It’s a Major Award!

mystery-blog-award

(…holding up leg lamp…).  Must be Italian!!

I’ve been nominated for the “Mystery Blogger Award” by J.S. Pailly over at Planet Pailly, and I’m humbled that I made his personal cut list.  The award was created by Okoto Enigma, as a mechanism for bloggers to recognize each other, and shed light on some of the more obscure sites (I qualify on that count, at least!) that deserve some more attention.

So while I recognize that this sort of thing is like the chain letter of the digital era, I’m choosing to appreciate the sentiment, that being that folks who read the stuff I’ve been shouting out into the void actually appreciate what I’m doing and want to encourage me to continue.  For that, I’m appreciative, and grateful, particularly when that feedback comes from bloggers whose content I also admire and enjoy!

So in accordance with THE RULES, here’s some other info about me that might not be on my site.

Three Things About Flying Squirrel

1 – I’m a pilot.  Not the professional-starched-white-shirt kind, but the love-to-go-put-a-small-plane-on-a-remote-grass-strip kind.  I don’t get to do enough of that, but I’m hoping to share some upcoming adventures that involve taking a small aircraft to the trailhead, or close.  (Hence, “Flying” Squirrel).

2. Professionally, I’m an Aerospace Engineer (fits with the pilot thing) who started with aspirations of getting into astrophysics and/or interplanetary exploration (ala Dawn, Cassini/Huygens, etc).  I switched into atmospheric flight mechanics after deciding that the decades-long mission duration and million-mile separation from the spacecraft was probably not enough to keep me connected on a day to day basis.  (Hence all the astronomy interest).

3. My first love is the outdoors, and more and more I’m looking to spend time there, because out in the woods away from civilization seems like the only place that makes sense these days!  Plus, as a society, I’m really worried about our tendency to delve more and more into artificial constructs and connect to the world through a screen.  I want to use that addiction to draw people back out – we’re becoming ecological hermits, oblivious to anything not of our own creation.

troy3ridges

Questions from Planet Pailly

1. What do you want to be when you grow up?  I’m still trying to figure that out.  But I’m lucky enough to get involved with a lot of different things, and as I keep learning (never stop!) I keep evolving.  Every day I try and capture a way to learn something new, and little by little, I fall into a different community, and become a different person.  Maybe I’ll never land.

2. What book has had the most influence on you?  Tough one, but I’m going to probably have to say Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, inclusive of The Hobbit.  I got into the tales of Middle Earth during impressionable youth right about the time it was being amplified by Dungeons and Dragons, etc.  (Yes, I’m that old, and I am a geek).

3. Has a movie ever brought me to tears…?  Truth be told, almost all of them do nowadays.  I don’t cry at the sad stuff, though.  I tear up about kids achieving goals, the bittersweet feelings of a parent in seeing your kids succeed but knowing that means they need you less.  I channel the sappy stuff into my own life and it gets me.  I’m very proud of my own kids.  🙂  Also, really good music strikes an emotional chord with me.

4. If you were a dinosaur, which dinosaur do you think you’d be and why?  Well, using the accepted modern definition, I think I’d like to be a Raven.  Sociable, resourceful, curious, and playful.  If we’re going with the older dinosaur definition that doesn’t include modern birds – Regardless of my choice, I would be dead now, and that’s sad…. no thanks.

5. What will be the title of your autobiography?  I have no plans to write it, and if I did, I’d probably be embarrassed about it.  But I hope that I’d be able to look back and see “A Life Well Lived”.

Finally, I’m supposed to share a link to my own favorite post – but that’s REALLY a challenge.  I have developed distinct groups of followers that track me for Astronomy, for Outdoors Skills, for Photography.  My YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and WordPress/Email followers barely overlap, if at all (I encourage you to check out my other mediums, by the way…), and I’m not catering to anybody… I’m just “me”, so picking a FAVORITE is like choosing your favorite child.  I will highlight my most spontaneous post, the one that I wrote most from the gut, that time when Washington DC put schools on high alert because a bobcat escaped the zoo.  Only Facebook followers tended to pick up on it at the time!

SO, passing along the torch, there are a few bloggers that I’D like to nominate for this prestigious honor!  It’s a rule-breaking short list, partly because I haven’t been engaged with this community for very long, and partly because many of my favorites and those who have engaged me have already been nominated.  Making choices like this about people I don’t really know has been the most challenging part of writing this, but these bloggers appear philosophically similar to me, focused on a common theme, and their own local (very different) geographies.  They are sites that make me happy, that entertain, educate, and draw me in.  They may not be household names, but they’re sharing with the world in a positive way – and that deserves some attention!

Trash on the Monocacy
Hike Mt. Shasta
Adventuress On The Run
Little Adventures
East Coast Collective

No pressure folks, but if you choose to play along, read the rules below.  My questions are:

1. If you could live in any place, in any kind of dwelling, where would it be and why?

2. What type of music forms the soundtrack to your life?

3. Describe one thing you wish you were better at.

4. Dog or Cat?

5. What is the most important thing you’d like readers to learn, or experience, from your writing?

And finally, the rest of the rules…  Thanks for playing, thanks again to Planet Pailly, and find a way to “Get Out There”!  – flying-squirrel.org

Award Rules

  • Put the award logo on your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award (Okoto Enigma) and provide a link as well.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Nominate roughly 10 – 20 people for this award.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs.
  • Ask your nominees five questions.
  • Share a link to your best/favorite post that you’ve written.

Orienteering (Competition Style!)

I’ve always been a geek for maps.  As a kid, I once went through about a ream of paper drawing a road map of my hometown, from memory, as best I could.  At a scale that had roads drawn about a half-inch wide, this took a LOT of paper and a lot of room on the basement floor.  I was genuinely surprised my parents didn’t share my enthusiasm for the project – they shared their opinions as soon as they discovered what I was up to, which wasn’t until I came to them asking for more paper.

Maps are magical, in a way, for being able to symbolize the real world in miniature, but they also represent possibilities.  I could go to that mountaintop, that river…  And maps yield clarity on so many things – the history of warfare, of battles, and of more mundane things like cultural exchange and expansion of settlements, make SO much more sense when you understand the lay of the land.

DSC_1106So when I learned to use a compass and a map together, I was excited.  Later, I developed the same fascination with GPS.  Knowing how to use these tools is essential for anyone who wants to spend time in the outdoors, and I was proud, as a young Boy Scout, of being good at it.

But for all that, I’d never heard of doing it competitively, until I stumbled across a website advertising a “meet” reasonably nearby, organized by the Quantico Orienteering Club.  I convinced my sons, a few Scouts, and ultimately my wife (we did an Orienteering Meet on Mother’s Day!  I have the BEST WIFE EVER!!) to go check it out and see what it was all about.

The basics of orienteering involve:

  1. “Orienting” a map – generally a topographical map – by aligning it with the real world, using a compass and accounting for magnetic variation.  This has the effect of giving you a view of yourself on the map, if you zoomed way, way out.  If you were to draw a line between your position and a landmark on the map, you can look up along that line and see the actual landmark, in real life.  Pretty cool.
  2. EITHER, use compass bearings off visible landmarks in the real world to triangulate your actual position onto the map and figure out just where in the heck you are (a feat mostly replaced by GPS), OR
  3. Knowing where you are, figuring out the bearing and distance to where you want to go, and then using the compass as a guide and counting paces as you go, setting off cross-country to get there.

This is the basic idea, with additional tricks of mental and actual geometry thrown in to navigate around obstacles, over cliffs, across rivers, etc, and be able to pick up your course on the other side.

As it turns out, competitive orienteering resembles this… slightly.

DSC_1103The basic idea is the same – you’re given a map, with waypoints marked on it, and an associated list of waypoints with identifying features – a unique number, to verify you’d found the right one, and a general description of its location.  (“Beginner” courses use a description, while more advanced runs use a symbolic library to tell you things like “in the southwest corner of a thicket”).  The objective is to find those waypoints in the real world, marked by little flags, in numerical order, as fast as you can.  To prove you did it, you’re equipped with a little RF device called an “e-punch”, which you strap to a finger, and insert into a hole on a box at each waypoint, called a “control”, where the e-punch records your presence and elapsed time.  In the old days when I learned this, a control actually had a mechanical hole punch with a peculiar shape – a star, a moon, a lightning bolt – and you’d punch a card.  You had to manually verify when complete that you got the right shapes in the right order.  Now, the electronic e-punch verifies that AND your timing, and you just load it into a computer when complete.  Progress!!

DSC_1111What surprised me was the SPEED at which some of these competitors completed the course, most of them doing it while rarely, if ever, referring to a compass.  There was a lot of gut instinct and realtime verification of terrain and other features going on.  A trail crossing here, a creek and a powerline there…  Even when a compass DID come out, I was surprised to see competitive compasses that sort of vaguely indicated direction in swaths of about 30 degrees.  As in “Go generally that way”, not “follow a bearing of 241 degrees”.  I heard advice being shared by experienced racers – “you navigate to the FEATURE, not the CONTROL.”

There were seven courses at this event, ranging in complexity from “White” (short, with clear descriptions and easily visible controls) on the beginner end of the spectrum, up through Yellow, Orange, Brown, Green, and Red, to Blue (you’d better be prepared to run at least a half-marathon, through the woods, while finding hidden objects the size of a toaster).

DSC_1124As total noobs, my family was not in it to race, but to learn – we did Yellow (2.6 km, 10 controls).  One of the boys that came with us does adventure races with his dad (very cool, I might have to try that…) and so he and his dad both did solo races on a course appropriate to their skill level and endurance – Yellow for the son, Green for Dad.  And another Scout does this frequently as part of J-ROTC, so he was up for a challenge and chose Red.

On our Yellow course, we let our sons do the navigation.  My wife and I followed.  There was very little running.  And true to the spirit of the event, we didn’t use the compass much.  There were a couple confusing trail junctions where the boys did a quick map alignment before choosing a direction, and there were a couple off-trail sections where reference to the compass on a regular basis was needed to keep on a true course – but even then, we were trying to intersect a feature (a trail, creek, or powerline cut), and not nail the control dead-on.

DSC_1118At one point, we got lost for a good 40 minutes… While chasing down control number 6, the boys had a good plan to overshoot the direct course a bit and use a marked trail intersection to angle back to it.  However, the “trail” didn’t exist, and we overshot by (easily) a half-mile before the boys realized it.  This prompted a series of cross-country off-trail maneuvers that eventually drove us back to the easily-recognizable powerline, but another 5 minutes figuring out just where along that line we were.  This, in and of itself, was a great experience, and one I was glad to watch the boys handle.  Rationally thinking through the “I know I’m generally here in an area the size of a quarter, but how can I verify and navigate down to something the size of a pinhead” challenge that getting lost in the woods creates is a WONDERFUL learning experience disguised as fun.

DSC_1125We ultimately walked 4 miles on a 2.6km (~1.5 mile) course, and took 1 hour, 40 minutes (1:40) to finish.  As my wife said, “we saw a lot more of this park than we were supposed to.”  To our surprise, that earned us 5th place out of 12!  Seems that many, in their haste, either logged the WRONG point, or missed finding one altogether.  We found all ten controls, so slow and steady wasn’t so bad.  Our friend on Yellow smoked us with a 40 minute time, beating us by an hour and pulling in 2nd place.  First place beat him by only 4 minutes.

Our J-ROTC friend?  He finished 3:35 after he started, exhausted, having gone several times farther than the 7.8km straight-line course, and saying “that was the hardest course I’ve ever run”.

The Verdict – Despite getting lost at one point, this was really cool.  The boys had a good time, I really enjoyed it.  Even my wife had a nice day walking in the woods (and admitting the boys were better with map and compass than she thought they’d be).  This was a great way to hone skills, to deal with mistakes, to do some critical thinking and decision making with limited information – and it was a whole lot of fun!

Highly recommended if you get the chance!  Find an Orienteering Club near you and give it a try!

Get Out There!

Troy

flying-squirrel.org

 

Astronomy: Week of 5/21/17 (Globs!)

There’s nothing particularly “new” in the sky this week.  No events with critical timing, no new comets or other discoveries (although there is apparently a new Supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy…)

So, I got a little adventurous with the camera, and pulled out the telescope for followup.  The prey – Globular Clusters!

I’ve talked some about open clusters (Pleiades, Hyades, Coma Berenices, the Beehive…), but Globs are different.  Relics of an ancient past, globulars lie outside the galaxy, in a roughly spherical pattern like some sort of gigantic Oort Cloud on a galactic scale.  Rather than being a scattered collection of a few hundred stars, the globulars are densely packed, roughly spherical collections of up to a million or more.  They are believed to be relics of our galaxy’s birth – leftovers from a day when our galaxy was an irregular cloud of dust and star-producing regions.  As angular momentum in that cloud increased, much of the material spun in, and was flattened into the galactic disk.  The stars on the periphery missed the memo, and stayed put, instead clumping toward each other.  The stars in these clusters are truly ancient – 10 billion years, or more, old.

Bootes-Hercules, StellariumLast night was my first try, so I went hunting for the brightest globular in the northern sky, Messier 13, the Great Cluster of Hercules.  Hercules, like so many other constellations representing people, is essentially a trapezoid, called “The Keystone” in Hercules’ case, with arms and legs – and this arrangement looks particularly ready for action!  The Stellarium screenshot here shows its position, facing east.  It’s just below (east) of Bootes (which we’ve talked about a lot!) and the semi-circle of Corona Borealis.  M13 is halfway between the bright stars Arcturus and Vega, about a hand-width below comet Johnson.

Unlike Johnson, M13 is faintly visible to the naked eye, though that’s only true on a really dark night.  Last night I was trying to spot it through scattered clouds, and the light pollution and reflections of ground light off the clouds made it impossible to see without binoculars.  I took a wide-field DSLR shot which gives you a good impression of the binocular view.  The stars at the bottom of this shot, just above the cloud, form the top of Hercules’s Keystone, and M13 is about a third of the way along this line from left to right.  It almost looks like a tailless, compact comet.  There’s something distinctly un-star-like about this object.

Great Cluster Hercules, M13.jpgNow, I’m not set up for photography through my telescope, but pulling out the 6″ reflector, I was able to achieve something like the below (courtesy NASA).  You can’t see each of the 300,000 or so stars, but WOW.  My 6″ couldn’t quite achieve this degree of resolution, but the effect was similar.

The_Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules_-_M13

It’s hard to imagine being the first to have taken some magnification to that fuzzy spot in Hercules and to have realized what it was.  Edmund Halley is credited with that feat in 1714, solving the mystery of why this “comet” never moved.  Today, we can see much more, of course.  I’ll leave you with a shot of M13’s core, taken by Hubble.

Hope you enjoyed this little foray into reachable deep-sky objects.  We will soon have evening views of the Milky Way’s core, and there are many targets such as this to pursue, even with a small telescope!

Get Out There!

Troy

flying-squirrel.org

Hubble-Heart_of_M13_Hercules_Globular_Cluster

Core of Messier 13, the Great Cluster of Hercules, via Hubble (NASA – public domain)

We Have Chicks!

I wrote a couple weeks back about a Carolina Wren that had decided to nest in a forgotten (by me) nest box left sitting on my grill.  Five eggs were laid in a two-day period, April 30-May 1.

I’ll admit, we’ve been careless and forget she’s there (she’s at waist height on my deck, it’s kinda hard to avoid her) – and up until now, every time you walk by, she’d fly out to a nearby tree and scold.

DSC_1137Well, I got home from work on Tuesday (May 16th) and the boys reported we had three chicks and an unhatched egg.  At least, that’s what they could see.  By Wednesday – no eggs, just a pile of chicks.  And I’ll be honest I can’t count them, due to a combination of low light and a tangle of beaks, legs, skin and fluff.  I hope all 5 made it.

Interesting, to me at least, is that mom will not leave her nest when you walk by anymore.  She’ll sit there and stare at me, a marked change in behavior that clearly indicates the change from incubation, to raising young.  The only way I got the picture of the chicks was to notice her fly out and up to the rooftop for an evening song.

DSC_1136

Good Mama, protecting the brood

Eggs took 16 days to hatch.  It’s going to get crowded in there REALLY soon!

Get Out There

Troy

flying-squirrel.org

James River Heritage Trail (Blackwater Creek), Lynchburg, VA

The James River Heritage Trail system, in downtown Lynchburg, VA, is actually a collection of five interconnected rail-to-trail bikeways that make up 9.5 miles of trail system in and around the Blackwater Creek Natural Area, the riverfront area in downtown Lynchburg, and Percival’s Island.  All these trails offer a pleasant escape while mingling with active railroads and historical relics of the old Norfolk and Western Railroad.  Like most rail trails, the path is essentially flat with a very slight climb uphill going away from the river.  Most sections are paved, except where indicated below.

GPS data from a recent trip, and waypoints marking ends of the fairly intuitive un-travelled sections, can be found here.

Blackwater Creek Bikeway

DSC02646Starting from the west end, the Blackwater Creek section begins at the Ed Page trailhead on Langhorne Road, with ample parking and a nice park and flower garden, and restrooms.  From here, the paved trail goes 3 miles to the James River, generally following the path of Blackwater Creek and through several steep cuts, so that the trail passes through a notch with steep cliffs on both sides.

About one mile in, the trail passes another parking area and access point at Randolph Place.

A mile later, the trail passes a striking viewpoint as it crosses under a high steel trestle (still in use by Norfolk Southern), while almost simultaneously crossing a bridge across a gorge with Blackwater Creek far below.  Almost immediately afterwards, the trail crosses through an intersection with the Kemper Station Trail, and the Point of Honor Trail, described below.

DSC02636Shortly after this, the trail passes through the Hollins Tunnel.  This narrow curved tunnel was blasted out of solid rock, and is almost a half mile long, lit, and almost always wet and drippy with water seeping through the ceiling.  The tunnel is a highlight!

After the tunnel, the trail continues its journey downhill until reaching the current Norfolk-Southern tracks at Jefferson Street along the James River waterfront and an intersection with the Point of Honor Trail.  At this point if becomes the Riverwalk.

Kemper Station Trail

DSC02643This section is a paved spur, traversing about a mile from the Blackwater section up a tributary stream valley and paralleling the active tracks that use the high trestle.  The path ends at the Kemper Street Station, an Amtrak stop.  Parking and access are available at the station.

 

Point of Honor Trail

DSC02661This is a 1.75 mile stretch that bypasses the Hollins Tunnel by descending (via a steep, blind S-turn) into the creek valley and following the Blackwater Creek all the way to the River and re-connecting with the Blackwater Trail at that point.

The scenic highlight on this section is the Hollins Mill Dam, where another park provides parking and vehicle access.  The dam is about 15-feet tall with a broad spillway.  The trail crosses the creek on a low-water bridge below the dam, passing under a road bridge as it continues downstream.  Occasionally, the creek is high enough that this low-water passage is underwater – it can be bypassed by riding over the road bridge to rejoin the trail on the other side.

Downstream of the dam, the trail is straight and essentially flat.  Blackwater Trail can be seen paralleling the stream a little higher across the creek.  Just before ending, the trail crosses Blackwater Creek on a steel arched bridge and reconnects with the Blackwater Trail just before its terminus downtown.

Riverwalk

This section is a mile long, and the most ambiguous.  On one hand, it can be followed as a series of short road and sidewalk runs through downtown.  The actual trail connects parking lots along a gravel bikeway past greenspace and a few restaurants in old converted railroad buildings (e.g. the Depot Grille) and industrial warehouses.  Either way, the trail uses Washington Street to cross active railroad tracks and intersect with the Percival’s Island Trail.  To the right, there is another parking lot and access point.  To the left, the trail goes to Percival’s Island.

Percival’s Island Trail

From the parking lot off Washington Street, this paved trail goes upstream, then across an old railroad bridge to a long slender island – Percival’s Island – in the middle of the James River.  The bridge has been augmented with a wooden viewing platform in mid-channel offering views of the river and downtown Lynchburg.

Percival’s Island is a mile long, and used to be completely occupied by Norfolk and Western rail yards and service facilities.  Old relics, such as an engine servicing pit, still hide in the woods just off trail.

At the eastern end of the island, the trail uses another old railroad bridge to cross to the east/north side of the river, then follows the James for another 1.25 miles before dead-ending just past its final road access at Fertilizer Road.

 

Combined, this trail system offers a lot of scenic opportunities of different lengths.  My sons, my father and I recently did a trip from the Percival’s Island access up the Riverwalk and Blackwater all the way to the Ed Page terminus, then back down along the Point of Honor Trail to the start point, with a quick detour just across the bridge to the island.  Total length for us was 8.75 miles, and a lovely afternoon!

Get Out There

Troy

flying-squirrel.org

Astronomy, Week of 5/14/17 (Yes, Another Comet!)

There is another binocular comet gracing our night skies, and this may be the last one of the year.  It’s hovering just below naked-eye brightness at the moment, but it’s high in the evening sky (none of this early pre-dawn nonsense), in Bootes, between Arcturus and the Big Dipper, very close to where Comet 45P was back in February.  This time, I was actually able to get a picture of it BEFORE writing about it!

Comet C-2015 V2 Johnson, Labelled.jpgComet C/2015 V2 Johnson is, like others this year, glowing green, and with more powerful telescopes you may be able to see TWO tails – a stubby bright dust tail, and a gas tail driven by solar wind that is at right angles to the dust tail, long and slender.  The comet will be moving quickly south, almost parallel to the horizon, through May and early June.  (Sky and Telescope has a good chart here.)

The shot above was taken last night with just a Nikon DSLR, and even with the low resolution you can make out a stubby tail headed up and left.  The glow at lower right of the frame is the effect of the almost-rising gibbous moon, and the two bright stars in that glow are the edge of the Northern Crown, Corona Borealis.

That reminds me – as promised, a brief discussion of newly visible constellations is in order.  The next Zodiac constellation (after Leo) is now high enough to be readily visible after sunset, though it suffers from having few bright stars and no easily recognizable asterisms.  Virgo is marked most easily by the bright star, Spica, and currently, Jupiter, which is hanging almost directly above it.  Virgo’s head is near Leo’s tail, and Spica marks the midpoint of the constellation, usually marking her left hand (right, as you look at her).

Northeast Spring SkyBootes, the herdsman, you recall, is the large kite-shaped constellation that bridges the gap between Virgo’s waist and the handle of the Big Dipper, aka Ursa Major’s Tail.  You can use the Big Dipper’s arc to find both – “Arc to Arcturus” (in Bootes), then “Spike to Spica” along the same trajectory.  Of course, with Jupiter nearby, Spica may not require all that leaping from Ursa Major.

Coma Berenices

Coma Cluster in Coma Berenices (DSLR, ISO 3200, stacked 5-second exposures)

Below (East) of Bootes is a semi-circle of stars that make up Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown.  Above (west), and near Virgo’s head and Leo’s rear haunches, is a mostly-dark patch with a beautiful open cluster, Coma Berenices, or “Berenice’s Hair”.  This area doesn’t have much in it – but point a pair of binoculars toward this region and the sky pops with countless stars in a beautiful, if dim, cluster.

 

Hopefully you can get a look at both Coma Berenices, and Comet Johnson this week.  Don’t overlook Jupiter either – and by now we’re less than a month from Saturn’s opposition, so we can look forward to that beautiful planet before summer’s end.

Get Out There!

Troy

flying-squirrel.org

 

 

 

May Flowers Bring… Berries!

With apologies to those who follow my photo submissions – I know Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers see my photos as a matter of course, but WordPress and email subscribers probably don’t, due to a quirk of what gets pushed and how.

This week I’ve been advertising flowers, and the berries they will produce!  Thought I’d share a little more on that, since it’s early May, and many of the berry plants we’ll be searching for later this summer are blooming –  I like to take note NOW, so that when things ripen up later in the year, I can beat the birds and other animals to at least some of them.

Huckleberries

DSC_1014“Huckleberry” means different things in different regions, but basically refers to a set of wild blueberry species that produce bell-shaped white flowers like this in May, and then each flower produces a single berry sometime between June and August, depending on specific species, climate and soil conditions.  The berries range from dark red through blue to a deep almost-black glossy purple, and taste anywhere from tart like a cranberry, through blueberry sweet.  The bushes are about 2 feet high, with slightly pointed oval leaves about 2-2.5″ long.  Fortunately, my back yard is full of them – the understory is mostly holly and huckleberry!  Wild berry pancakes are in my future!

Blackberries

20170509_080525-cropBlackberries are a bramble, a thorny, weedy plant that loves waste ground – sunny overgrown fields, fence rows, roadsides.  Right now you can see splashes of color – little white to pink, five-petaled flowers with a mess of spots and pink stamens in the middle.  The flowers (and later berries) grow in clusters from one stem, and the plants are like the ones in this picture, often shouldering their way through other plants, draped over other bushes, and generally mingled with something non-blackberry.  Come back in late June to mid-July, and there will be a treat here, if the birds don’t get there first!

Yellow Poplar

(aka Tulip Poplar or Tulip Tree)   I’ve been surprised to learn how many people don’t know what these are.  They are the big showy flowers of the Tulip Tree, aka Tulip Poplar, or Yellow Poplar.  And no you can’t eat them, but they’re out now and I just thought I’d throw them in the mix.

IMG_0917The trees are blooming now, but the flowers only tend to show up on parts of the tree with access to direct sunlight.  So unless you have a big leafy poplar at the edge of a clearing (not common), all the flowers are high in the canopy, and you don’t see them until wind breaks them loose or the spent petals break off and come down one by one.

Get Out There

Troy

flying-squirrel.org