This is a good time of year to look up among the bare branches of the trees for what couldn’t be seen when they were covered with leaves. The seeds of Sweetgums are enclosed in ball-shaped “fruits” or husks. The seeds are eaten by many birds and animals. In the two images at the top left, you can see an American Goldfinch perched among sweetgum balls, then reach down to pick a seed from one of the prickly balls.
Appropriate for the season, you may be able to find Mistletoe growing among the bare branches of the trees (image at left). Mistletoe is a parasite of hardwood trees and grows on the branches and twigs of the trees, the roots growing into the branches of the host tree. It’s easy to locate: simply look up into the trees for a roundish patch of small green leaves in an otherwise bare tree during winter. Don’t be fooled by the brown mass of dead leaves and twigs of a squirrel’s nest, which is usually placed in a crotch close to the trunk or a main branch of the tree. Mistletoe is alive and green and often a bit further out on the branches.
At least one Mistletoe is visible from the path in Catch the Wind. See if you can find it yourself, but if you have trouble locating it, look for me, I’ll point it out to you.