FALLING FOR AUTUMN.....
I believe our colors have peaked, and now the wind and rain are changing the picture. Leaves are hanging on for dear life, and I'm looking for my rake. Things are changing up here in Maine. This picture was taken off Sam Day Hill Road in Phippsburg. The water level changes with the tide, and an early morning drive through this area provides time for reflections. I've seen muskrats swimming in this area, and Great Blue Heron feeding in the shallow water.

I've been taking in some of the color provided by plant fruits and this caught my eye. Though its leaves are still green, the fruit is a beautiful pinkish red. The characteristic thorns aren't shown but are keys to its identity. It is a Hawthorn. We have these growing at the campground, and I'm always checking them out to see if something is stuck to the thorns. There is a bird called a Northern Shrike that catches animals and places them on the thorns for later dining. I've never seen this, but have read of that habit unique to the Shrike. Other animals do place foods up in trees for eating at a later time, but it is usually a mushroom or apple placed by a squirrel.

Witch Hazel is now in bloom. Its petals make it look like little yellow spiders. It is somewhat of a mystery as to how these flowers get pollinated at this time of year. Perhaps I should be more patient in my observations. The fertilized flower produces a seed pod that is quite hard. It splits open after a season of maturation and shoots out its seeds to a distance of 5-10 feet. The seeds are black and could be mistaken for animal droppings. Right now, the foliage of Witch Hazel is a brilliant yellow. These shrubs often stand in colonies since they spread by expanding rootstocks. After reaching a height of 10 feet, most of the growth occurs laterally from underground growth. Witch Hazel branches are used for divining rods to find water, and the oil from Witch Hazel bark has been used to soothe insect bites, sunburn, and as an after shave lotion, I'm told. There is also aphid activity on this plant's leaves resulting in a gall shaped like a peaked Witch's Hat. This has to be a plant associated with Halloween, don't you think?

Over in Damariscotta, they have decorated Main Street with carved pumpkins. This was my favorite. It stopped me in my tracks! I wish I had seen it being created. There were others, all remarkably carved. It made me wonder how thick the pumpkin flesh is. Owls have always been special creatures in my mind. I enjoyed a talk by a wildlife rehabilitator this week who raised a Great Horned Owl from about 3 weeks of age. Rehabilitation requires a special skill and knowledge so the animal can return to the woods enabled to fend for itself. Just a few tidbits about these birds: Those aren't ears, but tufts of feathers on its head; their eyes don't move, but their head can turn 270 degrees to look backward; they fly silently with velvety feathered wings; they regurgitate undigestibles in pellets; and not all owls hoot! The last owl I saw was a Barred Owl that nested in a friend's tree near the intersection of 209 and 216. To spot an owl, or even just to hear one, is a cherished moment. 10/17/10 Ronnie, getting a bit halloweeny.