Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter Beauty at Bog Meadow

Another beautiful, cold clear day. Where shall I go for my walk today? I hadn't visited the Bog Meadow Nature Trail since the snow fell, so I decided to go see how winter had transformed it.

I visit this trail frequently during the green seasons, since its forested wetlands and open marsh provide rich habitat for lots of interesting and uncommon plants, and it's only a couple of miles from my home. It's great for birding, too, especially in spring. But I rarely come here in winter, although many skiers and dogwalkers do. But not many folks had come into the trail from the Meadowbrook entrance this winter. I found this spur of the trail post-holed but not packed, which made for awkward maneuvering on snowshoes.

I was grumbling to myself about folks who ruin trails by hiking without snowshoes or skis, when I noticed the post-holes were made not by boots, but rather by sharp two-toed hooves. Looking around, I could see that this whole section of woods was riddled with deer trails and trampled feeding yards. I've seen very few signs of deer all winter in other places I hike. To judge from the looks of this woods, perhaps all the deer in the county are holed up in here.

I didn't see any actual deer on my hike today, but I did finds lots of other wonders that made it worth the trip. The yo-yo weather of late, with alternate freezing and thawing, has made for some really beautiful patterns in the ice that has formed on this tiny stream.

Oh, look, look! There, in the right foreground -- the first flower of spring is lurking within those green spathes. Well, maybe it's not really a sign of spring. I remember seeing the green shoots of Skunk Cabbage late last fall, so these are probably not newly arisen.

I had never seemed to notice before how prolifically Yellow Birch grows along this trail. Now, with all the surrounding greenery out of the way, I could really notice its curly-haired golden bark, shining in the sun. It was almost as bright as if the trunk had been covered in gold leaf.

Speaking of brightly colored bark, can anything match the vivid red of Red Osier Dogwood?
(My husband looked at this photo and said it could be a painting by Jackson Pollock.)

That dogwood was growing in an open marshy area crossed by a boardwalk that's furnished with an observation platform. Oh man, just look at that blue, blue sky! How lucky we are to have such places to walk out under that sky.

The alder shrubs are ready for spring, when these dangling male catkins will spill their pollen. The much smaller female flowers are perched on the twigs above the males. This position makes it likely they will be fertilized by wind-blown pollen from another shrub, rather than have the pollen from the same shrub spill directly upon them.

Here's the remains of a Swamp Thistle, dangling down like a little bell. I can tell it's this particular species of thistle by the veil of webbing that covers the bracts. If you click on this photo, you might be able to see what I'm talking about.

You can still find cattails here in this marsh, despite masses of phragmites that threaten to take over. I loved how the fluff was backlit by the sun.

Of course, now that I know how explosive cattail fluff can be, I had to go over and squeeze a few and watch the down go sailing away on the breeze. What fun! Yes, I know. I am probably too easily amused. But squeezing cattails really is quite delightful.

Here, take a look for yourself:


June said...

I have more frequent access to milkweed pods than to cattails; I do the same thing with them. Although it's a little less dramatic, it's still lots of fun to watch the little fluffs go flying off on air currents too small for me to feel.

Louise said...

I have got to try that cattail trick!

Do they allow you off of the trails in these lovely preserves that you visit? I get very frustrated around here when I see something off the trail that I want to investigate further. Sigh, I'm such a rule follower and just can't bring myself to go look, however much I want to.

Caroline said...

We used to get the biggest kick out of squeezing the cattails that my mother had for fall decoration on the fireplace hearth.
She, on the other hand, did not find it the least bit amusing! Cattail fluff on Oriental carpets is lovely.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Greetings, fellow cattail squeezers. Thanks for stopping by to leave your comments.

Louise, it's usually a good idea to keep to the trails in heavily trafficked parks and preserves, for the sake of the plants and animals. Many of the places I wander don't even have trails, so I have no qualms about roaming all over the woods. I'm careful where I step, and I never pick any plants. I once got yelled at by a Skidmore professor for going off-trail in the Skidmore woods, but because I did wander afield, I found a patch of rare plants to report to the state botanist for documentation. Where I touched those cattails today you could not approach except in winter when the marsh is frozen solid. I believe in a little trespassing now and then, so long as no harm is done.

Jens Zorn said...

I'm buying into that Jackson Pollack suggestion!