This meadow has wide mowed paths through acres and acres of goldenrods and asters alive with the hopping and flying and fluttering and buzzing and trilling of thousands of insects, including the exquisite Monarch Butterfly, whose lovely orange wings are a perfect complement to the blooms of New England Asters.
The air was filled with the long drawn-out trills of Tree Crickets, which I never expected to lay my eyes on, since their jade-green bodies are well camouflaged among all the fading leaves of the trailside plants. But of course, I was with Sue, who has the most incredible eyesight, and she found this one. It was quite a task to keep the cricket in focus, since it kept crawling around to the underside of the leaf.
Sue also spied this gorgeous Argiope spider suspended on its web. You'd think this spider would be easy to see, with that brilliant yellow and black pattern on her back, but it only helped to hide her from view among all the goldenrods.
I had no trouble at all discerning this emerald Leopard Frog, who leapt from the path to a puddle, then turned to look at us with those incredible golden eyes.
At the back of the meadow, a trail led into a dark damp woods, where we encountered billowing clouds of hungry mosquitoes. Their tortures kept us moving through the woods at a faster pace than we normally keep, despite the temptations of many colorful fungi just begging to have their pictures taken. I did stop long enough to photograph this unusual arrangement of Blue Stain and Lemon Drop fungi sharing a rotting log. Of course, my camera refused to focus again and again, as the mosquitoes made their way down my ears and onto my eyelids. Oh bag it, I said as I clicked one last shot that turned out to be almost OK. Part of the challenge, in addition to it being very dark and shady, was that the smallest of those Lemon Drops were about as big as the head of a pin.
Fleeing our tormenters, we hurried back to our car and drove to another wonderful spot not far away, along the Warren County Bike Path. Here in a weedy ditch by a busy road we found the first Fringed Gentians of the season. One of the last flowers to bloom before frost, they represent the flower season coming to a close in a blaze of glory. It's hard to imagine a more radiant blue, or a flower head more generous in its display of gorgeous color.
The asters are doing their bit to add to the season's final glory, with colors ranging from deepest purple to lavender to palest blue to snowy white. While many of the white-flowered asters are a bit scraggly in appearance, the Heath Aster tightly clusters its small white flowers into quite showy bunches.
Many Bidens species have flowers that are quite inconspicuous, some having no petals at all, or very small ones. We often know we've encountered them only because of the barbed seeds ("beggar ticks") embedded in our clothing after we've passed unknowing through a patch of them. A notable exception is Bidens cernua, or Nodding Bur Marigold, which is just now coming into bloom in many roadside ditches and other low damp spots, where it puts on quite a show.
I know that when the Gentians and Bidens come into bloom, I have turned to the final page of my annual flower journal. There won't be many species left to go hunting for. I haven't yet found Oxeye or Jerusalem Artichoke, but it won't be long. Witch Hazel will be unfurling its yellow ribbons along the river soon, but I won't see the brilliant blue Monkshood in my garden until October. Then that will be it for the flowers. Aren't we blessed that Mother Nature saves some of her best for last?