Thursday, July 7, 2011

Midsummer Along Bog Meadow Trail

Continuing my plan to revisit all my hometown nature haunts, I headed to Bog Meadow Nature Trail today. This two-mile trail through forested wetlands and open marsh (but no real bogs) lies just east of Saratoga Springs and offers a nice shady place to walk on a sultry day, with birdsongs of many species accompanying every step. If you gaze at this photo long enough, I bet you will hear the sweet spiraling sibilance of a Veery, interspersed with the lilting trills of a Winter Wren.

I did have a destination, and that was a patch of Downy Rattlesnake Plantain I've been trying to shield from the mowers for several years. Two years ago, the trail steward and I pounded wooden stakes around the patch to protect it, and ever since, these little white orchids have certainly thrived. Today, I counted 13 flower stalks (still in tight bud), where two years ago there were only two. I'll return to photograph them when they're in full bloom, but really, their vividly patterned foliage is much more impressive than their rather insignificant flowers.

The deep-woods scene this time of year is basically green and more green, with few colorful flowers to catch the eye, although mushrooms do their best to brighten the path. This is a button of Painted Bolete, its textured red cap nicely set off by the moss behind it.

And these little blobs were as colorful as they were tiny. The largest was maybe a quarter-inch across, and yet they were easy to spot from some distance away. I believe they might be a slime mold called Red Raspberry Slime.

Holy Mackerel! Look at that snake! I always see lots of snakes along this trail, but usually just the tails of garter and water snakes as they slither away at my approaching footfall. But this guy stood his ground, just staring at me. A really big guy, too. What kind could it be?

Ah, then I noticed its body swell and its head flatten out like a cobra's. Must be an Eastern Hognose, I thought, as I leaned in with my camera, and that's when it started to hiss and release a terrible smell as well. I backed off a bit, but I wasn't really afraid, since hognose snakes are known to never attack. Unless you're a frog or a toad. Their fangs are way in the back of their throats, so they couldn't strike and bite a creature as big as I am.

Yup. That's a hognose, all right. But rather than flip over and play dead, as is their habit when threatened, the snake just turned and slithered away, until nothing remained but the nasty smell it left behind.

With that reek remaining in my nostrils, I was happy to find a nice stand of Swamp Roses not 20 yards down the trail, filling the air with their fragrance and delighting the eye with their beauty.

As the trail moved into an area of open marsh and brighter sunlight, the grasses and shrubs grew bigger and bushier and almost obliterated the unmowed trail. As I walked along, I could hear the quick slithering of many unseen escaping snakes and the plunks of frogs as they dived into the nearby water.

This part of the trail is lined with far too many alien honeysuckles. Most of them have red berries, but a few had orange ones, which I grudgingly admired as they glowed like Christmas lights in the slanting sun.

I preferred the radiant royal blue of Clintonia berries, abundant along the trail.

You can see those red honeysuckle berries back there, creating a pretty foil for this nice stand of Fringed Loosestrife.

I saw lots of beautiful butterflies, all flaunting their lovely colors but never deigning to land within my camera's focal length. Except for this one, with its rather dull coloration. This could be either an Eyed Brown or an Appalachian Brown. I studied and studied the internet photos, but still I couldn't tell which. Can you?

This scene was my reward for coming so far. I had meant to turn back some time before, but the possibility of further surprises kept me trudging on, regretting I'd not put a sticky deerfly patch on the back of my hat. Ah, but this was worth it! There'd been lilies all along the trail, but none so lovely as these.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

Such an impressive patch of Goodyera pubescens! I've never seen so many in one spot like that. I also came across a Hog-nosed Snake on a hike the other day. Such fascinating creatures when they flatten like that.

threecollie said...

What a beautiful walk ! I am sitting here just smiling and smiling. Love the snake! In a lifetime of being interested in snakes I have only ever come across one hognose.

Louise said...

That's such a beautiful trail. One I'd like to see sometime.

catharus said...

Yes, I had to smile (well, I do that when I read one of your posts, anyhow!) as soon as I read your description of the song of the Veery and Winter Wren!
And the fruits of the Bluebead Lily are already in full form! I was struck at the difference in their development just a month ago, with the change in elevation as I hikes Slide Mountain (Catskills). On top they were still in bloom; at 1000 ft lower, they were already forming small green berries.

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

Fantastic walk thank you, never thought i would come so close to a snake either...........exciting!
I wish I could smell the flowers and the stinky snake.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

A.L., that patch of Goodyera got mowed by mistake a couple of years ago, and that seemed to have stimulated it to grow like crazy. You never know whether orchids will respond to stress by shriveling up or growing even healthier.

threecollie, I'm so glad to learn that you love snakes, too. So many folks just want to kill them, not realizing how helpful they are to us and how harmless to us, too. Even rattlers, if you respect them in their scarce territory. In all my wanderings of woods and roadsides, this is the first time I have met a hognose. It was quite an experience!

Louise, if you ever come back to Saratoga, I'll take you there. Promise.

I knew you would like those birds, catharus. Regarding those bluebeads, I was 20 miles north yesterday and found them not yet colored blue.

Hi Cranky, thanks for stopping by. Do you have hognose snakes in England? I'll bet you have others just as interesting.