Saturday, May 26, 2007

Biggest Mushrooms I Ever Saw

Check out these monster mushrooms growing on the Rec Path near Meadow Street in woodchips. Apparently conditions have been ideal for the mushrooms there because there are several different types, one quite pretty (see photos). I also took photos of pink lady slippers in bloom next to Hope Lake, near the point where Oak Valley and Dominick Trails meet. They bloom in that spot each year in May and are usually still in bloom about the time of Trails Day (first Saturday in June). Also took pictures of some Wisteria in bloom along Shelton Ave where the Rec Path crosses the road. It looks like the Chinese Wisteria, which is an invasive species. A pretty one, though.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Shelton Beaver Mystery

Article in the Post today says that beaver have come back to Shelton and are living south of Lane Street on Means Brook. I'm not so sure. They WERE living there, but back in February I walked out on the ice and discovered their dam was blown out, and they haven't repaired it. The lodge (see photo) was located upriver about 75 feet. Usually beaver will repair a dam within a day or two. I also haven't seen any new beaver sign lately, like freshly cut trees. People have said they've seen the beaver swimming, but I've seen muskrat swimming, and many people confuse the two.

The beaver utilized a substantial causeway that crosses the wide Means Brook swamp behind Huntington Street. The causeway has a 10 ft gap which the river flows through (it's a good 5 feet deep), and there was once a bridge over the gap that has washed out. The vast majority of the "beaver dam" was actually this causeway. The causeway is accessible from the Rec Path at a sharp bend in the Land Trust meadow off of Lane Street (look into the woods a bit and you will see beaver-cut trees). The causeway is normally overgrown with vegetation and parts are wet, which why winter is the best time to check it out. Here's a video of the causeway where the beaver were, clearly showing they are gone.

Silent Waters Mystery Piers

For years many volunteers have pondered the row of paired stone & concrete supports located along the base of the Silent Waters dam (see photo). What were they? The dam was built in the late 1800's and burst in 1903, never to be repaired, so the supports were probably from the late 1800's as well. Mike Picone of Aquarion took a look at the pillars for me and stated what should have been obvious to us all: The piers held up a really big pipe associated with the reservoir. Of course! Reservoirs were (and still are) used for drinking water and there is an entire infrastructure related to transferring the water from the reservoir to the public.

I also took some photos today of yellow rocket and white baneberry in bloom at the base of the dam, and some views of Silent Waters on the new path at the top of the dam (see photos).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Gristmill Trail After Flood

After my husband called to tell me he found a tiny snapping turtle, about the size of a half-dollar, on Gristmill Trail, I decided to take a quick spin down the trail. Wow, the April 15 flood really ripped it up! This trail floods regularly -- it's in a floodplain, after all -- but this was different. The 2nd bridge was dislodged (the first one we gave up on a few years back because we kept losing it), and the trail erosion was pretty deep, exposing lots of roots. In other place, sand was dumped on the trail.

I took photos of several types of our most impressive ferns: Cinnamon, interrupted and royal ferns; also spring wildflowers including wild geranium (my favorite), Jack-in-the-pulpit, and Canada Mayflower. No turtle nest, however! Snapping turtle eggs normally hatch in the fall, but may over-winter and hatch in the spring, and females may lay eggs up to 10 miles away, which sounds a tad ridiculous to me.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Letterboxing at Wolfe park

I took my daughter letterboxing at Wolfe Park in Monroe this afternoon, and we found all 8 boxes for the "Hey Jude" series (see for clues and general info about letterboxing). Many of the boxes were a bit tricky and also full of water, but all the hand-carved stamps were good and pertained to Beatles songs. We capped off our outing with ice cream from the snack bar at Great Hollow Lake.

En route, we saw plenty of spring wildflowers, including red trillium, spring beauties (photo), and woodland anemones. And as we sat on one of the many benches along our hike we also got a good look at a pair of spotted sandpipers hunting along the shores of the stream that flows out of the lake. See photos.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Newts Stalking Their Prey

There is a skeegy little pond next to Nells Rock Trail under the power lines - you can't miss it - which is full of little red-spotted newts quietly stalking their prey, which happily consists primarily of mosquito larvae. There is a big piece of ledge that rises nearly ten feet above the pond about 30 feet off of the trail. Sit on it, with your feet dangling over the edge, and enjoy a little break from your hike. If you watch very, very carefully, you might see some of the salamanders as they slowly stalk over and under the mass of vegetation. Think of it as an "I spy" game. See photos.

Oddly, red-spotted newts have two forms, the aquatic one (shown) and the bright red terrestrial form called the red eft. They start out as the aquatic form as babies, then switch to the red terrestrial form for a few years as adolescents, so to speak, then revert to the original form as full adults. I was watching the adults.

I once hatched salamander eggs and the baby salamanders voraciously ate mosquito larvae, which we had to raise in a little pool out back. The salamanders creep up very slowly, and as soon as one of the mosquito larvae wiggle in their face WACK - no more mosquito. A salamander can probably eat hundreds of larvae each day. While you're sitting there, tadpoles or maybe salamanders will suddenly lunge to the surface to gulp some air. You never get to actually see them, just the disruption they make at the surface.

I also got a photo of a rufous-sided towhee, which are common along the powerlines.