Thursday, September 23, 2010
Home Again, Home Again
Yesterday I celebrated my homecoming to my local stretch of the Hudson. Today I returned to another regular stomping ground, Moreau Lake State Park, to enjoy a simple walk around the lake. I had planned on walking quickly, hoping to get a bit of aerobic action, and the prospects were good for that: with the lake level low, it was easy walking on a wide sandy beach, and also, because the flowering season is basically over, I hadn't planned on stopping often to identify plants or to photograph them. Silly me. I'm just incorrigible.
I'd barely stepped on the shore when I drew to a halt to breathe in the fresh-air scent of Witch Hazel, just this week come into bloom. With the day so warm, its petals were fully unfurled, like yellow ribbons floating on the breeze.
On cooler days, the petals will curl back up into tight little nubs that will need a warm sun to coax open again. But open they will, you can count on that. I've seen this flower in bloom as late as December.
Although aster season is starting to wane, there was still lots of Heath Aster lining the shore, its mounds of tiny white flowers attracting many bees and butterflies.
Another aster blooming today was Heart-leaved Aster, with sharply serrated heart-shaped leaves and clusters of pretty lavender flowers. A clincher for identifying this species is the presence of dark tips on the bracts of the flower heads, which are quite visible in this photograph, although they were not to my naked eye. (Click on the photo to make it larger.)
Lending a warm golden cast to the shore were masses of this pretty sedge, species name unknown to me.
Blue-stemmed Goldenrod was in its glory. As with the case of Bluestem Grass, I wonder how they came up with that name, since the stems are hardly blue. Well, maybe a little purplish. What really distinguishes this goldenrod is the way the flowers grow all along the stem in the leaf axils, rather than in spikes or plumes at the top. This is a late blooming goldenrod, and one that tolerates quite a bit of shade.
Looking up to the hills that surround Moreau Lake, I could see very little in the way of autumn color. But here and there along the shore, individual trees, like this little maple, had turned spectacularly red.
Speaking of red, could there be any redder red than that of these Bittersweet Nightshade berries?
Lots of folks think these berries are deadly poison because of their nightshade name. Well, they probably aren't. They may be somewhat toxic, but I doubt you could eat enough to poison yourself since they're mighty bitter. Really nasty tasting. How do I know? Well, let's just say it's a good thing I'm not a cat, or my curiosity would have killed me long ago.
I came upon these itty-bitty fungal forms on the same log where I found them a year ago. Could they be the same ones, having lasted over the winter, spring, and summer? They're called Green Algae Coral (Multiclavula mucida), and they only grow where there is green algae. As this photo shows, there's lots of that here on the log.
It's an hour since I started and I'm not even half way around the lake. Still, I dawdle some more as I amble around this quiet bay, the warm sun and still water urging me to further slow my steps. Or maybe those basking kayakers are casting a lazy-day spell over me.
Further on, I pass other baskers lying back on the sandy beach enjoying the sun, their dog enjoying his day at the beach his own way. He would stare intently at minnows for a long, long while, then lunge with a snap to try to grab some. Undaunted by failure, he'd then return to his fishing stance. I can't look at this photo without laughing out loud. Good dog!
Okay, I made it to the swimming beach, so I'm now more than half way around. I start to pick up my pace when I notice the door to the park's nature center is open. Of course, I have to stop in. And what luck! Park naturalists are just about to release the baby fish and turtles they've kept in the center for educational purposes this summer. Since the season is over, these creatures will now be returned to the lake. But first, I get a good look at this baby Large-mouth Bass.
And also these turtles, the larger one a Painted Turtle, the small one a baby Snapping Turtle. (There were four of the baby snappers as well as a Spotted Newt.)
Here's a closer look at one of those little Snapping Turtles. It looks real sweet, but I suppose it could bite you, even at this young age. Not that it tried
Nature Educator Rebecca Mullins and Park Naturalist Gary Hill carry the critters over to a quiet spot along the lake, where a dad and his two girls express an interest in what's going on.
There they go! Rebecca points to where one of the baby snappers is wriggling into the mud.