December 4, 9:30am. 33 degrees, light breeze from the south. The morning started out sunny with puffy clouds but by 9:30 it was overcast and the air smelled like snow. There were occasional patches of sunshine as the clouds moved. Red Squirrel, juvenile Common Loon eating a sea star (or maybe a crab); 2 duck-type birds too far off to identify, juvenile Herring Gull.
Today’s walk was backwards – I started at the Seal Harbor Town Dock and headed south along the shore (again, with permission to access private property.)
This was a classic Seal Harbor estate, with the most beautiful 19th century stonework and perfectly groomed woodlands, gorgeous even in December.
I kept looking over the wall, trying to find a place to reach the shore, but it was just a little too high and a little too slippery to jump. But I did notice this cool calcite crust forming where the calcium carbonate in the mortar has been leaching out. I’m not sure if this qualifies as a baby stalagmite, but it’s the same process at work.
Some of you know that one of my personas is “landscape architect.” I’m afraid from the moment I saw these stairs:
my artist/explorer hat came off and the landscape architect hat went on, and I wandered along the most marvelous path that ran through the woods
and along the cliffs.
I also spent a lot of time trying to identify the plants I saw, which is exponentially harder in winter. Pretty sure this is a viburnum, but I couldn’t tell you which:
There were Pitch Pines
of extraordinary size
wild roses (Rosa carolina, which is native to North America, unlike the more common rugosas)
and this awesome little fungus growing on the roots of a pitch pine. This is the Orange Jelly Fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) and it only grows on conifers. Apparently there’s a similar fungus that only grows on hardwood.
I didn’t see a lot of wildlife, except for a few red squirrels,
but I did find what I think was a chipmunk burrow. I didn’t think chipmunks ate pine nuts (that’s a squirrel thing) but squirrels don’t go underground, so maybe there’s a squirrel in the tree above throwing its food wrappers down on the chipmunk’s front door.
I also saw a Common Loon. It think it was a juvenile, but it could also have been an adult in its winter plumage. There’s almost always at least one loon on the water whenever I go out, and a couple of times I could swear they’ve followed me. I’d always thought of them as lake birds, but they spend their first couple of years on the ocean.
This area is called Ringing Point, and I’m a little embarrassed that I’d been wandering along listening to the sound of the buoy for a good forty minutes before that light bulb went off:
The pink granite cliffs were cleft into all kinds of cool formations:
which continued up into the woods:
I spotted a pretty impressive erratic:
Looking across the harbor at Crowninshield Point and wondering how long it will be before I explore over there:
You may have noticed that I was so bewitched by the woods and the views that I never did climb down to the shore.