One of the few truly poisonous inhabitants of the local woods, Spurge laurel (Daphne mezereum) was recently found in bloom – in spite of there being lots of snow and temperatures still hovering around freezing – by the stream crossing the Monastery Cape trail. By the end of the summer these flowers will turn into nice-looking red berries. They say one can kill a man although it cannot be considered a preferred method to dispatch oneself to the better world as, apparently, it kills by causing the swelling of the throat, thus death by suffocation, which is one of the ugliest ways to go.
This summer was exceptionally cold. As a result, there are practically no berries in the woods. That leads to a lot of hungry bears roaming the forests and occasionally exploring garbage dumpsters in a desperate attempt to put on some fat before the winter sets in. Lots of bear excrements in the woods between Malinovoye, where our dacha is, and Luvenga. The locals who are in the habit of taking early morning walks say there are four of them in the five-kilometer long and narrow strip of trees between the seacoast and the road. As of recent, they have been containing a lot of rowanberries, which is not at all typical bear food.
A pile of bear crap with undigested rowanberries for your aesthetic enjoyment
A story from Chernaya Rechka (“Black River”) in Karelia reached me yesterday. A black bear occupied a cranberry field and refused to leave even when the local women shouted at it – not a typical behaviour for this beast. Now these women are said to go cranberry picking accompanied by men with shotguns.
Lighthouse Foundation, a German organization that effectively promotes sustainable development of the coastal areas around the world, has listed the collection of funds for the printing of my mate Alexandra’s book on the relationship between Eider ducks and Man throughout history among its projects.
Here is the beginning of their page on Alexandra’s Eider book:
This is the world’s first popular science publication dedicated to the world-wide history of the relation of Man (Homo sapiens) and the Common eider (Somateria mollissima): from the eiders in the excavations of ancient human settlements to the eiders in art; from myths and legends to the latest scientific research; from the eiders as hunting trophies to them in the museum collections.
After a long grey fall, the real winter has set in, with short days and lots of fluffy snow. As to the color scheme, it has been reduced to just three: black, white and, in the brief hour or less the sun is up, pink.
Normally this little and rare (several hundred pairs in the entire Murmansk Region) birdie lives in a rather dispersed fashion, with one to three pairs per 10km of stream. But today we have been observing at least five individuals at once, diving into bubbling water to get their bugs and worms and what not.
Last night, October 7, at about 10 pm, we were treated to spectacular northern lights display clearly visible right over the town despite light pollution. That may have been the brightest display I’ve ever seen. First we even thought the building was on fire.
Here are some photos taken with an ordinary camera.
The mushroom season is in full swing. Today we collected a bunch of honey agaric, and am not sure what to do with them as by this time I’m almost sick of eating mushrooms even though picking them remains fun. Probably we’ll marinate some of them, fry another part, and freeze the rest.
Ran into one yesterday while exploring the coast and picking mushrooms. Daphne mezereum (February daphne)is said to be highly poisonous, with five berries able to kill a grown man. It causes swelling of the walls of air passages and a rather unpleasant death from suffocation. No thanks. The post about Daphne in Alexandra’s Facebook resulted in quite a discussion.