Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Watcher in the Water

There were monsters in the woods today.

I'll start with the lesser of the two monsters I saw -- monstrous because of its size more than anything else:

This Bullfrog was at least 5 inches long -- not the biggest Bullfrog ever, but certainly the biggest I've seen in these lakes. This frog was totally confident in its command of the lake, refusing to hop away even after all of its smaller cousins dove underwater at my approach. OK, so it's maybe more impressive than scary (and I want to give it a hug, actually).

This next creature, though, lurking just a few feet away from the Bullfrog, is a monster fitting the title of this post. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have nightmares after looking so closely at this thing:

Is that a stick poking out of the water? Hardly, although that's what I thought at first. I actually started taking pictures of this thing because I liked the novelty of a stick that looked so much like it had an eye... and nostrils... and an open mouth.... It took me a little while to figure out that the "stick" was alive -- the decisive clue was that it was slowly sinking below the surface of the water as I got closer, only to resurface again after I'd sat still for a few minutes.

I find this picture deeply creepy, maybe because that eye looks so human to me.... I can't think of what else this could be besides a Common Snapping Turtle, and it must be a huge one -- that part of the head sticking above the water alone was at least as big as the giant Bullfrog. There were fish swimming around nearby, probably unaware of the presence of that gaping mouth.... *shiver*

But it wasn't all monsters today, thankfully. I was excited to see this Common Loon in the middle of one of the lakes -- this is my first time seeing one in Connecticut, and the only other times I've encountered loons has been on trips to the Far North (i.e., Maine). I couldn't resist showing this teeny picture -- the loon was so far away, but still so cool.

And the wildflowers are really starting to come up. This is the part of the post where I just throw out a bunch of pictures with quick descriptions. Ready? Here we go! :P

This is an Azure Bluet (or just "Bluets", Houstonia caerulea), so dainty and pretty. Apparently this plant is supposed to grow in clumps, although I only saw this one flower.

Here's Coltsfoot, a plant that sends up its bright yellow flowers before it opens up its leaves. I just learned that Coltsfoot is not native to North America, and it's actually listed as invasive and "banned" in Connecticut -- does that mean that you can't bring new plants into the state, or are they trying to eradicate the plants that are here? I haven't done enough research to have an answer to that question.

This is a Wood Anemone. I've been seeing the tiny buds of these plants in the woods for a while now, but they just burst into bloom today -- what pretty, luminous flowers.

And here's one of my happiest discoveries of today, a patch of Wild Strawberries in bloom. This plant is being visited by a Cabbage Butterfly (I think). I was trained to dislike Cabbage Butterflies when I was little, because they're invasive and the caterpillars are really hard on garden plants -- but if this guy is going to help pollinate the strawberry plants and create delicious fruit (and I mean delicious, way better than cultivated strawberries in my opinion), then I say go for it.

Oh good, with all those flower pictures, I've almost forgotten about the Snapping Turtle already. Except that I just reminded myself of it. Yikes, those eyes....

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