Sunday, June 2, 2019

Moonwort - A very rare fern

It was 55 degrees at 7:30 a.m. and cloudy.

Don Lubin, our local fern expert and Newton Conservators Advisor had contacted me to let me know that the rare moonwort was again blooming at Nahanton Park along Florries path.

We saw it in 2015, 2016 and 2017, but not in 2018. So it was with much excitement that I headed over this morning.

Don had given me instructions on where to find it which amounted to the most fun scavenger hunt I ever had.

On arriving at the park, I was met by two female does. They were so beautiful, but of course, quite frightened of me. I was barely able to get a photo when they both ran off with their white tails high in the air.

I went straight to the river to see if I could find the moonwort. It took me about 1/2 hour or so, but eventually the clues that Don gave me finally began to make sense and all of a sudden, there it was! It's a very strange fern that lives most of it's life underground. When it appears, it will have a couple of leaves, but is mostly an approximately 8" stalk with sporophylls and sporangia. The reproductive spores on top are not visible to the naked eye.

In the past, we have had a small cluster of moonworts, but Don had kept track of where it was on his GPS and there is a large tree down on exactly the spot where moonwort had been spotted before. We weren't sure if that would prevent the moonwort from being able to come up, but luckily, this specimen appeared recently.

We are thankful to Don for having discovered this rare treat at Nahanton Park.

Late migrants and more

An early morning walk through Nahanton Park last Friday was quite productive -- 45 species of birds, including this Magnolia Warbler in trees along the Woodcock Meadow --

and this female Chestnut-sided Warbler, at the soccer field traffic circle. 
These birds were camera shy, but not as shy as the Black-billed Cuckoo seen briefly at Woodcock Meadow, or the Willow Flycatcher heard in the wet woods west of of the Upper Gardens.

A Scarlet Tanager was present, as well as Rose-breasted Grosbeak -- though I heard just one grosbeak, strangely enough.

The Tree Swallow population seemed to have recovered somewhat from the devastating wet weather earlier in the month.