Woodland Pinedrops: Pterospora andromedea

Earlier this summer we ran across a peculiar plant making its way up through the earth in the forest. A strange striped asparagus? No Woodland Pinedrops: Pterospora andromeda.

According to Wikipedia “Like all members of the Monotriopoidiae , Pterospora andromedea lacks chlorophyll (trace amounts have been identified, but not enough to provide energy for the plant or to color it. Plants exist for most of their life as a mass of brittle, but fleshy, roots. They live in a parasitic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, in which plants derive all their carbon from their associated fungus, but the relationship is not yet well understood.”

This makes it similar to several of the orchids we have encountered along the trail.

Now that summer has passed and fall is in the air the plant looks like this.

Somewhat like a small tree full of small pumpkins decorating the autumn forest.

A dragonflies flight

Relentlessly buzzing and zooming while patrolling his small pond a dragonflies flight is something to behold.

This patch of pond must have been a treasure worth holding onto as anyone who dare flew into his view was quickly escorted away with a swift deliberate attack. As he flew head on into the camera we got a quick a cursory glance then he was gone.

 

Under her wing

Upon first glance there was something a bit odd, a bit unusual about this female Ruffed Grouse. She just seemed a bit bigger, a bit puffed out compared to other females we have seen. It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on as you can only keep a clutch of fidgety Ruffed Grouse chicks still and under wraps for so long.

At first these little guys were just peeking out from under Mom’s wing a little cautious but ever so curious.

Yet within a minute or two they began to emerge from under cover.

Then in the blink of an eye they were darting out and into the tall grasses in search of a meal and quickly disappearing from sight.

We counted six little grouse emerge from under mom’s wings that morning. Each darting off into the cover of the grasses and the whole gang disappearing just as quick as they appeared.

More birds and berries

The Chokecherries were the big hit on the menu this week. Just like the Western Tanager family a group of American Robins found them to their liking as well.

In fact they were head twistingly irresistible.

It’s amazing to watch them slurp them down in a single gulp and man the seeds in chokecherries are large.

Just like the Tanager family we watched earlier in the week the adults took time demonstrating where and how to eat this fall treat.

Parting ways

Late summer is always a bit of a down time for birders living in the more northern reaches. A time when the forest goes eerily silent and a feeling of loss seems to enter your heart. Thus it was a wonderful surprise to see this Warbling Vireo hop into plain sight a few days ago. While they look a bit low keyed they are prolific singers who had graced our forests with their songs most of June and early July. Then silence.

Birds and berries

Just a week or so ago we noticed a flurry of activity in the serviceberry and chokecherry bushes nearby as family of Western Tanagers moved back and forth between the two. It appeared that on this day the fledglings were being taught an invaluable lesson and getting a good meal as the result. While the male seemed to fly in and out of the bushes quickly picking a berry and flying up into a Douglas Fir tree to consume his meal mom gathered the two young ones and showed them how it was done.

A fledgling taking stock of the work ahead.

While the fruit was abundant the picking was not always easy and at times a bit of aerial acrobatics was required as mom show the kids how it was done.

As much of the natural landscape disappears it is evident that we need to consider other species in how we landscape our yards and what better way than by planting some berry producing shrubs and trees for the birds. This article contains just a few suggestions that might help.