I'm back! For a little while, anyway -- we're leaving again on Friday for an Exciting Adventure Oversees.... Look for potential blog posts about that later!
For now, though, I'm back to visiting my normal Connecticut haunts for a couple of days, and also playing around with the new camera I just got as a gift. (Thanks, Grandpa!) It's an SLR digital camera, and much more high-tech than the pocket-sized point-and-shoot variety I've been using for the past few years, which means that I've got some major learning to do! For example, I now have an actual zoom lens, so I don't have to take pictures through my binoculars anymore... what a crazy concept! I'm sticking with as many automatic settings as possible for now, and I'm having fun experimenting and getting the hang of the new machine. (And experimenting means varying picture quality, so bear with me during my learning phase.)
So I took the new camera out to the Naugatuck State Forest this morning to check on the plants and animals there. As I expected, everything has definitely changed in the 13 days since I was last there, not least in the flowers that are blooming.
The Pink Lady's Slippers are fully open and even starting to look a little worn. I only saw a few of these plants today, but I was very happy to find them.
The Mayapple blossoms are open and gorgeous, and I saw one plant that has already started to set fruit. Mayapple fruit is one of those wild foods that I've always wanted to try but never been able to -- when I was growing up in western New York, we had Mayapple plants everywhere, but the fruit always mysteriously disappeared before it ripened. From what I hear, though, it's sweet and delicious, so I'm going to watch these plants carefully as the season progresses and see if I can't finally get a taste.
These white-flowered plants were growing in a patch along one portion of the path, and when I bruised a leaf it smelled faintly like anise (i.e. licorice). My best guess is that this is Aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis), a native plant. It could also be Sweet Cicely, another anise-smelling plant introduced from Europe, but these flowers and leaves seem to match the descriptions for Aniseroot more closely, so I'll go with that.
This is Morrow's Honeysuckle, another invasive (non-native) species, and I'm deeply conflicted about it. I have such great nostalgia for this honeysuckle, since I spent my childhood pinching off its flower ends and sipping the nectar, which is delicious. But it's a "bad" plant, banned in Connecticut. Delicious... bad... gah, so confused!
There were a bunch of small animals out and about today as well, giving me a chance to practice with the camera some more.
The zoom lens was perfect for letting me get really "close" to this Bullfrog without startling it into the lake. (These guys are so awesome.)
Same with this American Painted Lady -- I love the detail of the shimmery scales on this creature's wings.
This cute little toad (either American or Fowler's, I'm not sure which) hopped across my path and showed me his (or her) bright yellow hand. I don't think I've ever noticed this feature on toads before, and it made a nice spot of color on the brown/gray forest floor.
I also saw a couple of really pretty damselflies, and even after a good bit of research I still have no idea what species they are:
As a side note, I was a crazy person today and decided to go to the woods at an insane hour in the morning, much earlier than I usually get up. Mostly, I wanted to test the idea that birdwatching is best done in the time just after sunrise. My conclusion: not really. I did hear a lot of birds, but not significantly more than I usually hear later in the morning or in the afternoon, and I didn't see very many at all. (Of course, that could have more to do with the whole leaves-on-the-trees thing.) So it was an interesting experiment, but since I've been tired all day today as a result, I don't think I'll be taking part in dawn woods excursions very often. :P
I'll try for another woods-walk tomorrow -- I need more practice with the camera before the next big trip!