Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Autumn Beach

The beach looks and feels different once fall sets in.

The sky is more dramatic, the water is darker and the sand takes on a grayer tone....Migrating shorebirds like this semi-palmated plover are still passing through....The seaside goldenrod is in bloom.....And gulls like these ring billed gulls are arriving for the winter.....The photos in this post are from Corporation Beach in Dennis, Cape Cod

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fungus Among Us!

Mushrooms can pop up any time, especially after a lot of rain but they especially seem to love September here on the Cape. I am not a mycologist (a mushroom expert) by any means and I don't want to give any wrong information so I am not going to pretend to positively identify these....there are lots of good books to use and some great classes going on this fall through area nature groups. Remember, don't eat a wild mushroom unless you are absolutely sure of what you're doing....

They're fun to look at, though!

And if Blogger was allowing me to post photos I would show you but no luck....for 3 days!!! And no one on Blogger bothers to answer your questions.....oh well...let's hope this problem is resolved soon!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Indian Pipes!

At this time of year many of our native wildflowers are blooming their last blooms but it is a great time to look for those little ghostly white plants called Indian pipes. They are fairly common in our piney woodlands and although they can be found blooming any time from June on it seems that September is their favorite time of year. On walks this week I found hundreds and hundreds of them.

Indian pipes look like a fungus because they have no chlorophyll but they are true plants nonetheless. Since they don't photosynthesize they must get their energy elsewhere. Their roots mingle with those of fungi, such as russula or bolete mushrooms whose roots are drawing energy from the roots of neighboring trees.

Don't pick these little flowers for they will just shrivel up and turn black, a fact that many find somewhat disturbing and which has given the plant a scary reputation with some people. One of its other names is corpse plant, probably because of this trait.

If you are walking in the woods after dark you might see these little guys glow a bit. They are really just reflecting light but its a pretty cool sight.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Young gulls....

are easy to recognize with their gray and rather mottled appearance and there are quite a few of them on our beaches and in parking lots right now. Some species of gull keep their immature plumage for up to 4 years though the average is probably more like 2-3 years.

This young bird is a first year herring gull. Herring gulls used to be the dominant gull on the Cape, with a few greater Black-backed gulls mixed in and laughing gulls in the summer. Black-backs are now the dominant gull, I believe. They are the largest gull and very aggressive so that is not surprising. There are still plenty of herring gulls around, though. They are the gulls most people around here refer to as sea gulls. There aren't really any particular birds named sea gull, by the way. It's just a general sort of name, like minnows for tiny fish.....
This is an adult herring gull starting to go into its fall plumage. See the red tip at the end of the beak? That is fading now but in the spring and summer that is a bright red. Baby gulls eat food regurgitated by their parents and they let their parents know they are hungry by pecking on the red spot.

Do you know why herring gulls are called herring gulls?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Whale Watching

Thar she blows!
Every year we try to go whale watching out of Provincetown with the family on or around Labor Day Weekend. It started as a birthday tradition and is one we all enjoy. This year's trip with the Dolphin Fleet was spectacular. We saw some great whales very close up, in several cases groups of three traveling together.
These were all humpback whales and the naturalist on board told us many of them were ones not seen by them before. This means they may have been whales that usually summer farther north which have begun to head farther south following a food supply. There were definitely lots of small fish in the water. We saw hundreds of birds feeding off the water's surface and could see fish jumping from below as well.
This one was going down for a dive.....flipping its tail up as it dives down.
This whale was not as close to the boat as it looks and you should know the boat was not moving forward so it was never in danger.....It was one fo three whales that passed in front of and underneath the front part of the boat. As I said, spectacular! I never get tired of seeing whales....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Squirrels and pine cones galore

It's the time of year that squirrels and chipmunks love. Fruit, seeds and nuts are everywhere and free for the taking. Squirrels in particular love to peel the scales off pine cones to eat the tender seeds within. There's a lot of discussion among Cape naturalists as to whether or not gray squirrels eat pine seeds. Some insist only red squirrels eat pine seeds and gray squirrels stick to acorns.

No one has told the multitude of gray squirrels in Hyannis about this thought. There are no red squirrels in my quasi urban neighborhood but lots of gray squirrels. I watch them strip pine cones daily, especially from the tall spruces out back. This is what remains.....