutionary War era when colonists were boycotting the real stuff from British ships. They say if you dry the leaves for a few weeks and then steep them in hot water you'll have a drink that tastes very much like Oriental tea.

During the winter, New Jersey Tea is marked by these distinctive little cups where the flowers once were.

Whorled Loosestrife is an easily overlooked native perennial. Although the flowers are small, the leaves join together in symmetrical clusters of four (that's the "whorl").

Deptford Pink is small but vividly magenta. This is one of the many "wildflowers" along the powerlines that are not native to the U.S.

Crown Vetch is very common along the powerlines, where it was planted for erosion control. This is yet another plant that has gone invasive in the U.S., although at least this one stays in sunny areas. It is native to Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa.

Surprise, surprise, Red Clover is also not native. The bees like it, though.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Where's Waldo, the Wood Frog?

So, can you see him? Look closely. Here's a tip, he looks just like a dead leaf ;-). Try clicking the photo to enlarge...

OK, then, here's a close up (he's exactly where he was in the photo above). We have lots of Wood Frogs at Eklund Garden because of the nearby Vernal Pool where they breed. They really are hard to see, though, even when you know exactly where one jumped.

Monday, June 7, 2010


These wonderful strawberries were about to be picked (by me) at Jones Family Farm yesterday. Delicious! The cultivated strawberries we get at stores or at the farm are an accidental cross that occurred in France many years ago between the small but flavorful native Virginia Strawberry (below) and the much larger Chilean Strawberry. The result is called Fragaria x ananassa.

Here's the native Virginia Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), ancestor to our cultivated berries, purchased from Earth Tones nursery for Eklund Garden. It can be found growing on the slope at Eklund just above and to the right of the cacti. I admit to tasting one of the little berries and WOW, it was amazing.

Here are some strawberries I found in the Shelton open space today along the powerlines. These were also quite tasty. Not sure, but I think these are Woodland Strawberries (Fragaria vesca), native to the western U.S. Or they might be Virgina Strawberries. Either way, they sure were tasty. (I only ate one or two, leaving the rest for the wild critters). They were growing under a mat of cinquefoil.

And here's Indian Strawberry (Duchesnea indica), a fake strawberry originally from India. The berry is dry and feels like styrofoam. This berry was found in Fairfield on May 31 (see earlier post).