Sanderlings (center, and larger birds pictured) are one of the few species of shorebirds (Dunlin included) present on New England beaches throughout the white season. In fact, Sanderings can be found on most any beach on earth, where they can be seen running back-and-forth with crashing waves as they feed on various invertebrates. Classified in the genus Calidris, Sanderlings (SAND, in 4-letter bird code) are relatives of Semi-palmated Sandpipers, who are the smaller birds pictured. This mixed flock was resting on a Biddeford Pool beach.
Which of the following plant genera is not represented in the photo above? (Photo taken 10/27/2013 in Kennebunkport, Maine.)
When you are ready, scroll down for the answer…
A is... Correct! The leaves pictured are all simple, whereas trees of the genus Carya (Hickories) have pinnately compound leaves.
B is... incorrect. The top left leaf belongs to Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
C is... incorrect. The bottom right leaf belongs to Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum).
D is... incorrect. The bottom left leaf belongs to Big-toothed Aspen (Populus grandidentata).
Note: In case you're wondering, the remaining leaf (top right) belongs to Black Cherry (Prunus serotina).
I enjoy looking closely at details to nail down a positive species-level identification (see my Aster ID post), but sometimes specificity is best left to professional botanists. According to GoBotany, the Hawthorns (genus Crataegus) comprise "the second largest number of species of any genus of vascular plants in New England" with nearly 50 difficult-to-differentiate kinds. Luckily, sorting them out to the species level is not required to forage them responsibly -- according to Arthur Haines, "their uses are similar (though some species have larger flowers and fruits than others)."*
Prior to this fall, I hadn't encountered many fruit-filled hawthorns, but I happened to notice this planted tree outside the library where I work. The young leaves, along with the flowers and fruit, are said to be edible and high in antioxidants. Hawthorns are also well-known heart tonics. The only way I've tried this plant, aside from a few raw fruits, is as an alcohol extraction of purchased dried fruit. Herbalist Deb Soule of Avena Botanicals shares more about the gifts of Hawthorn in the video below.
*Ancestral Plants (2010), page 70.
This particular Lance-leaved American-aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum) has proven to be a popular spot for insects active in October. Wasps, butterflies, bees, bee-mimic hoverflies, and this showy moth called a Celery Looper (Anagrapha falcifera) have all sipped nectar from this late-blooming wildflower located in Wells, Maine. (Photo taken 10/17/13)
In New England, there are three species of small, similar-looking sandpipers known collectively as peeps. Least Sandpipers, who are indeed the smallest peeps, tend to outnumber the other two at inland locations. Along the coast, Semipalmated Sandpipers (pictured above) usually outnumber Leasts, and Western Sandpipers are typically a distant third in abundance.
The term palmated means webbed, so, as you would expect, this species has toes connected by partial webbing. I often refer to these birds in short as Semi-sands. The nickname Semi-pals wouldn't differentiate them from Semipalmated Plovers, who can be called Semi-ploves for short.