The days dwindle down to a precious few, and in this case, not September, but my days in Maine. However, I am still scouting around to catch a few final moments to share. On Monday, it was an early trip hoping to use the dusting of snow to follow some animal tracks. It was futile since the patches of snow were not continuous. I gave up and took to the beaches where I found two animals, unfortunately dead. There was this seal, its fur shining in the morning sun. All the tracks around it showed the interest it attracted in people, birds and dogs. The wind was cold and penetrating. Every time I took off my mittens, my hands froze. You will recognize where this picture was taken, I am sure.

Away from the wind and around the corner, another beach seemed to sparkle in its surroundings. This beach is littered with piles of torn away seaweed, also a sign of the season. It would not be a place to set up an umbrella and enjoy the sun! You will notice how little green there is in the picture. All the grasses are now brown and silvery. Only the pines give a hint of green. The visibility was good and here shows the outer islands, that I'm sure you recognize!

Over on Head Beach, at the strand line, I discovered an eel. I washed off the sand in a tide pool and have tried to give you an idea of this elongated fish in our waters. It has long dorsal fins, and small fins behind its gills. Its skin was mottled and very slimy! It was about a foot long, and must have been thrown ashore by the high winds and waves, plus the extreme tides of late.

I attended a workshop on identifying twig in winter this past weekend. I learned a couple of things that had been puzzling me. Have you ever noticed how Balsam needles grow around the twigs when exposed on the shoreline (or at high elevations)? Some have described it as the "porcupine effect". The botanist leader explained that Balsam grows this way in response to greater light exposure. Normally, the needles are flat. Another interesting observation was learning about "layering" patterns in this tree. Maybe you have seen where Balsam grows laterally instead of straight up. Again, it is a reaction to light deficiency and also to lack of nutrients in the soil. Finally, the question was raised as to why Beech leaves don't fall off completely. Apparently, there is incomplete abscission where the petiole connects to the twig. (It's the same in Oaks). Why does this occur? No one knew. One final tidbit: did you know that our Blackberry is a biennial? Check out those brambles in your neck of the woods. Technically the roots are perennial, but what they send up lasts only two years. The flowers and fruit come the second and final year. 12/6/05 Chilly Ronnie