Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blooms and Birds and Buds and One Good Buddy

What a lucky lady I am! Every day, it seems, I am gifted with new delights. My greatest delight today was meeting up with my friend and fellow blogger Ellen, who wanted to see some of the remarkable flowers along the Warren County Bikeway near Glen Lake, and so drove down from Newcomb to meet me there. Here she is trying to photograph the flowers of Nodding Trillium, which are not that easy to see from an upright position. I still marvel that Sue ever saw them! (See my post for May 12.)

Ellen also wanted to see that Glaucous Honeysuckle, and wonder of wonders, we got a bonus treat: a Hummingbird Moth leisurely exploring this native honeysuckle's confetti-colored blooms. (Be sure to check Ellen's blog Adirondack Naturalist to enjoy her photos. I believe hers are far better focused than mine.)

Another critter that delighted us by its presence was this very BIG American Toad. Ellen was quick enough to grab it gently and kind enough to hold it a moment so I could take its portrait.

While Ellen was photographing the Early Azalea and some of the other treasures along the trail, I was revisiting some of the earlier-blooming flowers that now have gone to seed, including this Trailing Arbutus with its remarkably ruddy spent blooms and fuzzy emerging fruits.

The seed pod of this Downy Yellow Violet is just as lovely, in its own way, as its former flower, now faded.

There were also plants that have not yet flowered, but whose leaves and buds possess an elegance of form and color in their own right. In fact, this bud-bedeckeded, purple-tendriled vine of Carrion Flower is far more beautiful than the nondescript almost-invisible, greenish-white flowers that will follow and stink up the place, causing you to wonder if something in the area has died.

When it blooms, this Whorled Loosestrife's stalk will be circled by small yellow flowers. For now, though, its deep maroon whorls of leaves are as handsome as crysanthemums.

The same could be said for the purple-tinged leaves of Spotted Joe-Pye Weed.

The flowers of Mountain Maple aren't exactly pretty, but they are remarkable for their perky upright posture. When they go to seed, the keys will dangle down like any other maple's, but now their flower clusters stick right up and help us distinguish this smallish tree from all the others in the understory.

Ellen and I had a little botanical brainstorming session, literally taking this violet apart to try to discern its species. Something about it looked just a little different from the Common Blue Violet it resembled at first glance: the flower-heads seemed quite large in comparison to the rest of the plant, and its heart-shaped leaves were broader than long. Time to get out the Newcomb's.

It was also time to check out the lower petal, which we found to have "a tuft of hairs at the base." The leaves and stems were smooth, not downy, so perhaps this plant is the "Broad-leaved Wood Violet" Newcomb describes on page 30.

Or maybe not. When I got home and checked my desk copy of Newcomb's with updated taxonomy penciled in, I discovered the Broad-leaved Wood Violet is no longer considered a species separate from the Common Blue. Harumph! Well, maybe botanists don't distinguish it any more, but we sure thought it looked different.

The treasures along the bikeway are not all botanical, for we had some ornithological pleasures as well. There are tall trees and low thickets, rushing streams and still pools, creating a veritable birdwatcher's Paradise. Or rather, bird hearer's Paradise, since most of the birds hide from view in the trees, while they serenade us with wonderful songs and drive us nuts trying to see them. Ellen identified Common Yellowthroat (witchety witchety witchety) and Yellow-rumped Warbler (also called "Butterbutt") just by their songs alone, but one Yellow Warbler actually let us lay eyes on him as, looking like a nice plump lemon tossed into the bush, he sang his little heart out in a Speckled Alder. The loudest, most melodic song of all, however, was that of the Baltimore Oriole, which we glimpsed now here! now there! as he flitted from tree to tree. And then wonder of wonders, he landed right within view. See that blaze of bright orange in that tree?

Then we couldn't believe our lucky stars. He flew right into the sumac in front of us, where we could feast our eyes on him.

And even get a photograph.


Gretchen M. said...

That toad is now my desktop background - adorable

squirrel said...

Loved the photos. It seemed to be a purple/redish-orange day for you. I find it interesting how nature seems to color coordinate its self when left to its own devices.

Ellen Rathbone said...

It looks like I'm squeezing the daylights out of that poor toad! Rest assured, readers, I had a VERY light hold around it's waist!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your comments, Gretchen and squirrel and Ellen. That toad reminded me of one Ellen and I encountered last September at Pyramid Lake. If you like toads and want to look one in the eye, go into my blog archive for 2009 and find the post for 9/14, "Retreat for Two at Pyramid Lake."

Allan Stellar said...

I'm impressed you got a photo of that warbler...I can never get birds to sit still long enough for a photo. You work magic with that camera!

catharus said...

I've never seen spent arbutus flowers such a rusty orange-red color!!