Thursday, August 18, 2011

Trudging Up to the Overlook

Hot and muggy today. Not the kind of day I would normally choose to climb a mountain, but Sue and I wanted to see if the Ladies' Tresses were blooming along the Spring Overlook Trail in Moreau Lake State Park, and the only way to get there is up, up, up. Luckily, though, the trail is green and shady, and the day was overcast at first, so we were spared direct sun.

The Ladies' Tresses site is only half way up to where the trail opens onto a rocky ledge providing expansive views of the Hudson River below and Luzerne Mountains beyond. When we didn't find our flowers today, we continued climbing the rest of the way to the top. Every time we get there we have to acknowledge that the view is worth the effort. There's usually a nice breeze, too, to dry the sweat from our trudging.

With the day so hazy, the mountains appeared shrouded in mist as, tier after tier, they diminished in color until they disappeared against the sky.

Just because we didn't find our Ladies' Tresses, that doesn't mean we came away disappointed. There's always SOMEthing wonderful to see along the trail. Even before we started up, we saw these two Green Frogs on a plank by a spring, just sitting there waiting for Sue to come along and take their picture.

What a pair! One big, one little, same color, same pose, same direction. Cute!

For once, I was able to show Sue something first (those two Green Frogs). It's usually she who points out the really cool stuff in the woods and along the trail. I certainly never would have seen this tiny Wood Frog if Sue had not pointed her finger at him. For one thing, his color makes him blend in with the background, and for another, he was really, really tiny. He could have fit comfortably into that acorn cap.

And here's another teensy weensy critter that Sue had to coax me into seeing. It's some kind of worm or bug covered from head to toe in blue shaggy fur that was cruising around the stems and leaves of a Tick Trefoil stalk. There were quite a few of these tiny blue dots inhabiting the Tick Trefoil plants, but most of them dropped off and disappeared before we could examine them very closely. I'm still waiting for someone at BugGuide.Net to get back to me with an ID.

And here's a little blue butterfly, less than an inch across with wings folded up. I believe that this is an Eastern Tailed Blue, although there's just a little point near that orange marking where normally a tail would occur. My Audubon insect guide informs that sometimes these Eastern Tailed Blues don't have any tails at all.

Talk about small! Dwarf St. Johnswort (Hypericum mutilum) is always small, but the ones we found along the trail today were really small. Part of our trail today passed under a power line, and it appears that the power company has sprayed some kind of herbicide under the lines, because there was a wide swath of dead vegetation in that area. Only a few very hardy plants have managed to struggle back to life there, and these tiny St. Johnsworts were one of them.

On second thought, could this be another kind of St. Johnswort altogether, just one that's dwarfed by the poisoned ground? I always associate Dwarf SJ with damp places, and this place was very dry.

Pilewort (Erechtites heiracifolia) is one of those sturdy plants that are the first to repopulate cleared or burned-over land, and it was growing abundantly in areas where other plants had died. Although this plant has foliage that's quite handsome, its flowers are hardly showy, looking like tight greenish-purple, fuzz-topped buds that never open.

Ah, but a closer look at a dismantled flower head reveals that those "buds" are indeed already in flower. If you click on this photo you can see the curving styles that have pushed their way through the staminate tubes, collecting pollen as they protruded. (I see that a little bug has discovered that pollen.) When the flower goes to seed, those heads will form dandelion-like puffs, each seed attached to silky fibers that will carry it away on the wind.

I was happy to see that a large patch of Pink Earth Lichen was still inhabiting its boulder, unfazed by the application of herbicide in the surrounding area. Those little pink blobs are only about the size of the head of a pin. Because it's so small, this lichen is easy to overlook (and again, it was Sue who saw it first), but it certainly deserves a closer look if you find it.

Even I could see the brilliant color of these Hornbeam leaves scattered across the forest floor. I love those bright green stripes on the yellow background.

Here's a fungus that's hard to miss, too. (Although, once again, it was Sue who pointed it out some distance into the forest from the trail.) This is Chicken-of-the-Woods, and when gathered young, it does indeed taste like chicken. This one was too old to eat, but it hadn't lost much of its color. Or its size. The large clump on the left was easily three feet across.

This is another vividly colored shelf fungus, but I do not know its name. I find it frequently in Moreau Lake State Park, but I don't find anything like it in any of my mushroom guides. This is just a little one, attached to the end of a stick like a finial on a sceptre. I carried it with me the rest of our hike, pretending I was the queen of all I surveyed. And who's to say I was not?


Raining Iguanas said...

That is a beautiful hike. It's like buying an appliance with all the options included. It has everything; steep and sweaty, easy and going, rough and tumble, and one of the best views in the area. Your post shows just how much you can see when you drop the trolling plates and slow the pace.

Lindsey said...

Fungus has been finding it's way into my heart lately, I just love all the different forms and colors!

That green frog photo cracked me right up, so perfect a shot.

That's a shame that herbicide might have been sprayed in that power line. It's a decent spot for warblers, not that the warblers would be hanging out in that vegetation, but I'm sure the insects they eat might like it!

Anonymous said...

How interesting - those frogs with what appear to be green heads with darker bodies - wonder if they're 'on the payroll' and it was their day to pose? ;-)
Great view! The 'reward' for the huffing and puffing! ;-)

Unknown said...

I know this is a little late but I was trawling the internet looking for the name of the 1/2 green and 1/2 brown frog I just saw in the garden after a rain. It's body was about 4 " long- huge for the tree frogs we usually see here. And the 1/2 color thing. I took a picture of is and showed my husband because he was convinced that it had to be a toad. I proved my point was dying to know what we found. We have a large beaver pond in the backyard but it was at lease 110 ft from the water. Thanks for the heads up on ID. Enjoy your hikes!