Woodland Waddle in Minerva, NY

The Hewitt Pond trail in Minerva, NY leading out to Barnes Pond in Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest is an old path found on maps dating back to 1901. The date for the stretch to Stony Pond is unknown. Not many visit this section of the forest as we saw no one during the 6 hours we were out. The 8-mile area we traveled is a very small part of the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest network of trails, lakes, and mountain peaks.

Don’t let that lovely boardwalk that Jeff and Zoe are walking ahead of me on fool you as it soon came to an end. The builders had a long way to go in replacing the moss-covered and rotted old logs that had once been a help for footing above the marshy 550-foot bog path.

Blue-bead Lily enjoys the company of Indian cucumber root, red trillium, hobblebush, and striped maple.

When I hike, I like to photograph things as they are rather than capture a perfect specimen for a perfect image. I remember photographing a clump of plants once when someone I was with decided I had no idea how to take an image and began ripping the adjoining foliage out! Terrors!!! Like people, plants and wild ones exist as part of a community. In that community are so many close neighbors along with a mix of predators and prey.

A single Pink Lady’s-Slipper beauty we almost did not see
Painted Trillium, Trillium undulatum, is a member of the Lily family with three leaves and wavy edges

Balsam fir, red spruce, Eastern Hemlock, sugar maple, yellow birch, northern red oak, American beech, eastern hemlock, hobblebush, striped maple, leatherleaf, Labrador tea, Blue-bead Lily, Pink Lady’s Slipper, Painted Trillium, Bunchberry, Starflower, Interrupted Ferns, wood ferns, and so much more was along our path! Even the isolated plant hides a thread of spider web or insect if we look close enough. Stop and smell the flowers and also take a closer look at what may be hiding. There were numerous beaver dams, some moose prints, a variety of birds, dragonflies, and swarms of mosquitoes if one dared stop for too long.

Painted Trillium with a tiny insect wandering inside

Painted Trillium bloom in May followed by a red berry fruit in early fall. Insects pollinate the plant while ants take the seeds to their nests where the plants later germinate. These trilliums are found along a number of the trails of the Adirondacks in beech-maple mesic forest and pine-northern hardwood forest.

Blue-bead Lilly has larger leaves that do not have the spots of Trout Lily, has multiple flowers, and lacks, bright reddish anthers
Blue-bead Lily is named for the berries which change from green to white to deep porcelain blue. The berries appear in mid-summer and are neither poisonous or tasty to people but chipmunks and birds seem to enjoy them.
Pink Lady’s-slipper with hints of spiderweb

Pink Lady’s Slipper, Cypripedium acaule, is an orchid that is loved by many. Often too many. Too often those who see them try to take a plant home not realizing that it is not legal nor worthwhile as they do not survive without its symbiotic relationship with the fungus that is found in the soil. The plant may live to be 20 years old and it takes many years for the seeds to produce the plants. Enjoy them in nature during their bloom as the bees do which are lured in for pollination.

Hobblebush, Viburnum lantanoides, is a native shrub can grown 6 to 10 feet.

Hobblebush is named for its pendulous branches’ ability to form obstacles to trip or hobble, those who wander past. The fruit of Hobblebush is a cluster of scarlet to deep purple berries from August through September. The fruit is edible, tasting a bit like raisins. Deer enjoy browsing on the twigs and leaves and birds and mammals enjoy the fruits. Hobblebush is found in the understory of a mesic beech-maple forest community along with Sugar Maple, Eastern Hemlock, Red Maple, and Yellow Birch. There may be an occasional nest of the Black-throated Blue Warbler found in the shrub.

Hobblebush with some of the fragrant May flowers

Some of the members of the community, like lady’s-slippers, once removed will not survive as they require the fungus with which they exist in their natural habitat. Soil is a fascinating subject with a vast assortment of so much more than textures, moisture-holding capacity, and earthworms. There are multitudes of insects, bacteria, fungi, and many other microorganisms that make this a food web worth exploring! There is an amazing book by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis called “Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web” that is worth a read.

Pink Lady’s-Slipper is part of a community of maples, wood ferns, birches and so many soil microbes.
Yellow Birch showing its age

Yellow Birch, also known as curly or silver birch, had grown large in the moist and dense woodland. The trunks grew straight and tall in the canopy with Eastern Hemlock, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, and American Beech. Mature trees can grow 60 to 80 feet and have a diameter of 2 to 3 feet! Yellow Birch may reach 100 feet and have a 4 to 5-foot diameter making it the largest of the birches and the wood is also the hardest and most valuable of our birches. Many of the birch trees had bark that had peeled and turned thick and brownish-black with age. Yellow birch is a valuable resource as it is used in making furniture, flooring, paneling, plywood, broom handles, clothespins, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, and much more. For backpackers, yellow birch makes a good fire starter.

Bunchberry Dogwood is a woodland ground cover in the Dogwood family

Bunchberry is flexible in growing requirements and is common in coniferous and mixed forests and some wetlands. The flowers produce clusters of red berries in July and August that are edible by people, bears, chipmunks, martens, rabbits, and hares, while deer and moose enjoy the foliage. Some of the birds that may eat the berries are Veeries, Ruffed Grouse, Philadelphia Vireos, Warbling Vireos, and White-throated Sparrows.

A perfect picnic spot

The mosquitoes were kind enough to leave us alone for a lunch and, on the return a snack and water break. The Tree Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Eastern Kingbirds, and White-breasted Nuthatch did their best to serenade and entertain. The area is reported to have an assortment of 147 species of birds breeding in the assorted habitats. It was nice to see signs of beavers in their lodges and freshly chewed trees as they are the best landscapers around! I’m sure our dog Zoe had a lot to do with our not seeing any of the moose, bear, dear, beavers, muskrat, river otter, fox, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, fisher, marten, mink, porcupine, and rabbits that may enjoying living in the woods and waters we passed through.

Signs of beaver activity

The Chalk-fronted Corporal is easy to recognize with the distinctive pale front thorax and abdomen base of older females and males. They were numerous but not willing to settle for too long for photos.

Chalk-fronted Corporal

The Chalk-fronted Corporal is a large skimmer found that is numerous in the habitat of woods and waterways. They may be rather aggressive toward each other and defending their grounds and mates from other skimmers. There were many busy flying about but not too many that were willing to pause for long. Possibly our dog Zoe was a bit of a deterrent as were we.

Chalk-fronted Corporal

Our Covid year gave many a reason to get outside and wander. Keep the trend going! There are many places to enjoy and much to be learned from simply taking a walk in the woods.

NYC Women’s March January 21, 2017

Just 4 years ago on this day. We went to NYC to march for so many reasons. For human rights, for women’s rights, for the environment, for the planet, for safety from gun violence, for peace. Black Lives Matter. Police Lives Matter. All Lives Matter.

There were no riots, no broken windows, no arrests, no anger, no violence. We were many people and races. Estimates in NYC were 400,000. Washington D.C. 500,000.

We did not go away these past 4 years, we have been here not just stressing over all the injustices facing people, our environment, our climate, and our wildlife but working toward making things right. It has surely been a tough road. But here we are. A huge win yesterday and in 2018.

Just 4 years ago today we marched not just in NYC or Washington D.C. but in so many places around the world. The world watched and it is still watching.

Thank You to all who have fought this fight as each and every person matters. Stay vigilant and keep up the good work as there remains much to do. I was lucky enough to score a pink hat and a Kitty Mit!

2021: The Year We Dare to Care

Well here we are. 2021 is not off to a start where hopes, dreams, accomplishments, and visions of a bright future are easily envisioned. 2020 surely had unexpected, and unpleasant, twists and turns that no one imagined or would have been prepared for. COVID-19 loomed large over all, believers with masks and non-believers fighting for their right to die and take others with them. A president hell-bent on destroying all that came before him with a cult of angry followers happy to do his bidding. Threats to the normal we knew and loved were many. The president and his cult became increasingly unhinged as many watched in horror. If you are on my site I imagine we are of like minds. If not please feel free to silently slip away as I’ve no consideration or patience for the hate, vindictiveness, racism, and so much more that you stand behind. We are what we associate with after all. Birds of a feather flock together.

The shutdown of 2020 left me far from bored. I managed to bird, hike, kayak, and take photographs in places that were less crowded. Rare plant surveys were done and wildlife rescue and transport was at times relentless. Gardens went untended, books unwritten, and photo exhibit plans set aside. I made face masks. Lots and lots of face masks. The majority of some 800 were donated and others sold to allow the donations to continue. It was my little part in doing something positive to help keep people well.  Wildlife rescues were sometimes challenging and rewarding and, too often, heartbreaking. The lessons of the year were many.  I was stronger, wiser, and more intuitive than I’d given myself credit for. Unexpected car issues left me with time to reflect on what had been set aside: Conservation Photography and Conservation Photojournalism.

I will never forget the takeover of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The day is etched in my memory with the horrors of 9/11, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas High School. This is who we are? The future is uncertain, although the President is Joe Biden and Vice President is Kamala Harris. They House and Senate are strong with Democratic winnings. There is hope and there is fear with the trump cult growing increasingly unhinged each day. All I can do is watch from the sidelines, pray for humanity to find a way to safety from COVID-19, and security of a country we once believed to be filled with less hate than we have now. The world is watching. At this moment, we are flailing and failing. God help us get through this with integrity and find ourselves morally and spiritually better. The opposite would be a nightmare of proportions known to those of that have seen the horrors that are unfathomable to many.

2021 brings a renewal of projects neglected. It is what I’ve labeled as The Year We Dear to Care. World Views has morphed into World Views: If we could see the world aa others do, would we dare to care? The addition of a White-fronted Amazon Parrot opened a door to Willow’s World: Life of a White-fronted Amazon Parrot as it is, as it was, as it should be.

Let the blog, exhibit planning, and books move forward into fruition at the end of 2021! Stay virulent well, and safe.

Today’s sentiment: We are tired. We are sick. We are horrified. Yet we must be vigilant. We are at a crossroads and we desperately need to follow the road with integrity to a resolution that will not leave us all in great peril. Too often I’m feeling like doomsday is before us! God help us.

Following my Own Path in 2020

Often I feel like an alien that is somehow unlike what most folks view as normal. I’ve managed to infiltrate a world with my own different ideas about normalcy than most have been accustomed to. Yet I know we are each alive with hopes, dreams, and ideas floating in space that form stories that need to be told.

But what is normal and what is fantasy? Where do the lines intersect? What is the path we are meant to walk? Why must we walk it? Often we are searching for answers to life we do not yet have. Possibly this journey is needed for us to gain knowledge we do not yet possess. Sometimes the answer is simply because we have to in order to tell a story that desperately needs to be told.

I do not know the answers for others as both questions and answers are so different for each of us. The stores we carry are varied, valued, timeless, and endless. Each of those stories molds the person we are, and consciously or not, guides the path on which we travel.

The path to the door of the Ivory Tower I need to follow is one paved by swirls of authors from science and the creators of art. My heroes are many with inspiration coming from both ends of the spectrum. I know that I need to be the butterfly fluttering what seems to be aimlessly about causing microcosms of currents of chaos in the Ivory Tower. I fear for the future of our planet and the glaringly ugly present in which we live. I feel I need to take action! Use what I know, somehow creatively, to work toward raising awareness and positive change.

Merriam-Webster Definition of the ivory tower. 1: an impractical often escapist attitude marked by aloof lack of concern with or interest in practical matters or urgent problems. 2: a secluded place that affords the means of treating practical issues with an impractical often escapist attitude especially: a place of learning.

The Ivory Tower of Science – where science minds talk to science minds.

My world revolves around the Tower doorstep where I can be immersed in the wonders of science with so many unanswered questions. There are numerous fragments of unspoke words and elusive thoughts flittering about my mind. A breadcrumb that I’d followed led me to where I am. The Universe somehow back in 2008 captured my attention long enough for me to fill in the blanks and enroll in college. Something I’d wanted to pursue in high school but was told I could not. Females are just not worth educating as they are to get married and raise children. So having done that it was back to school!

Baby steps as they may often seem to me, I am enjoying my path of learning and conservation photography and educational solo exhibits. My goal of adding books to accompany my exhibits is the top of my 2020 goals. I dare not be too confident just yet. Mixing laughter, science, raising awareness of species, promoting conservation, and changing Worldviews is not a trivial task! I still believe the Universe will toss a breadcrumb my way as it always has. There is a path I must follow and follow I will!

Red-tailed Hawk Messages for 2020

This Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis, welcomed my New Year’s day arrival at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. And stayed for numerous photo opportunities!
Happy 2020!
“Red-tailed Hawks: can awaken visionary power and lead you to your life purpose. It is the messenger bird, and wherever it shows up, pay attention. There is a message coming.” — Ted Andrews, Animal Speak

New Year’s Day 2020 I packed all my assorted camera gear into the car and headed to Rhode Island. I’d made a quick stop at Beavertail State Park but the winds were stiff and the Harlequins, scoters, and eiders were few and far off-shore. I headed to Sachusest National Wildlife Refuge and was not disappointed as the Red-tailed Hawk that had watched me walk past from a roof-top position suddenly took to the air to follow me. An awesome start to 2020! The lighting was not the best with many white clouds and small patches of bright sun, my camera set on some strange settings, and my decision to bring a 300mm 2.8 with a 2x extender for handholding ocean bird shots. I have to thank the winds as they helped keep this hawk afloat above me allowing me to photograph it without having too many tracking challenges.

There is little to compare to the moment of eye-contact with wildlife, and this Red-tailed Hawk did not disappoint!
There was an occasional fly-over to a patch of blue sky.

I did manage to adjust my camera settings between a series of quick shots and lean my head back with a heavy camera and lens balanced and frozen between my arms. The winds were with me and the hawk enjoyed moments of simply being suspended in the air allowing me to capture images that may otherwise have been challenging! My position in the trail between the two foraging fields was perfect!

Despite what appeared to be a full crop, the sight of a meal brought a quick change of direction and dive.

There must have been a successful catch as it was a few minutes before the hawk once again took flight. Too soon the hawk decided to fly to new areas that were out of range and sight. You will be my first of the year Red-tailed Hawk but not the last!

Surf Scoter, Melanitta perspicillata

I made my way to the rocky ocean shore where I knew I should have at least some ocean birds to see if not photograph. There was a small group of scoters, scaups, eiders, and one stray Harlequin with this one Surf Scoter hanging around close enough for some nice viewing and photo opportunities. I made my way down the rocks as close as I dared to avoid scaring him off and getting a stray shower from the waves. What a ham he was! Preening and diving and playing in the waves. I spent some time enjoying his company before heading off as he drifted further away from the rocky shore. I was happy to see a group of folks had gathered on the trail directly overhead to enjoy his antics. I spent the day, except for a quick trip to Newport for lunch, but not a single Snowy or Short-eared Owl was to be seen. It had been my hope that at least one would be a welcome blessing after an awful 2019 and help kick-off an optimistic start to 2020. The Red-tailed Hawk seemed to be the one to come to share a message and show the way down a new path of many hopeful and exciting possibilities I’d been tossing around.

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