Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Lakeside Walk and a River Paddle

Tuesday, June 7: This very busy nature day started off with Sue and me leading a wildflower walk around Moreau Lake for members of the Environmental Clearing House of Schenectady. We had hoped to walk out on the beach where ample sunlight might create a more likely habitat for blooming wildflowers this time of year. But high water in the lake had swamped the beach, keeping us to woodland paths for much of our walk, so we did not find many wildflowers in bloom back there in the deep shade. But I do hope our group was not too disappointed, since we found some other remarkable things, including a water snake lurking among throngs of tiny black toad tadpoles right up close to shore. Plus hundreds of colorful dragonflies and a number of beautiful birds, including Cedar Waxwings and Baltimore Orioles. And we did find some flowers a little out of the usual, such as this Bastard Toadflax. Not all that showy, but not all that common, either.

We were also delighted to find this unusual Green Pyrola, one of the few summer-blooming plants that actually prefers the shady woods. I was very excited to find it, since I did not know that it grew at Moreau Lake State Park.

I don't know if our group noticed these adorable baby Pitch Pine cones. The group had moved on without me, since once I noticed these pretty pink babies, I just had to stop and take a photo.

After bidding goodbye to the morning group, I decided to head a few miles further north to the Betar Byway in South Glens Falls and put my canoe in the Hudson there. Late last summer, I had discovered some very impressive shale cliffs along the river near there, and I was eager to see if any early-season flowers were blooming on these spring-dampened black rock faces.

There were lots of interesting and beautiful mosses, ferns, and liverworts, as well as the leaves of Grass-of-Parnassus, but the only flowers that were actually blooming today were those of Mountain Maple.

When I turned to paddle the other direction, downstream from the shale cliffs, I was amazed to see the monumental piles of flotsam that had piled up on shore from this spring's floods. Much more than the usual blue styrofoam chunks, bait boxes and plastic bags. There were also giant tree trunks tossed up on the banks as if they were no bigger than matchsticks.

I next moved into a quiet backwater -- or what would have been a quiet backwater if not for that distressing duckling scene I described earlier. But things calmed down, once the little creature got free of that hook, and I managed to spy this turtle sharing its basking site with a dragonfly. Hmmm. . . . That doesn't look like a Painted Turtle, does it? Of course, it slipped off the log before I could get a good look, but its shell suggests that it could be a Northern Map Turtle. A nice unusual sighting to end a day already full of delightful nature adventures.

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