We have been having some bitterly cold weather in recent days. On the shoreline, the snow is mostly gone. I did head out and braved the winds to see ice formations. The mudflats were covered so no clamming was being done. In this picture the ice lines the height of the tide on Joe's Head. Yes, salt water does freeze, though not as readily as plain water. Now it looks like we will be excaping the wrath of winter storms since most of the snow is staying to our south, ironically. On this particular walk I was lucky enough to spot another Cecropia Moth cocoon in the dim light. You have to look carefully to spot these cocoons, some have leaves hiding their form. I had walked by this one several times, but finally spotted it. The moth will wait out the cold weather to emerge when leaves start to open. Here is the cocoon.......

OK, here is a puzzle. See if you can tell what it is I have photographed! Yes, that is the toe of my boot, but what is sticking out of it? If you guessed a porcupine quill, you are correct! I spotted a dead porcupine lying by the side of the road, and stopped to get a closer look. I took my boot to turn it face up, and in the process, unknown to me, a quill was inserted. Fortunately, it did not penetrate into my toe. The animal was frozen solid. I picked it up to take home. How does one pick up these rodents? By the unquilled foot! There are animals that do escape being pierced by quills, to feast on them. They include certain owls and a Fisher Cat. There are no quills on the belly, and that is the point of attack.

I continue to be stopped in my tracks by the vivid red of Wintergreen berries. They seem to grow larger and more numerous along the shoreline. Here is an example. Against the blue sky and standing before white birch stalks, I was almost moved to sing the national anthem! Oh, I forgot this is Christmas. How about Jingle Bells?

In case you wanted to see that porcupine that left a quill on my foot, here it is. I've been looking for these critters in recent walks, but probably need the benefit of snow for tracking. These animals are active in winter, and are often found up in trees. This was a small one, and you can bearly tell which end is which. Its paws have claws and pads which help in climbing trees. That is the head on the left hand side! Again, this animal is frozen solid, and sadly will not be with its family for Christmas. I hope you will have happy gatherings as the festive season winds down in its final days. It is a time of reflection and rededication to live more creative and peaceful lives. 12/20/09 Ronnie, sending greetings of joy!