after a breakfast of oatmeal, after picking up the latest rosenoff report, after getting some snacks at brooke's, i walked down to my parents' cafe to pick up the car so i could drive to leominster and visit the lincoln woods. i spotted a leaf cutting bee on a flower during my walk, a prelude of the observations to come. since it was my father's day off, my mother decided we should go together, and i agreed, figuring he could get an idea of what exactly i do when i go into the forests on weekends. so i went home to pick up my father, and then he drove us down to leominster, about 40 miles outside of boston. i had no maps of the town, and tried to remember as much as i could from a mapquest search. fortunately the driving instructions were good and we were able to find the place, a dirt path leading to the 68 acres sanctuary hidden behind somebody's house. an empty parking lot awaited us, and beyond that, it was the woods. we sprayed down before we entered, and immediately we were in the company of hungry mosquitoes. the next few hours we spent in the forest, my father and i took turns spraying each other down with insect repellent. when the air is so thick with mosquitoes that they get trapped in your eyelashes, you sort of don't worry about the side effects of DEET poisoning.

overall, i don't think i can recommend lincoln woods. though dotted with vernal pools (much like moose hill in sharon), they were pretty devoid of life, other than the occasional tadpole and the myriad of aquatic insects on the water's surface like whirligig beetles, water striders, and flies. even though we drove all the way out to visit the place, it wasn't very remote: private properties dot the perimeter of the sanctuary, and it was next to a baseball field with the loud cheering of the girl's softball team piercing the supposed natural tranquility of the woods. lincoln woods also isn't very pretty, the forest floor devoid of interesting vegetation, so it was kind of boring, with poorly marked trails that don't loop around. nevertheless, we did spot some interesting wildlife:

a wood frog was the first thing i saw when we entered the forest. from the corner of my eye i noticed something jumping in the leaves, and with a stick, i waved it around the area like a magic wand, and sure enough, the frog revealed itself. wood frogs have that distinctive dark brown mask underneath their eyes. i wanted to pick it up but i was afraid that the chemicals on my hands would hurt it some how, and besides, that would violate the golden rule of naturing, of not tampering with the wildlife.

along the edge of the first vernal pool we came across i found pieces of a luna moth. when i realized what it was i got pretty excited, despite the fact that it was dead. whether it died from old age or from predation i couldn't tell, but all that was left were its tattered wings. the luna moth is on my list of "animals i want to see before i die," and i'd completely forgotten about it ever since my focus turned to finding newts. luna moths are big, they grow to 4" in length, they're pale green with eye spots. if you didn't know it, you'd think they're butterflies (of their size), except they only come out at nights. i picked up the wing pieces and put them in a sheet of folded paper, to take back home with me. hopefully one day i can see an intact live specimen out in the wild.

along the same vernal pool i found velvet mites. they're unmistakeable and are easy to spot because of their bright red color. they sort of reminded me of a tick, but just bigger, and furry, and red.

my father spotted some indian pipes poking out of the leaf debris on the forest floor. they seem very delicate but are actually quite sturdy. we only saw them at one place, but there were a lot of them, poking through brown oak leaves, through reddish pine needles, through the green moss.

lincoln woods was lacking in dragonfly activities. perhaps it was the weather, intermittent overcast mixed with the occasional bouts of brief sunshine (dragonflies like full sun). a bluet aggressively guarded its territory along the edge of another vernal pool. i've seen bluets before, and only bothered to take its photo just for the practice. this place was actually far enough away that it was quiet for a change. i introduced my father to sassafras, pulling out a small sapling to let him smell the fragrant root.

later, at a sunnier location, we spotted widow skimmers with their unmistakeable black saddles on their hindwings. unfortunately they were too timid for me to get close enough to snap a good photo.

the lady's slippers season apparently is over. we didn't see a single lady's slipper flower, only their remnants, from the dried shell of their former beauty, to empty pairs of leaves. it's kind of sad, i sort of miss finding them, kind of like seeing an old friend. i wonder if there's a second season of flowering, or perhaps the orchid show is all over until next year.

i couldn't help but to notice a small patch of bright yellow on the forest floor. upon closer examination, it looked like curried rice. i later discovered it's called scrambled-egg slime, first time i've ever seen it before. and to think, if we didn't almost get lost in the forest, we would've never came across it!

nearby, my father spotted a frog. i used the stick trick to coax it out of hiding, and thought it was another wood frog when i first saw it, since it had dark patches along its eyes. further examination revealed that it was actually a spring peeper, with the identifying "X" mark on its back. they have great camouflage, blending in perfectly with the brown leaf debris.
we came across some low-lying green ground cover with little round berries that looked suspiciously like blue berries. neither one of us know what blue berry plants look like, but we ate the berries anyway, they tasted like blue berries, kind of this waxy understated sweetness with a bit of tart. eating things from the forest is great because it completes the total sensory experience of being in the wilderness, and allows you to be more in sync with nature.

and some more random forest photos:

we drove back to cambridge. i mentioned something about getting a new hard drive so we went to microcenter, where i had a coupon for a $140 deal on a 250gb maxtor drive (7200 rpm ultra ata/133). we also went next door to trader joe's where i bought some instant rice and a box of orange givrees. we went to the cafe to pick up my mother (around 5:30) and then drove to my place, where we ordered pizza for dinner and watched the red sox lose to the giants after the sox tied it up late in the game. my father slept on the couch while my mother and i were transfixed on the celebrity gossip special of entertainment tonight's weekend edition. we left after 8pm to go to super 88 in allston to get some chinese groceries.

i got a ride back to my place along with groceries. i watched equilibrium on showtime (best action sequences ever!) and then some insect specials on animal planet. the installation of the new hard drive will have to wait until tomorrow.