Sunday, December 4, 2011

From Brown to White as December Arrives

Last weekend it was unseasonably mild and dry, as it had been through much of November this year, and the light snow cover of the previous week was gone. We went for a walk through the woods at the northern end of the Lower Arb (part of Carleton College's Cowling Arboretum). Signs alerted us that an archery hunt to manage the white-tailed deer population was in progress in the Arb and that other users should keep to the trails. That was slightly unnerving, but we saw no sign of hunting. Here's an Arb Talk article about the reasons for the annual archery hunt.

One section of the trail I mentally nicknamed Chickadee Woods for all the birds of that name we could hear and see around us, and further on there was a flock of American robins high in the bare trees. Though we usually think of robins as birds that go south for the winter, they will sometimes stay, often in large flocks, if food is available and snow cover not too heavy.

Dead tree stripped of most of its bark

This dead tree caught my eye, as it had lost its branches and most of its bark (above). When looking at the bare wood of the trunk, trails of insect larvae were visible (below).

Closeup of same tree with signs of insect activity

A cut section of fallen wood also captured our attention, as it was decorated with delicate layers of a pale fungus (below).

Log with fungi

Closer view - fungi look like oyster shells

Closer view

And even closer - how pretty and delicate

I don't know much about fungi. These appear to be a type of bracket, or shelf, fungus, a description which refers to the growth pattern but doesn't by itself closely identify the species. Judging by the shape and the concentric half-rings of varying color, these look as if they might have some relation to the so-called Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor). Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I am will weigh in with an opinion.

By now, of course, they are covered by the 4.5 inches of fluffy snow we received yesterday -- the first substantial snowfall of the season here in the Northfield area. Below are a couple of photos of improbably tall caps of snow adhering to purple coneflower seedheads in our front flowerbed this morning.

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