Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Up the Mountain with ECOS Friends

Yeah, it rained a little.  But that didn't deter the friendly bunch of naturalists from the Environmental Clearing House of Schenectady (ECOS) from climbing a mountain today in Moreau Lake State Park.  Granted, the climb was not very high,  just a few steep spots but mostly a steady up and up to a rocky ledge overlooking the Hudson.  And of course, being naturalists, our pace was as slow as our interest in trailside finds was great.  In short, we took our sweet time.

And we took a few detours.  When we reached a place where powerlines cross the trail, my friend Sue and I led our group on a little sidetrip to visit a patch of Pink Earth Lichens that we knew could be found in that area.  That's a wonderful thing about lichens:  they look about the same in every season and you usually can find them again where you saw them last.  And I think Pink Earth Lichens are definitely worth a revisit.  Just remember, if you go looking for them, that their chubby little pink fruiting bodies are only about the size of a head of a pin.  This photo shows them much larger.

We found so many fascinating and beautiful lichens up there, we probably could have stayed right along the powerline and called it a day.  We were all delighted by this lichen, a Cladonia, no doubt, but one that combines the characteristics of British Soldiers and Pixie Cups but was something else entirely.  Ooh, and look at those tiny red wands sticking up from the Haircap Moss!  I hadn't noticed them until just now as I posted this photo.  I see the familiar moss spore stalks nearby, but what could those red wands be?  Part of the moss, or from some other organism altogether?

Growing in the same patch was another species of Cladonia lichen, this one topped with rosy pink fruiting bodies.

Someone in our group did know the name of this little lichen that grows in stacked tiers.  This is called Pagoda, a good descriptive name for this fruticose lichen.

Eventually, we resumed our climb, stopping at nearly every turn to admire the marvelous variety of fungi growing everywhere.  This delicate ivory stemless cluster reminded me of Oyster Mushrooms, but I couldn't be sure.

This toothed shelf fungus looked, at first glance, like Bear's Head, but a second look told me no, wrong shape, especially after we found a genuine Bear's Head growing nearby.  I'm not sure what this is.  It was tougher and more rubbery than the tender-textured Bear's Head.

Aw, aren't they sweet?  Two little Red Efts snuggle up on this chilly morning.  We also found a Red-backed Salamander under an overturned rock, but it wriggled away too quickly for a photograph.

Yes!!!  We made it to the overlook!  What a glorious view of the Hudson River, mirror-still today, with sunlit mountains standing out against the far horizon.  Tiny blue fuzzy flies, the winged form of Wooly Alder Aphids, were flitting about, and Sue (blue tee) captured one in her hand to show to us  up close.

That aphid flew away before I could take its picture, but I found a photo of one in my files, taken two years ago.  These aphids usually are wingless and cluster in colonies on alders, exuding "fur" of white waxy material that makes them look like tufts of cotton along the twigs.  When they've depleted their food source in one location, they sprout wings to move to another shrub, as this little critter has done.

The view from our perch on this rocky ledge was so lovely we didn't want to leave.

  Win (blue coat, grey cap) has spotted what he thinks might be an unusual Yellow Oak down there in all that mass of green.  And by Yellow Oak, I mean the tree species, not one that has turned yellow.  Just look at all those green trees, and here it is, October!  Where's our fall foliage color?

One of the joys of walking with fellow naturalists is that there's always somebody in the group who knows something the others don't.  Or spots really good stuff that the rest of us might have missed.  I sure had a wonderful time with this group today and was proud to show off a part of this beautiful park that many had never seen.  Now I look forward to further adventures together.


catharus said...

Fascinating lichens! And yes, I wonder what symbioses they may have with moss -- not necessarily mutualism but what? Who knows? Maybe you do!

squirrel said...

Beautiful lichens and a nice walk. Thanks,

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

What can I say apart from many thanks again for sharing your wonderful pictures and walks, makes my day to be able to see some of what you find.

June said...

All of you must have eyes like microscopes! Thanks for the photos. Such pretty things in miniature.

Ellen Rathbone said...

I love that pagoda lichen!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Greetings, fellow lichen lovers. Thanks so much for your comments. The variety of their shapes and colors is just amazing, but you do have to look closely to see them, often. Yes, they frequently co-exist with mosses, but what their mutual relationship is, I do not know. Could be they just prefer the same substrate. I do know that lichens are created out of a relationship between fungi and algae.