I suggested we visit the Gick Farm parcel of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, a sandy-soiled oak/pine savanna kept open by periodic burns and mowing, as a change of habitat from our usual forested mountain trails at Moreau. Here, the walking was easy on soft sandy paths among tall native grasses moving in waves with the wind.
White Pines and Pitch Pines share this habitat with oaks of several species, including the shrubby Bear Oak (Quercus ilicifolia), just about every one of which was laden with these knobby galls.
Mats of Pussytoes carpeted the sand in places, colored a lovely pink and green. A closer look at the leaves revealed their remarkable hairiness. Update: A helpful reader has corrected me on this. These leaves are more likely those of Mouse-ear Hawkweed than of Pussytoes. Thanks, Ethan Dropkin!
In addition to fields of grasses and tracts of open woodlands, this section of the Wilton Preserve also contains several denser forests and a number of wetlands. An abundance of emerald-green watercress marks the course of the little stream that winds through this wetland patch.
Almost every tree in the low-lying woodlands was a veritable garden of mosses and lichens, fungi and liverworts, all commingling in a complex community of many different shapes and sizes and colors.
This very dark, almost black lichen was splotched with a startling patch of bright red. Could it be a natural aspect of this organism, or is this a paint splotch, marking the red-blazed trail we were following?
This little green clump of moss is one of the very few mosses I know the name of: Ulota crispa, here centered on a lacy doily of Frullania liverwort, one of the very few liverworts whose names I know.
Now, what's this white disk? Is this a lichen or some kind of mold? What an amazing array!
I recognize the little Christmas trees as one of the Polytrichum (Haircap) mosses, but I can't remember the name of the dainty fern-like stuff clasping the base of this little tree. I just thought the combination of colors and textures was delightful.
Here's another patch of a Polytrichum moss, containing slender immature spore stalks as well as the spent ones from last year. The most arresting inhabitant of this patch, though, is that amazing fruticose lichen, one of the Cladonias that looks like stacks of trumpets or something drawn by Dr. Seuss. I have heard it called Pagoda, but I do not know its scientific name.
With the light shining through the walls of this Tree Ear fungus, they look like little cups of Cranberry Glass. How pretty they look, especially accompanied by those tiny yellow jelly fungi.
More little yellow jellies, maybe Dacryopinax spathularia, or Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus. A mighty big name for such a minute organism. Compare them to the pine needles next to them, to get an idea of how tiny they are.
Ooh, what a slimy thing this is! I guess it must be a fungus, but I'm afraid it's too far gone to determine its identity. Fascinating! What an interesting color.
I admire my friend Sue for many reasons, and one of them is that she can SEE things that ordinary mortals cannot. Even knowing exactly where this tiny Spring Peeper was sitting, it would disappear as I stared at it. How on earth did she ever see it in the first place?
You Hike the Giant, too!" found a Spotted Salamander today. I think this spell of balmy weather has the woodland critters thinking it must be spring.