Across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge: 3

Technology Report

dispenser 1Our first night on the road out from Reykjavík, I encountered this perplexing soap/shampoo dispenser with no visible affordances. Nothing to click or push.

dispenser 2I figured out that the one latchy thing on the bottom released it from its holder.

dispenser 3It still took a couple of minutes for it to dawn on me that you’re supposed to squeeze the entire container to get the gel to come out.


polisher toppolisher frontI saw shoe polishers in a couple of places, but nothing so vintage as this example in the Hotel Holt.


crampons 2crampons 1Crampons let you climb the the glacier. They strap on to your hiking boots with this intricate five-step process that our guide “S” explained.

crampons 3And they work! Here we are after a climb of 200m up Sólheimajökull.


GravelinesSigns in Reyðarfjörður honor French fisherfolk who once worked these waters.


white on bluedecaying white on redBack in Reykjavík, I found a couple of old-school building-mounted street name signs.

standardBut what I mostly saw were these no-nonsense, very legible signs. Out in the country, signs at crossroads (no pic) are rather low-slung. They wouldn’t look out of place next to an airport runway.


yellowLighthouses in Reykjavík are rather pedestrian, alas.

Across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge: 1

I’m back from a week traveling in Iceland, most of my time spent on a 19-seater minibus making a three-quarter turn around the island from Reykjavík to Akureyri.

Birds Report

I’m pleased with the results from my birding, considering that our guide Elis made only a couple brief stops specifically to look at birds. Fourteen lifers and 28 species altogether. Just a few photographic records: Greylag Goose (Anser anser) and Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) in Tjörnin hard by Reykjavík’s city hall, and Black-legged Kittiwake Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialus), photographed at Skogafoss.

foldedThe photo opportunities for the kittiwakes were better later in the day at Reynisfjara, but I was looking at other things at the time, like my first Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) nesting on the cliffs.

wide viewcloserAs we were hotelling nearby, I had the chance to bird the other side of the mountain the next morning. In glorious solitude. The sea stacks, Reynisdrangar, are rather birdy albeit distant.

bitsNot a new bird for me, but I got excellent up close looks at Arctic Terns (Sterna paradisaea) perched up on the bergy bits in Jökulsárlón.

White Wagtails (Motacilla alba) seemed to be ubiquitous; I heard them in some quite inhospitable places.

Easiest life bird was a Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) outside my hotel room window in downtown Reykjavík. I worked hardest keying out Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritimus) on the beach along Eiðsgrandi.

Mason and Bailey: 1

scouting 1scouting 2Scouting Rachel Carson Conservation Park for a nature walk. I think we’ll spend a good amount of time in the meadow, so long as something is still happening in September (persimmons ripening, maybe?). And then maybe a quick jaunt through the woods to Hawlings River.

I spent too much time trying to figure out and photographing the Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis ssp. astynanax) that I submitted to iNaturalist. At the pond, most of the Green Frogs (Lithobates clamitans) hopped in the water but one guy seemed to think he was invisible.

Butterflies at Little Bennett Regional Park

on the lookoutTom Stock led a walk to several meadow-y and glade-y spots in Little Bennett Regional Park, most of them along Clarksburg Road. Sunny day, not beastly hot, a breeze from time to time.

I got some good looks at butterflies that I have seen before (some of them only once or twice), like Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) and Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) and Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus). No pics for the three lifers that I saw on the trip: Northern Broken-Dash (Wallengrenia egeremet), Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris), and American Snout (Libytheana carinenta).

Rock Creek project: 2

Today’s walk went off pretty darn well. Pulling into the parking lot, I feared that there would not be sufficient spaces for my guests, but the second lot at the Nature Center was quite open.

As people were arriving, I was watching a House Finch in a treetop when Tracie called out, “hey, isn’t that a turkey?” Later, I happened to mention our Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) sighting to the interpreter in the Nature Center, and she was impressed. She said that she hadn’t seen one in the park in her 2+ years there.

Several of the wildflowers that I had scouted along the stream bank had gone by. We had one little remnant patch of Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum). But on the whole, a success. I got to introduce the group to a couple of my favorites, and the Bearcorn (Conopholis americana) patch along Ross Drive was well received (it was vigorously flowering two weeks ago).

My time management was good; we got around in 2:00. We were paced by Cosmo the dog. Alas, I did miss the turnout for Fort De Russy on the way back.

bridge stopNear the Fort De Russy site is a patch of what I’m pretty sure is Umbrella Magnolia (Magnolia tripetala). (Both it and M. macrophylla are on the park’s species checklist.)

New York getaway 2019

Snaps from a long weekend in New York.

serriedIt turns out that my hotel is in the flower district of Chelsea. A nicer streetscape look, when compared to most of the residential streets, which were covered in dead Christmas trees.

no parkingHopes dashed! The Park is only a restaurant.

openThis Second Avenue subway is apparently really a thing now.

red hatThe reflections from the shop window and the strange color cast—I claim artistic license. Who knew that Stetson makes a red hat?

simpleSometimes all you need is to hang out your shingle.

Chapman State Park

beefyyugeI joined the group making a solstice celebration walk at Maryland’s Chapman State Park—more of a bushwhack, truth be told, with Rod Simmons at the head of the line. Although I can’t recommend him as a trip leader based on this experience, he did point out some huge individuals of familiar tree species in this old-growth woods. For instance, Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) at left, with a trunk as wide as my hand, and an oak-sized Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) at right.


destinationCherrybark Oak (Quercus pagoda) was a target species, and Rod delivered.

Mason Neck

Jim McGlone and Rita Urbanski led walks on Mason Neck for Fairfax Master Naturalists. Rita focused on wetland adaptations, while Jim workshopped basic tree ID with the class. He mentioned the economic value of Quercus alba in cooperage, particularly with respect to aging wines and whiskeys. Planks made from red oaks can’t be made watertight, unlike white oak lumber.

probably verticillataHe pointed out a winterberry in fruit, Ilex verticillata (we’re out of range for I. laevigata),

still learning: onestill learning: twoas well as a jinx plant that I cannot form a good search image for, serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.). I’ll keep trying.

Jim also noted a native Euonymus that had already burst.

A mystery: 15

hiding in the woodTovi Lehmann led a fungus walk centered on the nature center in Rock Creek Park on a very windy Sunday morning. We found some interesting stuff: Mycena sheltered in a well-decayed log and stump.

bear itLentinellus ursinis, with its serrate gills.

almost missed itAlso long-persisting, Picipes badius.

We talked about the associations among Cerrena unicolor (Mossy Maze Polypore), a wood-boring wasp (Tremex columba), and an ichneumonid parasite of the wasp (Megarhyssa spp.). Now, we found Cerrena growing on a log with two species of Stereum, including S. ostrea. But only the Cerrena was covered with algae, a common sight. Tovi didn’t have an answer to my question about why the algae preferentially used Cerrena as a substrate.

Ellanor C. Lawrence Park botany and ichthyology

new to meCharles Smith led the botany basics workshop at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park for Fairfax Master Naturalists. (I studied the eastern section of this park for a class in 2014.) We met a lot of old friends from the plant world. Charles pointed out a non-native invasive that I had not seen before, Small Carpetgrass (apt name, that) (Arthraxon hispidus).

In the meadow, Charles pointed out Beaked Panicgrass (Panicum anceps). I need to look at this plant a few more times before I can grok it. A tip for learning sumacs: fruits hang down from Winged Sumac.

"what good looks like"On the west side of Walney Road, we did a very short ascent of the Ridge Trail to a patch of woods that has been left alone by White-tailed Deer. Charles describes this view a “what a good forest looks like.”

the worksIn the afternoon, Chris Ruck and his team electrofished a short reach of Big Rocky Run. Again, this was not a complete, protocol-compliant survey, but rather some cherry-picking so that we could see what species could be found in the stream. Forgive me for geeking out on the equipment, but it’s pretty cool.

working downstreamnet 'imA circuit is established between the anode, the pole in Danielle’s right hand, and the cathode, the cable in her right hand. Fish in the water are stunned, and can be scooped up in a net for study, as Chris is doing in the image at right. Voltage and other electrical characteristics can be adjusted for water conditions. You want rubberized waders for this job; if you’re wearing breathable waders, you will probably feel an unpleasant tingle, or worse.

waiting to be keyed outSome of the catch, ready for identification.

pretty darterlook on the sunny sideWe turned up 13 of a possible 20 species or so, according to Chris’s accounts. We spent a lot of time with the keys and the minnow representatives (family Cyprinidae). A little easier to ID were these Fantail Darters (Etheostoma flabellare) at left, and these four sunfish species (at right).

Huntley Meadows herps and birds

mystery partly solvedI got a leg up on understanding the mystery yellow flower that I’ve seen blooming in the marsh. According to the trip co-leader, Alonso Abugattas, it’s an aggressive non-native water-primrose. I would like to come back and check it more closely, but if he’s correct that it’s the non-native, that would make it Ludwigia grandiflora ssp. hexapetala.

surprise 1asurprise 1bThe surprise plant was Common Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). I’ve looked out from the tower many a time but never at a time when I could see these trees in fruit.

cute newtWe were trying to focus on herps, but the plants and insects caught our attention, too. Alonso found a few Eastern Red-backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus).

Co-leader Mary Benger showed us the birds to be found. A couple of shorebirds passing through, a handful of Great Egrets. Red-headed Woodpecker made an appearance.

Saint Louis art & tech crawl

I attended the Strange Loop conference in St. Louis this past week. I got a little time to have a look at the city, which I haven’t seen since I visited my departed friend Jim Wilson in University City many years ago. Ted Drewes is still there, although you can buy a concrete from a vending machine in the airport now.

faded oneI found another fallout shelter sign, this one exposed to the weather and badly faded.

texture and shinelined upRichard Serra’s quadrilateral Twain is not in great condition, and the landscaping around it is a bit lumpy and wild (perhaps by design?), but this iridescence caught my eye. And the framing of the courts building across the street is too perfect to have happened by chance.

fancy topcotta cottaI was sitting in the hotel, eating my breakfast, idly looking out the window, and I spotted a rather fancy looking building a few blocks away. “Let’s take a closer look,” I thought. “That looks interesting.” Oh, yeah. It’s the Wainwright Building.

car 4007I spent a little time birding for the Saint Louis specialty, unsuccessfully, alas. But I did add a light rail system to my list.

double archI found the arch, too! This pair of barrel-vaulted tunnels had been abandoned, but were repurposed by MetroLink. This is the south end of the 8th and Pine station.