Neotropical Cormorants by the hundreds congregated on barren islands in the middle of the lagoons at Los Pantanos de Villa reserve, south of Lima, Peru. The various terms for groups of cormorants really don’t do this mass of breeding birds justice. Instead of a “swim” of cormorants, it should be something like a “swarm”.
I count it as a good omen that the first animal I saw on this trip to Peru was a Monarch butterfly.
Walking among the high rise buildings and city industry of the Miraflores area of Lima, the only living things to be seen were people and plants. So when we stumbled across a park dedicated to the fallen defenders of the city during the War of the Pacific between Peru and Chile in 1881, I was delighted to find a few birds in the trees and a few Monarchs nectaring on the Lantana blossoms.
from the Back Yard lady
The California Bay tree, also known as the California Bay Laurel or California Laurel, and a host of other names, is one of its kind, the only species in its own genus, and quite an interesting plant. Bay trees are part of the coastal forest and unique to the California floristic province.
Their leaves are more pungent than the Mediterranean bay used in cooking. My husband once stuffed a chicken with bay laurel leaves before cooking it on a Boy Scout camping trip and found it completely inedible.
Like some other coastal tree species, California bay have a swollen base of root crown called lignotuber which protects delicate buds that sprout when the central trunk has been damaged.
The resultant growth of multiple stems emerging from the root crown makes this forest look like a dense jungle.
What a difference the microclimate of this forest makes. We wore our jackets while hiking through the dark, shady north facing laurel forest, and worked up a sweat climbing the sun-exposed hills of oak forest.
A scene from across Lake Vadnais in St. Paul called to me to get closer and try to photograph the group of Trumpeter Swans.
So I hiked around the lake trying to figure out where on the trail they might be. However, it was bow season for deer that day, and so I couldn’t stray too far off the path into the woods.
By the time I found them, this is what I saw: seven swans a-sleeping (well, one was alert).
However, road noise woke a couple of them up, just for a few moments.
I guess when you’re as big as an adult Trumpeter Swan, you don’t worry too much about photographers creeping up near by. Even the Mallards were unperturbed.
Well, not so much the color of the river per se, but it was the color along the river last week in Wisconsin and Michigan during the peak of the fall color show that was impressive. Some examples, seen between rain showers:
We know that warm days and cool nights of fall stimulate plants to break down their chlorophyll, unmasking all the xanthophyll and carotene photo pigments in the leaves, and those changes in leaf metabolism produce the yellow, orange, and red colors. I have written more about the chemistry of leaf color change earlier — (“you know it’s fall when…”). But what accounts for the synchronous color changes of rural northern hardwood forests, compared to the more prolonged sequential color changes we see in urban landscapes?
Lots of factors might be responsible: urban areas are generally warmer with a less homogeneous climate than surrounding open countryside; plants in a natural forest most likely respond to climatic changes in similar ways, whereas planted urban trees, often non-native, adapt to a mixture of environmental cues with different schedules for leaf fall. Leaves might change color more slowly and stay on trees longer in the urban environment simply because temperature and moisture conditions there are so different from the surrounding countryside.
I’ve always wanted to visit the Porcupine Mountains in northwestern Michigan, and fall is the perfect time to take in the color change in the forest, as well as the dramatic cliffs in the park. Rising to a peak of just under 2,000 feet and lining the southeastern shore of Lake Superior, they provide great views of the most extensive old growth of northern hardwood forest west of the Adirondack forest in New York.
One of the star attractions of the park is Lake of the Clouds, so named for its mirror reflection of the sky. But equally impressive are the sheer cliffs of ancient volcanic rocks that form a long escarpment on the northern side of the park. These are the exposed remnants of the volcanic action that formed the mid-continent rift that runs from western Lake Superior all the way down to Kansas.
On the western edge of the park, the Presque Isle river churns through volcanic deposits scrubbing out holes and undercutting cliffs.
The river is lined with hemlock forest where trees are so close together, barely any light makes it to the forest floor.
Well-marked trails and wonderful scenery make this an exceptional place to visit, especially during the peak of the fall color season.
It might sound like this is about a fashionable department store, but beach ridges and the shallow, watery swales between them are natural features of the Great Lakes shorelines. We hiked at one example of this complex ecosystem at the Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey’s Harbor on the eastern side of the Door peninsula.
Ridges and swales are most likely to develop where coastal land is uplifted or where lake levels fall, which is probably what has been happening here in the past 10,000 years since the last glacial recession. Sediments are deposited with gentle wave action against the shoreline in a protected harbor, leaving behind a low hill of sand and gravel in which hearty colonists establish themselves.
The variation in environment from dry to wet, or coastal to inland makes this an extremely diverse ecosystem, home to more than 500 species of plants, 60 some species of birds, and more than a dozen mammals.
The Ridges Sanctuary was founded in 1937, becoming Wisconsin’s first land trust, designed to protect the state’s most biologically diverse ecosystem.
The Door county peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan north of Green Bay, Wisconsin seems to enjoy a different climate than the surrounding part of the state. Stepping back a couple of weeks from the peak fall color of central Wisconsin, trees are just barely tinged with red and gold, and the weather is balmy instead of chilled. Maybe it’s the lake effect.
We hiked along the limestone cliffs at Cave point county park on the eastern edge of the peninsula and marveled at the way the trees could seemingly grow right out of cracks in these 400 million year old rocks that have been polished smooth by glacial action.
but as always, wherever you go, life seems to find a way…