Last month I wrote a short note about the spring phenomenon of vernal pools, which can often be found in pretty, magical glens in the midst of the forest. Since then I have made repeated visits to that same small, shallow vernal pool located just a ways up the hill behind our house. I’ve photographed it from the same vantage point just to see how it evolves over time. Although these photos were taken at different times of the day, in different lighting, and not on a regular schedule, it’s interesting to see the succession of plant life as the pool dries.
Today was my second visit to a vernal pool in three days. These small empheral pools appear for only a few weeks in the spring (hence the name), typically in shallow depressions that capture snowmelt and early spring rains. They serve as an important breeding ground for frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians… and then disappear for the summer.
Today, as I strolled along the fading skidder trails that lace the patch of forest above my home – an area I tend to explore when under winter’s deep snowpack, as I did back at the beginning of February – I was surprised to see I was not the first to visit this pool today.
Let’s take a closer look. This tree stump was covered in feathers – very fresh feathers. I’m assuming some carnivore – a fox, perhaps? – had used the stump as a dining table for consuming an unlucky member of the local avian population.
Despite the winter season there are plenty of birds around here – chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, crows, ravens, owls, and even a bald eagle. The woodpeckers are still here too, and keep quite busy. One of the most impressive woodpecker projects is a pine tree I pass often on my walk through the local woods. It’s impressively deep, and hints at a tree that may be rotten at the core.
Summer is a wonderful time on the river, in part because the lengthy days allow me ample time to get out rowing. I like to row well before breakfast, because the river is as still as glass and there are rarely any other boats. Today, three days after returning from our canoe trip on the upper reaches of the river, I was treated to an unusual abundance of bird life.
I was fortunate enough to be in Washington DC last weekend, for a meeting at NSF. I have always heard about the beautiful cherry-blossom season, those magical few days in April when all of the cherry trees blossom together in an incredible display. On Sunday, a beautiful afternoon, I drove downtown, thinking that it would be easy to park somewhere and walk around the National Mall. Hah! With over a million visitors each year, the Cherry Blossom Festival is very crowded. I did manage to find parking near the Capitol and photographed some beautiful tulip trees.
I returned by metro on Monday afternoon, another day with beautiful spring weather. I headed straight for the Tidal Basin, a lake anchored by the Jefferson Memorial on one side and the National Mall on the other. The cherry blossoms were at their peak, with hundreds of families and office workers and tourists strolling underneath. Absolutely perfect weather, perfect trees. I’m so glad I finally got to see it. Check out the photos.
Every year I attend the MobiSys conference; this year it was held in the beautiful Lake District of northwestern England. I had heard so much about this area – a walker’s paradise, people said – so I decided to go early and to bring along my son John. We flew from Manchester to Manchester (NH to UK, that is) and drove to Ambleside, in the center of the Lake District. It was pouring rain, but the rental-car agent assured us that it wouldn’t last (more on that later). Continue reading “A week in the Lake District of England”