Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blob blog

As I mentioned on yesterday's "What's That?" post, I had no idea what the weird blobs I had found last weekend could possibly be.  Thanks to Steve Willson of Blue Jay Barrens for his answer:  BRYOZOANS.  Try googling bryozoans and you'll see lots of references to alien life forms. 

These particular blobs are actually Pectinatella magnifica a freshwater species of bryozoans or moss animals.  They're colonies of tiny aquatic invertebrates with an extensive fossil record going back 500 million years.

The majority of bryozoan species are found in salt water.  Each colony is made up of individual animals called zooids.  They are filter feeders with tentacles for grabbing tiny protozoa and algae from the surrounding water.  Some species give off chemicals that are being studied for use in medicine.

Amazing, fascinating creatures.  Reminds me of "The Borg" from Star Trek. Intrigued and want to learn more?  Visit these websites: and (a professor studying freshwater bryozoans) (gorgeous photos of freshwater bryozoans including species found in Europe) (This link has a great detailed black and white drawing of Pectinatella magnifica

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's that Wednesday is back

After not posting "What's that Wednesday" photos in a long time, I'm back with a real stumper.  I have no idea what this mass is and would love to hear from readers.  It's very solid to the touch.  There were two masses, one a bit larger than the other, stuck to the bottom of a nearby pond next to a log near shore.  Although they're gelatinous, they are very heavy and not loose like salamander egg masses.  It's quite firm and solid. 
Here they are in the water:

This is the larger mass close up:

More swans and other birds

The mute swans and one cygnet were feasting on plants in a small beaver pool and I was able to get closer shots.  The initial clutch of eggs contained about 7 cygnets, but only this one remains.  Maybe it hatched later?  Last winter the adults left and one juvenile overwintered on the pond.  Adults will sometimes migrate to salt water during the winter.  Perhaps this youngster will overwinter here. 

The male swan hissed loudly at me and my Sheltie the first time we encountered them on a walk a couple of weeks ago.  This time, these two seemed relaxed and weren't at all bothered by our presence. 

A quiet mallard couple was busy dabbling in the shallows.

A flock of Canadian geese squabbled loudly, fighting the swans for pond real estate. 

Here they find a moment to preen.  The vegetation is changing color, providing a glowing red and gold backdrop.

A little killdeer steered clear of the ruckus on its own mud flat in the middle of the pond.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hiking Baker's Meadow

We spent a beautiful crisp morning hiking at Baker's Meadow. The beavers created this pool which has become carpeted with duckweed.

Two adult mute swans (Cygnus olor) and their youngster patrolled the pond, diligently keeping intruders at bay with their loud hissing.  They feed on the numerous aquatic plants growing in and along the banks of the pond.

The swans and Canadian geese weren't alone.  Two Great Blue herons (Ardea herodias) held their ground like sentries, catching fish (there are sunfish and bass) and lazily preening in the warm sunlight.

Fairy House Tour

My daughter and I went with friends to our second Fairy House Tour in Portsmouth, NH this weekend.    It was a perfect day and the displays were wonderful.  Building fairy houses is a great way to get kids outdoors and interested in the natural world.  Fall is an ideal time to build.  The weather is cooler and there's an abundance of building materials - acorns, tree bark, twigs, moss, pods, and seeds. Some builders even use seashells.  I love the details.  Here are some of the imaginative houses built by both children and adults:

This last one was labeled "The Nut House." What a great way to use all those acorns littering your driveway.  Have fun using your imagination!  For more information visit: