Friday, June 10, 2011

Kids (of all ages) at Play

Nothing's more fun than showing kids cool stuff in the woods and the water. Here's my friend Sue showing a group of third graders a whole bunch of tiny black toad tadpoles crowding the shore of Moreau Lake on Thursday. I'd come along on this school-sponsored nature hike to ensure we didn't lose any kids at the back of the bunch, but not a chance, they were all so eager to see whatever Sue had to show them. (The creepier and squigglier, the better!)

And here's my friend Ed, who was showing this kid (me) all kinds of cool stuff today at Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, high up above the Hudson, looking over the town of Lansingburgh.

The rocky outcroppings up there were covered with low-growing oaks of a kind I had never come across before, shrubby oaks with leaves that had a silvery bloom on their undersides. Ed told me the Latin name, Quercus prinoides, which I later learned is Dwarf Chinkapin Oak.

I already knew the name of this shrub with the whitish bloom on its pretty pink stems. It's Smooth Sumac, a relatively common shrub but one that's a favorite of mine.

We were both excited to find Four-leaved Milkweed, a small fragrant species that I used to find in the Skidmore Woods, and which Ed had never before documented as growing in this cemetery.

All around us were pale pink wild roses, filling the sun-warmed air with their heady perfume.

These candy-striped blooms of Spreading Dogbane look as if they should smell of peppermint, don't they? But I've never detected any fragrance from them.

I wonder if this very strange-looking insect with the spiky legs and feathery wings could detect some scent from the dogbane. It seemed to be very happy resting on one of the blooms, and didn't even seem to mind when I coaxed it onto my finger to get a better look.

I had never seen such a creature before, but the folks at sure had. They gave me an answer within 5 minutes of asking: This is a plumed moth, possibly a Himmelman's Plume Moth. Amazing! I bet those kids on the Moreau Lake nature walk would have found this bug "Way cool!"
Update, 6/29/11: I just got a note from Maury J. Helman at BugGuide, who positively ID'd this moth as a Geranium Plume Moth (Dejongia lobidactylus). Thanks, Maury.

Nice and cool was how it felt when we left the sun-baked open hillside to come down into this shady ravine, with shale cliffs rising above us and a beautiful waterfall splashing and leaping down the steep hill.

Those shale cliffs were home to a wonderful variety of ferns and mosses.

Clusters of dainty Maidenhair Spleenwort resembled large green spiders clinging to the rock wall.

On a sunnier outcropping, Ed found this pretty Woodsia fern, a new one for me.

We found at least a couple of dozen plants in bloom or bud or fruit, some of which I had never found anywhere else. And never would have seen today, either, if not for Ed's practiced eye recognizing even those plants that had finished their blooming -- such as this Bowman's Root.


June said...

What's more fun than tadpoles???
We used to scoop up balls of frog eggs and keep them in a jar and watch their black spots grow and grow and then turn into tadpoles and then grow leg nubs and then more leg nubs and then their tails drop off...and then they went back to the swamp.
Nothing more fun in the world for any kid!

Anonymous said...

Grandma, this looked like so much fun! Tadpoles are so cute, and that bug looked so cool! lots of love, jenny

Ellen Rathbone said...

What great adventures!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

I agree, June. Tadpoles are one of nature's marvels that kids can actually see and catch in a paper cup to observe more closely. And then LET GO.

Oh Jenny, so very good to hear from you. I have so many happy memories of showing things in the woods to you. See you soon!

Hi Ellen, great to hear from you. Every day, a new adventure, as the spring and summer explode with new life.