Into The Woods

Finally! I was able to get out into the woods yesterday afternoon after having spent all morning and early afternoon first working on my yard and then my Mom’s yard. And I was hoping, based on the past dates in my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide that I would be able to find some of my favorite spring flowers in bloom. And we did! Yay!

We were so excited to spy some lovely little patches of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)


I *love* this flower. And in New York State this plant is listed as Exploitably Vulnerable 😦

And then we spied tons of Trout Lilies or Yellow Adder’s Tongue or Dogtooth Violet (Erythronium americanum) (don’t you love all of the common names).

You can see the brown mottling on the leaves.


And then another favorite of mine, Cut-leaved Toothwort or Pepperroot (Dentaria laciniata), and you can see where both the common name and latin names come from by this next photo:


Here’s one with a white flower and a little bee pollinating it:


And one with pinkish flowers:


This next flower I know is a Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis), but I’m not sure whether it is a sharp-lobed or blunt-lobed since I didn’t look at the leaves (bad Pam).


Another favorite of mine, and one of the 100 herbs I had to learn inside and out, Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

I love the way the leaves come up (and don’t you love the way they poke right through the dried tree leaves)?

I love the leaves when they’re unfolded:

And, of course, I have to show the coolest parts, the spathe and spadix (the spathe being the outer hood and the spadix the knob-shaped cluster inside of it).


We also saw Marsh Marigolds or Cowslip (Caltha palustris) but it was too early for their blossoms:

(sorry no closeups, I wasn’t prepared to go into the water, and I don’t really know how deep it is).

There’s a platform at the edge of the swamp that you can watch and listen to all kinds of birds. I accidentally flushed out a turkey, but didn’t capture a photo of it. Here’s last year’s cattails:


And I spied some eyeballs, can you see them?


Here’s a crop of this photo so you can see the eyeballs a little better:

There’s tons of frogs here.

We tried finding sunning turtles, but I guess we were too late in the day for them. We did see a couple of snakes, but I was only able to capture this Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis):

I love snakes! You can also see how profuse the Trout-Lilies are here, along with the Cut-Leaved Toothwort. And I love my new book The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State because I don’t have to weed through a million species! (P.S. Mary, you’ve *got* to check out the cover of this book)!

Another one of my favorites, moss around the base of a tree in the swamp:

And a burl. I would love to see the inside of it.

And you know I can’t walk through the woods without photographing fungus:

That’s basically it! Except for all of the tremendous sounds in the woods – the bird calls, peepers, etc. We couldn’t have picked a better day to go into the woods! I used to walk through these woods every day, and I miss them very much!

P.S. And for the record, it was 86 degrees F today. Yes, in April. Very unusual for this time of year.

Beatrix Potter’s Lake District



Guest Post, by Susan Wittig Albert

I want to start by thanking Pam for inviting me to be a guest on her blog, which I always enjoy. We are both nature-lovers, so it’s a very good fit. Thanks, Pam, for the invitation!

The Tale of Hawthorn HouseI’m doing a blog tour for the latest book in my mystery series, The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. The book is The Tale of Hawthorn House, and like the previous three books, it is set in the beautiful Lake District of England, in the early 1900s. It features Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit and a series of other wonderful books for children. She bought a farm in the little Lake District village of Near Sawrey and lived there from 1913 until her death in 1943. So I thought I’d share some of the photos I took when I went to the Lake District to do research a few years ago.

Beatrix was always most at home in the natural world. Her family lived in London, but they spent their annual two-month holidays in the North Country. When she was 16, her family rented Wray Castle, Wray Castleon Lake Windermere, an honest-to-goodness castle. In her journal, Beatrix remarks wryly: “The architect, one Mr. Lightfoot killed himself with drinking before the house was finished.” I think we can see why! But Beatrix loved taking long walks. After walking to the market town of Hawkshead (about 15 miles round trip!), she recorded in her journal, “Had a series of adventures. Inquired the way three times, lost continually, alarmed by collies at every farm, stuck in stiles, chased once by cows.” Beatrix had a healthy sense of humor about her adventures.

On her walks in the Lake District, Beatrix encountered lots of interesting fungi. Fascinated, she began drawing and studying them. You can find some of her paintings of fungi she found near Lake Windermere on the website of the Armitt Museum. The paintings, done with astonishing attention to detail, show you what a passionate naturalist she was, incredibly careful to get it exactly right. When I look closely at her paintings of fungi, I often think that the fungi themselves have distinct personalities, much like the personalities she gave to the animals in her children’s books. She captured what was unique about each one, so fully that you can almost hold it in your hand!

In 1905, after the death of her fiancé, Norman Warne, Beatrix bought Hill Top Farm, Hill Top Farmin the village of Near Sawrey. She loved the seventeenth-century house and the old farm, with its lovely green fields, mature trees, and stone fences, and she immediately began restocking it with cows, pigs, and Herdwick sheep. Herdwick SheepEven in those days, the Herdwicks were an “old-fashioned” sheep, because their wool was so wiry. But Beatrix loved them and wanted to ensure that the breed did not lose out to other, modern breeds.

Hill Top Farm (which you can visit today—it belongs to the National Trust) is nestled against a beautiful little lake called Esthwaite Water. Esthwaite WaterBeatrix thought it was the loveliest lake in England, and I’m certainly not going to argue with her! If you climb the hill above the village, along Cuckoo Brow Lane, you can look out toward Coniston Old Man, the fell on the other side of the lake. If you look closely at this photo, you can also see how the hawthorn has been trimmed against the stone fence. When it’s allowed to grow up, the hawthorn makes a lovely, leafy tangle above the fence, a beautiful home for birds. The stone fences in the Lake District are all works of art, and I took dozens of photos of them.

If you follow Cuckoo Brow Lane a little further, you’ll come to Moss Eccles Lake, Moss Eccles Lakewhere Beatrix and her husband Willie Heelis (they were married in 1913) kept a rowboat. Willie loved to fish and often caught brown trout for supper. Beatrix went to the lake to draw, because it was such a cool, peaceful place, home to birds, badgers, squirrels, and hedgehogs.

The two villages, Far Sawrey and Near Sawrey, are separated (or joined?) by fields fenced with stone walls Fields fenced with stone wallsand filled with grazing sheep. St. Peter’s Church, built in the 1880s, is in Far Sawrey, which was also home to a hotel and a shop. Another shop, which Beatrix immortalized as “Ginger and Pickles,” was in Near Sawrey, along with the Tower Bank Arms, a smithy, and a joinery. Altogether, Beatrix once wrote, it was as nearly perfect a little village as one could imagine.

In 1909, Beatrix bought Castle Farm, on the north side of the village, and after she and Willie were married, they lived there together, in Castle Cottage. Castle CottageShe kept the farmhouse at Hill Top for herself, though, and often went there to work in the garden, to visit the sheep in the meadow, or just to be alone.

Beatrix herself loved the land so much that she wanted to preserve it forever. Her “bunny books” brought her a good income and her parents’ estates (when they died) made her wealthy. During the 1920s and 30s, she used this money to purchase some 4,000 acres of land in the Lake District, to keep it from being developed. She renovated the cottages and farmhouses and employed farmers and shepherds to keep the livestock on the land. When she died, she gave this rich treasure to the National Trust, a gift to all the people of England.

One of the things I’ve tried to do in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter is to give the reader a strong sense of the places in the Lake District that Beatrix Potter loved. There’s a map of the village and its environs, and a great many descriptions of the beautiful fells and fields. I hope, when you read the books, that you’ll feel as if you’ve visited Hill Top Farm and the little village of Sawrey—and that you’d like to return for another visit very soon.

For a one-page gallery of the photos I’ve linked to in this post, go here.

About the book drawing:

If you would like to enter the drawing for a copy of The Tale of Hawthorn House, go here.

We’ll be giving away three copies of this book. You may also be eligible for the grand prize drawing, which will be held at the end of Susan’s blog tour. But you’d better hurry. This drawing will close at noon on November 12!

Want to read the other posts in Susan’s blog tour? Go here for the schedule.

Cottage Tales

Mystery Partners

blogging at:


Pecan Springs Journal

What I Do When I Have a STUPID Day. . .

what else, instead of hiding under the covers and praying for a quick end to the day, but to go for a walk in the woods! And that’s just what I did. After a stupid day at work. Stupid stupid stupid. Stupid. Stupid. There, now on to my walk. I went to 1000 Acre Swamp. I’ll be searching out other woods, because swamp = mosquitoes, and how the heck am I supposed to get decent photos with them sucking my very life’s blood out of my body.

Anyway, I came home from stupid (yes I really do appreciate having a job) and ate an early, quick dinner, and headed out to the swamp/woods. I felt an instant serge of peace and energy flow through me as I walked down this path to the swamp / woods.

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I saw buttercups, and columbine. This one was being shy, but I love the purple.

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And fleabane, which looks white in this photo, but it’s actually a very light purple:

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As I started walking on the boardwalk,

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I heard the frogs rebel and hop into the water. Someone’s looking at you!

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I love these cinnamon ferns on this log in the middle of the swamp:

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and this little island with the reflection of the blue sky on the water, and the sunlight:

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Christmas Fern:

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I love this photo of the boardwalk. I set the camera darker than it really was. Don’t know why I did that, I just felt like it.

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There was a bird here, a lifer too, one beautiful bird. I sooo need a quicker camera.

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And a fern I didn’t id:

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Lots of fungus on a log:

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I saw a jack-in-the-pulpit. Sorry, I wasn’t in the mood to get down in the mud to photograph “Jack.”

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Another fern I didn’t id:

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It was at this point that I started seeing leaves of three all over the place. Nooooo, I won’t be taking any more walks in this swamp for now. I am not going to get poison ivy again this summer if I can help it.

And then I saw the partly fallen tree that goes over the path I had to walk on. I forgot about that, too. It makes me VERY uncomfortable to walk under it. All I need is to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” so to speak.

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Ohhh, rocks, but nothing like what I saw at ASP last Saturday.

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Okay, so I’ve been waiting very patiently to show you this. Remember the tree on Trillium Trail that looks like it’s running away from its issues?

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Leaves!! And it’s a maple.

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How awesome is that!

All in all, what a peaceful end to a, ummm, what kind of day was that again?

A 65,000 Acre Backyard

What does one do with a 65,000 acre backyard? Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Mon@rch (Tom) and experiencing first-hand some of what he does in his *huge* backyard! We hiked to many very interesting places. First we went to an old growth forest, where he taught me so much more about old growth forests, so now I hopefully can spot one when I’m in one! One of the many signs are the mounds created from fallen trees. Saplings grow on this rich soil, eventually this soil is washed away, and this is an example of what is left:

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And this:

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You will also see buttress roots on the older trees, like this:

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Another sign is when you look up a tree there are no branches down low. You have to look up at the canopy to see the leaves of the trees, like this:

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The old trees will be nice and straight, like the one above and this one:

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(are you getting than I’m in heaven here with all of these trees and learning!)

You’ll see newly fallen over trees, which leave a huge hole in the canopy. The saplings that have been waiting for this opportunity start growing, and eventually the strongest sapling(s) win.

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You see a variety of trees in the area. One of the trees that I was really surprised to see (and I didn’t capture a photo of) is a HUGE cucumber magnolia tree!

On the way down and back up the old ski slope we saw lots of interrupted fern:

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And Mayapple:

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along with a large variety of other vegetation, including club moss, that I didn’t capture (I know, well, I’ll just have to go back, won’t I?)

Next, Mon@rch took me to see a 200 year old Sugar Maple tree. Mon@rch showed you his up-tree photo, so I’ll show you other views:

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Check out these buttress roots. Aren’t they gorgeous!

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I love the rocks laying all over the place. Makes it hard to walk through a field of rocks like this, but I still think they’re wonderful:

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Next we saw Bridal Veil Falls, but it was raining so we didn’t bring the cameras there. Hopefully I can take photos another time!

Next stop was at Thunder Rocks. Are you getting the theme, I love trees, flowers and rocks, and of course, birds! Rock polypody grows on these boulders, along with moss, lichens, trees, etc.:

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And a tree that looks like it’s sitting up down on this boulder:

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Next we went to France Brook and saw a beaver:

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And when it got scared it disappeared under the water and didn’t show up again. We also saw a pair of grackles removing fecal sacks from the cavity of a dead tree. Here’s a beaver dam in a pond down further:

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While Mon@rch was talking on his cell ordering us some food, I took photos of the Administration Building:

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And the bridge at Red House lake:

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Then we went up to Stone Tower:

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This is the view from the top looking north:

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There is an arrow in the stones pointing to (magnetic?) north:

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And here’s the view looking southwest:

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If the trees weren’t there we could have seen Red House lake!

We stopped to see a ton of Blue Cohosh, a favorite herb of mine!

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Then we went up to the top of another hill with a restaurant on it and took some photos of the view:

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After that we headed for the store for (vegeterian – thanks Mon@rch) pizza, and met Grace who is the naturalist at Allegany State Park and does the ASP blog here.

If anyone wonders why I love New York State, this park is a fine example of why I think NYS is one of the most beautiful places to live! Many, many thanks to Mon@rch for the wonderful day of learning and hiking!

Interesting Wildflower at Wesley Hill Nature Preserve

My friend and I had plans to hike through the Wesley Hill Nature Preserve in the Finger Lakes region on July 17, 2004 and pretty much got rained out. The rain let up for a minute, the mosquitoes were thick, and I did get to take a photo of this interesting looking wildflower. UPDATE: Please see Lynne’s comment for the description of this wildflower called Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)! Thanks Lynne!

I also love the mosses and other cool stuff on the ground, too. Sorry it is a lousy photo! But as I was just going through my photos figuring out something to post today, I came across this. Due to the rain that day I have no other scenery photos for you. I have to go back there! So many things to do, so little time!!

The Thousand Acre Swamp Sanctuary

I had all good intentions of *birding* at the Thousand Acre Swamp Sanctuary, however, the birds were very uncooperative. I heard them, I saw their little bodies partially hiding behind trees and shrubs, but they were way too busy to give me a chance to photograph them. So no lifers to report – from here anyway! The entrance sign said ‘no dogs, no horses, no motor vehicles.’ Yeah, right. I saw doggy foot prints all over the place. Who is going to enforce that?
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What would a swamp be without some fungus:

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Some moss – I *love* the seta sticking up:

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Some duckweed (may be lesser duckweed) – where are the ducks?

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A boardwalk through part of it so I can walk over the swamp:

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Some falling trees – scary because the trail goes through where this tree would fall if the other tree wasn’t holding it up. I thoroughly checked it out before slinking quickly across the path.
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Woodpecker holes in dead trees (thanks Susan):

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Poison Ivy on a tree – argh! – get me away from that – I still have faint scars from this summer!
Leaves of three, let it be!
Hairy vine, no friend of mine!

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Some rosehips (thanks Susan):

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A hornet’s nest (thanks Susan):
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And a tree that looks like he’s trying to run away from his major issues:
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The tartarian honeysuckle (very bad invasive plant) is already leafing out with this strangely warm weather – it was around a high of 57 degrees F today, January 4, 2007.
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I’ve seen ducks, geese and old bird’s nests here in the past, but none today. The cattails and weeds haven’t been smushed down by any snow yet, so it they’re there, they can hide very well. I don’t know where the old bird’s nests are.
I’ll be going back – especially in the spring! Hint, hint my hiking friend!

Just When You Thought I Was Done. . .

with *all* of the fungus photos, I found another cool fungus on my Silver Maple tree.

It looks like there’s two different types of fungus. This tree is going to have to go sometime soon. I’m trying to make it last as long as I can because it will leave a major gap in my front yard.
There are tons of cones on the Norway Spruces. 06Nov2006-005

And my Tansy is still blossoming!


These photos were taken on Monday when it was warm and sunny. Today was dark and stormy and I spent it over in Syracuse volunteering at OHA – editing photos to put on their website – some really cool old photos.

Mushroom Walk, Part VI

Ready for more fungus? Me too. I don’t think I ever could get sick of seeing nature photos. That’s the problem, I could spend all day out in nature and all night looking at nature photos.

Here’s an interesting looking one:

And a little cutie:


Another cool one:


And the underside of another one:


Fungus on a rotting log: IMG-084

This next one I know the genus is Mycena, but I don’t know the species name.  I remember it is very delicate: Mycena_____008_092204

And. . . drumroll please, the last one, my most favorite, and I even know its full name – Suillus grevillei

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This brings me to the end of my mushroom walk.  However, I may drag out the old growth forest tree shots soon taken from this same walk.

I hope you have enjoyed my mushroom walk, and I hope you have a great Sunday!

Mushroom Walk, Part V

Okay, I’m back to blogging about my Mushroom Walk in Letchworth Park, Sept. 2004.

My professsor “wrote” on the top of one of the mushrooms:


I love this next photo, fungus on a tree root, a fern, fallen leaves, etc.: IMG-064

More fungus on a tree and log:


This is really cool with the fungus in the tree along with moss, lichens, etc.: IMG-066

A pretty little mushroom:


The underside of an interesting mushroom:


And the topside of the same mushroom: IMG-069

I think this was pulled off of a tree: IMG-071

I’ll leave the rest for the final post to come later. I hope you enjoy these today!

Mushroom Walk, Part IV

More fungus from the Letchwork State Park Mushroom Walk in Sep of 2004. I don’t know why I just have the underside of this next one. I think because they were coming at us so fast and furious, I didn’t have time to photograph the top:


Here’s a nice little one in a pile of leaf litter:


And another really interesting one: IMG-051

A top view of this next big one: IMG-052

And a side view – pretty cool, huh? IMG-053

And the next one is pretty and interesting – broken by the time it got to us: IMG-054

And a little one being modelled by Shawn’s hand:


I can’t have a shroom post without shroom on a stick: IMG-056

The next photo is fuzzy:


This is hard to see:


Another nice juicy one (if isn’t poisonous it looks like it would make a good meal). This is being modelled in Sue’s hand:


And the bottom view:


More later!

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