An Icy World

It's frost season in Maine—that chilly interlude between mid-fall and snow fall. Frost is not frozen dew; it is is water vapor that has condensed directly into ice. Much larger frost crystals (some of them up to six inches in length) are known as hoar frost, from an Old English word that was used to describe gray hair, especially in the form of a long beard. Here are a few shots from a Thanksgiving-week morning walk through a world that had been transformed overnight by frost and would be transformed again as soon as the sunlight hit it. A world of ephemeral art.

Frosted stone or icy Alp?

One of my favorites—fall meets winter.

Tall roadside grass—reminded me of the rock weed in our low-tide zone.

I liked the way the ice crystals stood out on this leaf.

Here the frost illuminates the vein structure.

Recent Sights


1) A cattle egret like the one above was spotted in Seal Harbor two weeks ago. It should have been in the deep South by this time of year. As Mount Desert Island naturalist Ruth Grierson noted in the Islander newspaper, the bird's migration may have been delayed by Hurricane Sandy.

2) A towering American chestnut tree in Hebron, Maine, was measured last week and found to be 95 feet tall, making it the tallest known chestnut growing in the tree's native range, from Maine to Mississippi. The American chestnut was once called the redwood of the East before a blight virtually wiped it out in the middle of the 20th century. It's encouraging to hear that at least one has persevered and prospered. (Side note: On a recent visit to naturalist Bernd Heinrich's cabin in western Maine we discovered that Bernd has an attachment to American chestnut trees and planted some on his land a quarter century ago. They are now large and thriving, and animals have spread the nuts to other parts of the property, so the trees are multiplying.)

Bernd opening one of the American chestnuts at his cabin.

3) Two seals rescued and rehabilitated by the great folks at Allied Whale were released this month on the beach at Seal Harbor. One (rescued in Stonington) had been nicknamed Fedelini and the other (rescued in Cape Elizabeth) had been dubbed Conchigliani. We've never seen a seal—not even one that wasn't named after a type of pasta—swimming in the harbor at Seal Harbor, but Allied Whale often uses the beach, which is only a few hundred yards from The Naturalist's Notebook, to return the marine mammals to the wild. We hope to be on hand for the next release, whenever that may be.

No, the deer outside the Pond House wasn’t eating popovers (inside joke).

4) Now that the Jordan Pond House restaurant in Acadia National Park is closed for the winter, the wildlife has reclaimed the grounds. Pamelia and I saw the deer below in the darkness at the end of a hike around the pond.

Thanks... all of you who came to the Notebook for our Thanksgiving weekend opening. In response to requests, we've decided to open again for several days just before Christmas—roughly the 21st to the 23rd. We'll announce the exact dates soon.

For those of you who didn’t see this shot on our Facebook page, here’s Marvel, the Welsh corgi who came by the Notebook on the day after Thanksgiving and fell asleep by my feet at the checkout desk.

Pamelia and I never know what sort of conversations we’ll get into with Notebook visitors, who are a fun and fascinating lot. Here one of them is showing me her library card from Greenland. It’s written in Greenlandic, an Inuit language. Among the other topics of discussions were whether pigs have hypothalamus glands, how to create a solar clock, why chlorophyl is green and how little selenium there is in Maine’s soil.

Another shot for those of you who didn’t see the news on our Facebook page: Notebook team members Virginia Brooks and Eli Mellen got married on Nov. 19 at Little Long Pond in Seal Harbor. They’re a perfectly matched couple and their wedding—on a brisk, sunny Maine day—was wonderfully natural. (Coincidentally, two former Notebook team members, Anne Mittnacht and Pat Johnson, are getting married in 2013. We’re on a streak!)

Answer to the Last Puzzler The nine-banded armadillo is the animal that almost always gives birth to identical quadruplets. The video below is a a sort of Armadillos 101.

Today's Puzzler One chemical element makes up almost half of the Earth's crust. Which one?

a) silicon b) oxygen c) iron