Forest Explorations

January in the Fells

I have such mixed feelings about the unseasonably beautiful weather we had for our walk this weekend. On the one hand, it was absolutely delightful to be out in near-60 degree weather. On the other, it’s awfully worrying that we have such days at all in January.

Once a month, Laura and Claire lead a biodiversity walk in the Fells. It’s a free form activity of ours which only purpose is to explore what Nature wonders are in season: what is flowering, fruiting, passing by, living here? Here are highlights of what we enjoyed this time!

Fungi in Winter

We stopped to admire a number of fungi species, including this unusually attractive Birch polypore (Fomitopsis betulina). As its name suggests, it is to be found almost exclusively on birch trees. It serves as food and breeding place for a great number of insects.

A little up on the same trail, we then found a Thin-walled maze polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa). This beautiful bracket fungus is also known as the Blushing Bracket because there are often shades of pink or mauve on the top surface. At it catches the sunlight in the understory, it often stands out in the winter from the dark colors of the bark and branches that it is attached to.

We also helped release spores by poking the Pear-Shaped Puffballs (Apioperdon pyriforme).

Fruits & Seeds in Winter

Milkweed (Asclepias sp.) seeds always make me smile. We called them “wishies” as children. If I made a wish on one today, I might try wishing for more wishies because they grow into important nectar sources for native bees and critical food for monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Canada mayflower’s (Maianthemum canadense) tiny fruits still dotted the forest floor, reminding us that their sweet-smelling flowers will come again. Their little green leaves will be one of the earlier spring wildflowers to peek up in April.

The dried seed pods of the Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) we encountered were splitting open.

Wildlife in Winter

Unfortunately, none of us caught a photo of our most striking sighting – three beautiful antlered stags that went leaping past perhaps 20 meters away. The Middlesex Fells are really such an amazing place!

But Joe caught a photo of a beautiful Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).

And at the other end of the size spectrum, there was a Smaller yellow ant (Lasius claviger)…

Quite a wonderful variety for this deep in winter! Thank you to everyone who joined us. Check all our other sightings that day at the Fells here. 📅 Join us next month to explore the natural joys to be found in February!

Jan, 17th 2019 | by Laura Costello

The photos in this article are visual observations that Laura, Joe and Bill have recorded during the Jan 11th, 2020 Forest Explorations event. Photos are licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC).

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