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Archive for May, 2007


Thursday, May 31st, 2007

paulinchen LOL

Eagle Island, May 20th

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

Back to the island for a day. One year anniversary of a previous visit, as it happens.

I didn’t get to the rich area over by Chimney Bluffs, where I’d seen the trilliums, solomon’s seal and jack-in-the-pulpit. The island doesn’t seem to have this sort of thing, as far as I’ve seen.

Very, very prevalent are the thyme-leaved speedwell and ground ivy. Around the shore, purple dead-nettle is common. I also was able to definitely identify a smooth yellow violet. Unless I’ve forgotten something, the only new plant I saw was some sort of pussytoes. I think that it was Antennaria plantaginifolia, also known as “Woman’s Tobacco”.

White-throated Sparrow?

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

Among the usual Somerville and Cambridge birds I’ve been hearing an occasional song which sounds like a white-throated sparrow’s “Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody”. However, it’s been coming across as thin and reedy compared with the recordings I have, and lacking syllables in Peabody, such that it sounds like “Poor Sam Peee Peee Peee”.

I didn’t really think that it was likely a white-throated sparrow, since I hadn’t read of them being city birds at all. But today, I saw a sparrow in the back yard which definitely wasn’t a house sparrow. It had three white stripes on its head, and a distinctly white throat. It was bigger than a house sparrow. I didn’t see the yellow eyebrows that white-throated sparrows should have, but maybe I just wasn’t looking closely enough…

Middlesex Fells

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

Yesterday I went out to the Fells for the first time this year.

  • Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) (buttercup family) – Hooray! I’ve been on the lookout for this character for a couple of years now, since noticing that celandine is one of the most popular weeds in the Boston area. It was the first thing I saw at the parking lot. Lesser celandine isn’t even in the same family as celandine, which is in the poppy family, nor does it look remotely alike apart from having yellow petals. The shiny petals are kind of a tell that it’s buttercuppy, but I’m so used to buttercups having five petals that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to group this with Ranunculus. Wikipedia has an anecdote, involving Wordworth’s gravestone, of mistaken identity with these two.
  • Downy Juneberry (Amelanchier arborea) (rose family) – This is the shadbush. I guess if I were old-time enough I’d reckon the shad to be spawning about now. The leaves are really quite spectacularly downy. I think last year I probably must have seen this, but I wasn’t as turned on to shrubs then, and I’d have called it some crazy cherry.
  • Some Crazy Cherries (Prunus sp.) (rose family) – The main cherry in the Fells is the fire cherry. But I saw two others. One type had large pink flowers – my best guess is that they were sour cherry, escaped from some farm in olden times. Another had white flowers like the fire cherry, but about half the size, and the bark of the twigs was gray rather than reddish. This is a tough time for identifying shrubs; my Newcomb’s guide doesn’t get into much detail with them, and my beloved Peterson’s guide to trees and shrubs doesn’t even mention flowers. The latter keys on vegetative characteristics, but since the leaves are so small and wonky now, and the buds are broken open, I pretty much can’t use it for another couple of weeks.
  • Sessile-Leaved Bellwort (Uvularia sessifolia) (lily family) – Also, strangely, known as wild oats. This was growing in amongst some of the Canada mayflower which carpets the forest pretty much floor throughout the Fells. An unassuming flower, though the foliage is lustrous and beautiful when you look at it.

I also took special note of the following, which I saw last year around this time.

  • Small-Flowered Crowfoot (Ranunculus abortivus) (buttercup family) – I saw this all over the muddy pathsides on Eagle Island last spring. In the fells, it was growing in drier conditions, among common violets and garlic mustard. They were underneath an elm with distinctly slippery inner bark, and new leaves which were downy-hairy above and beneath. Peterson’s tree and shrub guide fails me here too, since it expects full-grown leaves, which it says are sandpapery above. But I think it was probably a slippery elm.
  • Ovate-Leaved Violet (Viola fimbriatula) (violet family) – I just like this. It’s got a nice, deep purple to it. There was a small section of path which was carpeted with them on either side. Latin fimbriae are fibers, shreds, fringe, so I guess the species name is mean to refer to the downiness of the leaves?

I also heard a brown thrasher and goldfinches (with whom I’m becoming quite taken), and saw my first red-winged blackbird of the season.