Field Trip in Winter

I’m taking a winter botany class through adult education this month. One of our walks was  along Mink Brook, in Hanover, NH. As our class stood in the parking area, we spotted two minks, chasing each other along the bank of the brook! I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to capture it, unfortunately, but it was thrilling to see them. The only other place I have seen mink, twice, was along creeks on Jekyll Island, GA.

I went back to the trails a couple of days later and took a few different paths. Didn’t see the mink that day, but here are some other photos of flora and fauna (mostly flora, because winter botany), plus snowy landscape views. Hope you enjoy.

You can see the minks’ tracks along the snowy shore!

There’s a kiosk with trail maps and other info near the small parking area off Route 10 in Hanover (there’s also a bigger parking lot up the hill from the trails).


The Mink Brook Nature Preserve is a 112-acre preserve meant to protect habitat for wild brook trout, waterfowl, black bears, minks, et al.

mallards and a black duck
female mallard shaking it in the brook
black duck


There are two brooks in the preserve, the smaller Trout Brook and the larger Mink Brook, which is a direct tributary to the Connecticut River, which eventually flows into the Long Island Sound.

brook through snow
icy curving brook
mist rising over snow and brook
“Cross with care” — icy bridge over roaring brook


Then look out for the little brook in March,
When the rivers overflow,
And the snows come hurrying from the hills,
And the bridges often go.
Emily Dickinson)


The Upper Valley Land Trust collaborated with the Conservancy to buy the Preserve and it now holds the conservation easement; also part of the same trail system are the Angelo Tanzi Tract, owned by the Town of Hanover.

The Hanover Conservancy oversees Mink Brook Nature Preserve
Tanzi Tract sign about invasive species

The main trail runs atop the Hanover sewer system, as you can see by the many sewer covers along the way, obvious even in the snow.


The Conservancy, the Hanover Lions Club, and other volunteers have worked to control invasive buckthorn, honeysuckle, barberry, and Japanese knotweed that had overrun the floodplain, then replanted with 2,000 native trees and shrubs, including silver and red maple, red osier dogwood, and elderberry, selected because they are adapted to changes in water levels and provide wildlife food and cover. (We still saw buckthorn, barberry, and knotweed on our walks, though.)

Pets are allowed so long as they are under voice control and their people pick up their waste (which not everyone does, I noticed). Fishing is also permitted, though trapping, hunting, biking, and camping aren’t.


Herewith, some trees and evidence of trees and shrubs:

bud of mountain maple (Acer spicatum)
Beaked hazelnut catkin (Corylus cornuta)
Cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides) bark
bud of box elder (Acer negundo)
red maple (Acer rubrum) leaf in snow
white oak (Quercus alba) trunk
white oak (Quercus alba) leaves


Musclewood aka blue beech aka American hornbeam tree (Carpinus caroliniana ssp. virginiana) tree trunk

witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) stems with flowers
witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) flowers
trees in snow


And perennials, wildflowers:

probably Dame’s Rocket (Hesperides matronalis) seedhead
Burdock (Arctium sp.) burrs by brook

Two of the three kinds of goldenrod galls:

The first shown is the ball gall (aka apple gall), which forms in late spring when the Goldenrod Gall Fly (Eurosta solidaginis) lays an egg on a goldenrod stem: “After the egg hatches about ten days later, the hungry larva eats its way into the stem and forms a feeding/living chamber. This stimulates the host plant to create the ball gall, which provides more space and a lot more succulent goldenrod cells on which the grub can dine all summer long.” The ball starts out green and shiny like the stem but over time it turns brown and eventually this purple shade. Inside the gall — though not this one, as a downy woodpecker seems to have bored its way in — a small fly larva overwinters by replacing its fluids with glycerol, a sort of larva antifreeze. (source for more info and pics)

ball gall

The second is called a bunch gall (or a flower gall) and occurs only in Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). It’s caused by  a Goldenrod Gall Midge (Rhopalomyia solidaginis) that lays its egg in a leaf bud: “After the grub hatches, its presence somehow keeps the stem from growing and elongating, even though the goldenrod continues to produce leaves. This results in a tight, flower-like cluster of foliage, usually at the top of the goldenrod’s main stalk. Although the Goldenrod Gall Midge is the only insect known to cause a bunch gall, the heavily leaved cluster may become home to a diverse assemblage of arthropods, including spiders and other midge species; for this reason, the Goldenrod Gall Midge has been referred to as an ‘ecosystem engineer.'” (source)  There were lots of these on one side of the brook.

Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) flower gall


Finally, ferns, lichen, moss:

Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) spore frond
yellow lichen
green moss on a white ash tree (Fraxinus americana)
Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) in snow
chartreuse moss and some lichen, on a log in snow


Sometimes, I just like the look of rocks:

colourful orange rock


a little glimpse of wetland through the snow
ice in the brook, with trees and shadows


I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

— last lines of “The Brook Poem,” Alfred Lord Tennyson

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