Monday, July 6, 2009

Golden Morning, Quiet Water

Now that's more like it! A clear morning, calm water, no sound but the songs of birds and the drip, drip, drip from the blades of my paddle. As I predicted yesterday, today I had the river all to myself, at least the morning hours. By afternoon, more paddlers appeared, but quietly, quietly, quietly, bless their souls.

A bit of a breeze was riffling the water out on the open river, but back behind an island and around rocky coves, the trees and rocks and hills were mirrored in the still water.

As I slipped along close to shore, tall stalks of Meadowsweet (Spirea latifolia) waved their pretty pink puffs above my head.

The banks were crowded with masses of Pale St. Johnswort (Hypericum ellipticum), smaller of flower and shorter of stalk than its more common roadside cousin. Its bright yellow flowers certainly belie its familiar name.

In the shallow waters of quiet coves, various species of Arrowhead are just now starting to bloom. This one is Grass-leaved Arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea), which doesn't have arrow-shaped leaves at all, but slender lance-shaped ones with flattened blades at the top. (Sorry, I failed to include them in the photo.)

As I paddled around the jutting bedrock I call Rippled Rocks Point, its lichen-covered vertical walls towering over my head, this spider and I came eye-to-eye. Er, I mean, eyes-to-eye! It was pretty big, I'd say two inches across, at least. I think it's a Striped Fishing Spider, which can actually dive underwater to capture aquatic insects and yes, small fish.

On that same vertical wall, this Wild Thyme plant (Thymus serpyllum) has somehow found a way to take root in bare rock, curving its trailing stems to conform to the rock's rough surface. I've never found any other Wild Thyme growing nearby on this side of the river. Makes you wonder how it got here.

For finding a way to take root in bare rock, nothing can beat Golden Hedge Hyssop (Gratiola aurea). The slightest crack or seam will make a commodious home for this plant. It also carpets damp mud, and by mid-month all the rocky banks and muddy shores in this sheltered area will teem with its masses of bloom. I've seen the river rise over its flowers, and they just keep blooming away underwater, creating a shimmering golden glow at the waterline.

I have never found this plant anywhere else in Saratoga County but here: among the bays and coves of the Hudson above the Sherman Island Dam. My flower guides tell me that this is a coastal plant. Gosh, but we're a long way away from the seashore. How do you think it got here?


Unknown said...

Hello! I came across your blog two weeks ago, while randomly searching for local nature blogs. I must say, I enjoy following you on your paddle-adventures through your posts! Beautiful nature shots :)

I just moved from Las Vegas Nevada to Clifton Park NY last month and am going stark-crazy from being in the house too long. Aside from Moreau, can you please recommend other natural/park areas to visit in Saratoga?

Kenton and Rebecca Whitman said...

What a peaceful adventure! The water is so very still. And the mystery of the Hyssop! So intriguing!

Thanks, as always, for sharing your adventures =)

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Welcome to the Northeast, CHESKA! Believe me, we are all going stark-crazy from all these stormy days of late. This is not typical. As you can see from my blog, I do manage to get out, but I often have to hurry home. As to natural areas in Saratoga area: What a bounty! There's the Saratoga Battlefield (National Historical Park) in Stillwater, the Wilton Wildlife Preserve in Wilton, the Woods Hollow Nature Preserve in Ballston Spa, a towpath natural area along the Mohawk near Vischer's Ferry, numerous trails all over the county maintained by Saratoga PLAN (check their website), and to the south, the Albany Pine Bush is supposed to be wonderful. But Moreau Lake State Park has it all: river, lake, ponds, woods, mountain trails for hiking and biking, campsites and a swimming beach.

Hi, KENTON & REBECCA. Thanks for your comment. I love to share my adventures with folks like you.

Anonymous said...

Very nice photography.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, ABE. Coming from you, amazing photographer that you are, that's quite a compliment!

Cecilia said...

Hi - I just found your beautiful blog through Kenton & Rebecca's site. There's nothing like appreciating nature from the serenity of the water. Your photos are wonderful - I've learned a lot about plant ID. I especially enjoy the fungi shots. Fungus is fascinating!