Beach Sand Trails and berry nice colors..................

This week's entry begins with this trail, found in the sand at Head Beach. I came upon it while heading over to Joe's Head to see if I could find some sea creatures on this cool mid October day. As I walked the beach, paying my usual attention to any clues written in the sand, I came upon this squiggly trail. At first I thought it might be a Sand Worm. My eye followed the curly-cue trail to what appeared to be an end, and dug down. My digging uncovered nothing, so I headed in the other direction to see if I could discover the trail maker. I walked over the wet sand for some 30 feet, marveling at the regularity of the twists and turns as it went over drier, and then wetter sand. Finally, I saw the maker....a small, beautiful Milk Adder, making its way across the broad expanse of this ocean beach. After taking these pictures, I scooped up the reptile and carried over to shoreline rocks. This isn't the first time we have seen these snakes near the shore, but definitely the first time to see it leaving its distinctive trail on the beach. It was a marvelous moment for this nature observer that shall go down among the all time favorites! Though you weren't able to share the moment first hand, perhaps you can appreciate my joy in finding this snake through these pictures.

You may be wondering if it is still possible at this October date to find the shoreline animals we seek out in warmer weather. The tide was at its lowest in late afternoon, as you may notice from the snake's shadow. The water is in the mid fifty degree range. I found the Hermit Crabs had dug down into the exposed wet sand, but they were still easy to find. I turned over rocks and found more small urchin than sea stars! I did find crabs, under rocks and partially submerged where there was sand. The rising tide shortened my hunt, but it was great to be back with these animal friends. A gull watched my every move. These gulls are not at their most glamorous condition. They molt their feathers at this time of year, and instead of having all white heads, they are mottled with new gray feathers.

Since this is the season of color out in the world of nature, I must add a bit of color to these pages. Everyday, the brilliance of foliage is increased. The Red Maples stand at center stage, but there is a surprising supporting cast. Consider these leaves of a low growing Marsh St. Johnswort. You probably never noticed it growing on the shores of the Lily Pond, but right now, its foliage is a lovely orangey, salmon color. It stopped me in my tracks! Equally attractive are the leaves of the Huckleberry shrubs, now giving a red glow to the shoreline. The berries, also are clamoring for attention. Though here and there you may be lucky enough to find rose still in bloom, the bright red Rose Hips are coloring the landscape. Rugosa rose foliage turns a bright yellow to add to nature's shoreline palette. The Pasture Rose foliage turns dark red, providing contrast to its ruby red fruits. Probably the most eye catching berries are those of the Winterberry. Its bright green leaves are still attached to provide a Christmasy forecast, but the stem-hugging berries will linger until the snow falls. I am surprised my birds do not strip the branches of its fruit. This plant is a member of the Holly family, all of which have berries that should not be eaten by us. Perhaps, they are not the tastiest fruit available for our wildlife.

The season is still one of "betwixt and between" here in Maine. As an example, we saw Greater Yellow Legs (a larger sandpiper migrant) basking in the sun at Spirit Pond this week, and spotted a tiny Spring Peeper on the trails nearby. Both will be absent before too long. I've seen Snowbirds, but no Ospreys. Both are coming and going. The Goldfinch at my feeder are all in their winter plumage. What changes are you observing? 10/15/04 Autumnal Ronnie