Highlights of November II with a Diversion

I went up Peaked Mountain in Monson hoping to get some afternoon light on the oak foliage. Nature did not disappoint. The warm light on the foliage rewarded my efforts with glowing browns that were almost like gold. November is truly a marvelous time.

While I was there, I photographed the rising of the supermoon. This is not a November feature, but was happening so I stayed for it. With a clear sky I was also treated to a display of the Belt of Venus, or Venus’ Girdle. This atmospheric phenomenon is a rosy-red band in the sky opposite the sunset (or sunrise, it is seen in the morning as well) caused by the scattering of light and reflection of the red rays of sunset off of particles high in the distant atmosphere. The dark area beneath the belt is the shadow of the Earth. It rises in the east as the sun sets in the west and the sunlight is blocked by the Earth.

Supermoon in the Belt of Venus

The pink area in the sky is the “belt of Venus”, a result of the reflection of the sunset off of high particles in the distant atmosphere.

Supermoon in the Earth's Shadow

The supermoon of November 2016. The dark area is the shadow of the Earth. The Sun is behind us and the shadow rises as the sun sets.

November Foliage in Late Afternoon Light I

November Foliage in Late Afternoon Light III

November Foliage in Late Afternoon Light II

The Highlights of November: Part 1

I am a naturalist at heart, and I like to think there are gems of nature to be found at any time of year. Many people overlook November because the frosts have come and it can be chilly, and their irrational fear of snow takes grip on them. I look forward to November because it means I can leave the insect repellent behind. There are many calm days in the 60s during the month, making for a pleasant outdoor journey. It is a relaxing way to ease into Thanksgiving.

November brings us isolated remnants of beautiful color along with hillsides carpeted in a rich tapestry of maroons and golden-browns. The low sun angle gives us pleasing warm light without having to get up extra early to see it. We see the birds in the trees again and can enjoy them more after they have been hidden in the foliage all summer. The light penetrates into the forest more deeply and we can see how it illuminates many plants that remain green, as well as the abundant rocks of the New England landscape.

I will be posting some images of November, some from this year and also posting some from past years. They will go in to a November gallery on the website. Here are some images of an oak and a small scene nearby.

Oak Detail II

Oak Detail I

Backlit Oak

The now-sparse foliage glows while allowing us to see some of the structure of this tree

November Light on Grass and Trunk

November light creates mini-scenes all around us

Mid-Autumn Sights

By the start of November many people consider the fall season to be over, but it is really only halfway done today. Today is a cross-quarter day, when the Earth in its orbit is halfway between an equinox and a solstice. This motion makes the sun appear to move across the stars and now appears halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.

Traditionally this cross-quarter day is associated with the Druid holiday of Samhain, many of whose traditions have morphed and are remembered today as Halloween. Originally the Druid priests would mark the position of the sun and celebrate on the actual cross-quarter day, but the date became fixed on the last day of October when the Gregorian calendar was implemented. The Druids marked the day by observing the constellation the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, and looking for it to rise at sunset and be at its highest point at midnight. This day is also associated with the traditional Japanese holiday Ritou.

By this time most of the maple trees have dropped their leaves and the brilliant oranges and reds are pretty much gone until next September. But this “second autumn” has highlights of its own. The oaks are coming into their peak color with earth-tone russets, maroons and golden-browns. They turn entire hillsides into a carpet painted with this rich palette of harvest colors.

The light penetrates into the forest better now, and the low sun angle means pleasing light lasts longer in to the morning and begins sooner in the afternoon, lighting up the late autumn trees. The few individual maples that remain in color stand out brilliantly in this light.

With many leaves gone, it is easier to see birds again and northern birds such as juncos and white-throated sparrows show up. The sight of a cardinal on the bare branches brings on a holiday feeling. November is a great time to get out into the woods.

The photos that follow were taken on the traditional Halloween date but I decided to wait until the actual cross-quarter date to post. Most were taken at the Keep Homestead Museum in Monson, one was from the overlook at Flynt Park, next to the museum trails.

The yellow fungus is witches butter, a jelly fungus, likely Tremella. Although we think of fungi as decomposers in wood, members of this genus are actually parasitic on other fungi found in decaying wood – perhaps a fitting habit for this Halloween photo. The common name witches butter can also refer to Exidia, a black jelly fungus.

Mid-Autumn Golden Oak

An oak in full color and morning sidelight

Late Color on a Sugar Maple

A sugar maple next to the Keep Homestead Museum

Witches Butter on Halloween

The background is provided by out of focus blueberry leaves

Mid Autumn Color from Flynt Park

Lots of color still left on the hillsides

Downy Woodpecker

This female downy woodpecker was busy foraging above me and was not bothered by my presence.

Nature walk at the Keep Museum

I will be returning to the Keep Homestead Museum in Monson for a nature walk coming up on Sunday, October 2 at 1:30. While it is renowned for its button collection, Myra Keep, along with her father, also had a strong interest in natural history and there is a room in the museum with their collection of rocks and shells. The property has a trail system of under 2 miles that passes through both field and forest habitat.

I will lead a walk on these trails, looking for signs of the season, identifying some of the local plants, as well as looking for examples of how the land tells us stories of both recent and long ago history. In the event of rain I will give a presentation of nature photography from the greater Monson area.

The Keep Museum is located at 35 Ely Road in Monson. http://keephomesteadmuseum.org/index.html

Nature Walk at the Keep Museum

Nature Walk at the Keep Museum

A new gallery

Well, sort of new. I have re-created a gallery I had on my old site, Hidden-Unexpected worlds. This has some of the old gallery, a couple of new things, and I will be adding more to it soon. Look for this gallery in the Gallery drop-down menu or click here. I did it in part to highlight an upcoming course at the Hitchcock Free Academy:

macro poster

Laughing Brook May 23 and 28

Well, it took more time than I wanted to get these pictures ready, but here it is finally. Both days were beautiful, peaceful spring mornings with gorgeous morning light. I heard a lot of birds on these trips:

Oriole                Red-bellied woodpecker               Black and white warbler
Ovenbird           Veery                                            Yellow warbler
Phoebe            Louisiana waterthrush                    Cardinal
Black-throated green warbler                                 White-breasted nuthatch
Scarlet Tanager                                                     Redstart
Yellow-rumped warbler                                           Brown creeper

I saw a small woodpecker, but not for long enough to tell if it was a Downy or a Hairy. I also heard vireos that I originally thought were Blue-headed, but after listening to Birding By Ear again I think they could have been Red-eyed. I need to re-calibrate my listening for those.

Here are some photos. I really enjoy how the greens light up in spring.

Spring Forest Detail 1

Morning light creates a variety of scenes as it plays across the forest floor.

 

 

Spring forest detail 2

More light on the forest floor

 

 

Stone wall in spring morning light

A reminder of times gone by, lighting up in the morning as it must have done many times in the past.

 

 

I took this shot of the light on some quartz but I think I got something else:

Rosy quartz - or something else?

A turtle peeking out of a stony shell?

 

 

A Pale Beauty, Campaea perlata, in the Geometrid family of moths:

Pale beauty, Campaea perlata

Perhaps newly emerged and a bit wrinkled? It is not holding the wings in the usual manner for this family. Maybe just a bit wet from the morning dew.

Conant Brook Dam May 14

It was foggy this morning, so I went up to the north end of Conant Brook dam to see if there were any good shots with the trees in the pond with mist. The fog wasn’t so heavy up there, but I did get a few tries in a side cove with nice light and a bit of mist. I also got some shots of hooded mergansers. These have the “discovered” look with lots of branches in the pond and some intervening leaves.

Spring morning light, beaver pond

This is a side cove off of a large beaver pond. The morning light comes in here very nicely.

 

 

Hooded Mergansers in spring morning light

I really like rim lighting even though it is challenging.