Monday, November 27, 2017

Are My Words Wasted?

They're disappearing...

Acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture, willow...

The Oxford Junior Dictionary no longer includes these words, saying they're irrelevant to modern day childhood.  I know what every one of these words means, but didn't always.  I discovered them one at a time, wondering what a flower was and looking it up, or reading an article that mentioned one or more of these words.  Mostly, I learned these words from fantasy novels, where "bluebells" were death's knell, seven "cowslips" in hand let you see fairies, Leda was transformed into a swan and bore "cygnets"...  These words represent more than metaphor and fantasy.  We cannot advocate for what we cannot name.

It was literally decades before I knew a certain flower that appeared like magic was called a bluet.  I called them "serendipities", learning the word from another fantasy story.  When the words go away, so does the knowledge.  Why should we care about "catkins" on willows when we walk by them, looking at our phones?  Why will "acorns" matter to us, as we see a squirrel run away with its nut.  (Some even call it a pine cone and can't identify the oak tree it comes from.  Do they know they are edible with the proper preparation?  Do they know to look for acorn weevils?)

Instead, they can look up "attachment" as they add a picture to their "blog", hoping for "celebrity" as their thoughts go out on "broadband" and into "chatrooms".  Maybe they'll list "bullet-points", as whole sentences become too tedious.  Then everything is "cut-and-paste" and decided by a  "committee" who probably haven't been outside in a long, long time, too busy listening to "MP3 players" and "voice-mail" to listen to nature.

Fall Hiking

Fall hiking is great in RI, with so many preserves, land trusts, and more organizing them around the state.  Recently, I visited Grills Preserve in Westerly (which also has a Hopkinson side past the former Polly Coon Bridge).  It was one of many organized for the days after Thanksgiving.  This "turkey trot" was organized by the Westerly Land Trust.  (Orange vests are required October through January, as turkey and deer hunting are permitted with licenses.)

The leaves mostly fallen, it was still a warm day in November as my hiking boots crushed oak leaves down trails lined with Princess pine.  Despite its name, the princess pine is not a conifer, but a lycopodium, or club moss.  They only grow to about six inches high while the underground rhizomes grow out further and further.  

The fallen leaves and recently cleared trees let more light in.  This clearing was to encourage more scrub growth as in a new forest, creating a habitat better suited to our rare native species, the New England cottontail.  The much more common but introduced Eastern cottontail are comfortable in more open spaces, nesting even in lawns!  New England cottontail need much more cover.

Cottontails found in a lawn in East Providence.

Along the Pawcatuck.

One aspect of Grills Preserve that will bring me back in the spring is the trail going between the Pawcatuck river and off-shoots of ponds.  The area floods, so timing to both look for frogs and not get stuck in the mud may be challenging.  The former Polly Coon Bridge had to be redesigned after the flooding of 2010.  This cairn shows how high the water got:

One of many trees cleared to make room for smaller succession.

Burrs abound!

A granite rock out-cropping at a look-out point on "Big Hill".


Thinned out trees are piled up here.  Many birds will benefit from this type of habitat as well.

Nature adapts.


Historic graveyard with Revolutionary War veteran.

More princess pine.

One oddity that appeared both in a tree off the bridge (not completely unexpected) and then randomly on a tree near the parking lot was fishing lures...

I'm definitely getting lured back!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Taking Time...

My job has kept me maddeningly busy, but here are a few pictures from my recent hikes.  Enjoy!