The first nature walk of 2018 sponsored by the Coastal Mountain Land Trust was held on the last weekend of April, and this year they were kicking off the season with a focus on tree identification and vernal ponds. Perfect! Given my tree identification skills this was a must attend event for us, so despite the misty weather we headed towards Sagamore Farm with the hopes of actually learning something new.
Since we had already explored Sagamore Farm in the fall, we knew that it was located behind one of the inns known as The Lodge, so once we located parking on the inn property we joined our fellow explorers at the small but already full parking lot near the front of The Lodge. From there, the group walked towards the back of the property to enter the preserve. We noticed the gloomy weather had kept our numbers down, but to me, that was a good thing, for that meant we would actually be able to hear our leader. We have already attended these events with well over 50 people, all trying to hear the topic expert while walking along a single file trail.
The first tree we studied was a red oak. I learned that the red oak actually has red markings between the deep grooves of the bark. Although it is the most common oak tree in Maine, I was soon able to tell the difference between a white and red oak by the shape of the leaf (the red oak had more pointed leaves than the white). Most of you probably already knew this, but hey, this was all new to me!
From there, the coordinator of this adventure led us to a vernal pond. He had examined the pond the day before and that morning, discovering that the rain the night before had created ideal conditions for the “Big Night”, the night when the salamanders head down to the pond to lay their eggs. After explaining the importance of vernal ponds to the eco-system, he took us closer to the pond to point out the egg masses that had been laid the night before. I must confess that while we were listening to these interesting facts about vernal ponds my attention kept focusing on the perfect reflection of trees in the water.
Not far from the water, our next stop was a grove of white birch trees, looking rather ghost like in the mist. Here we learned that the grey birch is not as brilliant white as the paper (or white) birch and often has dark triangle shaped markings. We also spotted a yellow birch which, in addition to the yellow bark, is shaggier that the other birches.
We continued on our walk, with our guide pointing out the striped maples that were budding, and the mountain ash lined with sapsucker holes. At another stop I found a perfect yet delicate spider web; a lovely work of art on this overcast outing. All too soon our lesson was over and our allotted time was up. I did learn to identify a few trees but I had also found that nature can offer up some pretty impressive artwork even on foggy days.