For my first post in a year, lovely patterns in the ice of a frozen stream in Seneca Creek State Park, as well as some images of the partially frozen lake.
It continues cold, so the snow has not melted. A walk on park roads today yielded these pictures.
A small, beautiful overnight snowfall gave me the day off today, and we went for a walk in the park. This is unusual because my husband didn’t have boots suitable for walking in snow until recently. I was excited about hiking on snow-covered trails. The park was closed, and only a few hardy souls had ventured onto the trails. We saw no animals, but there were plenty of animal tracks. It was really beautiful!
I don’t really have photos to share today, but two recent experiences that were really exciting for me.
The first happened on Monday, December 22, but to explain my excitement I have to go back about 30 years to when we first moved to Gaithersburg and discovered that there was a state park practically in our back yard. We started going there often, and we loved observing the birds, mammals, and other animals in the park. Canada geese and mallard ducks were around all year, and we often saw Little Green Herons and Great Blue Herons. And every year in the fall, I used to see some ducks that were not mallards. I could see flashes of white, but they were always too far away to identify. Looking in my Peterson’s Guide, I guessed that they might be buffleheads (Bucephala albeola), but I couldn’t confirm it. For thirty years, whenever I saw them, I didn’t have my binoculars. And when I had my binoculars, they were nowhere to be seen. Until December 22, 2014. Finally, I had brought my binoculars and there they were! And I could make a positive identification. They were too far away to take a picture, but not too far to see clearly with the binoculars. Success!
And the second amazing thing happened today, the last day of 2014. We hiked around the lake, a two-hour walk from our house. We had made the loop around the lake and were approaching Longdraft Road when I saw it. I didn’t have my glasses on but I knew immediately that it was a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). It was perched on a branch protruding out of the shallow water near the Longdraft overpass. I grabbed the binoculars–yes! This also was a moment I had been waiting for for many years.
The eagle was pretty far from me. I had my old camera, the Fuji Finepix, but the battery was 99.9% dead. I had already tried to take several photos that hadn’t worked. I tried again, one more time, and was able to get this blurred photo:
The photo is no good, but the memory will stay with me forever.
Some other shots from today’s hike:
Yesterday while walking in the woods adjacent to the park, we came upon a fallen tree bedecked with a spectacular orange fungus. I didn’t have my camera, but I went back today and took some pictures. I’ve tentatively identified it as “chicken of the woods”, aka “crab of the woods”, scientific name Laetiporus sulphureus. (I found this by googling “maryland bright orange mushroom grows on fallen tree trunks”, which is clearly an objective and scientific way to identify a fungus.) It’s cool and rubbery to the touch and bright yellow underneath. Spectacular, indeed.
We also saw a garter snake along the Lake Shore Trail after photographing the mushrooms. My husband took this picture. The snake stayed motionless for a long time but when my husband handed the camera to me to get a different angle, it abruptly reversed direction and slithered away silently into the leaf litter.
I have no idea what kind of mushrooms these are, but they are really big!
Okay, after I wrote that, I googled giant white mushroom maryland and came up with a couple of possibilities: Clitocybe gibba or Clitocybe maxima. The first one seems correct but not big enough; the big one isn’t supposed to be found this far east. But this is my best guess.
My husband took the first photo. All photos were taken with his brand-new Nikon Coolpix S3500, which we got for him to take to Greece next week.