Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bright Spots on a Dark Day

Dark and damp and chilly today.  Very Novemberish.  And since it's already mid-November, it was time for my monthly inspection of the Nature and Wetland Trails in Moreau Lake State Park, for which I have volunteered to be a trail steward.  These trails take me around the back bay of Moreau Lake, a walk I am happy to take in every season, even on dark cold days like today.

My stewarding duties include picking up trash (only one small grocery sack's worth today) and reporting any issues that require trail maintenance.  I did find two beaver-felled trees across the trail, plus much other evidence of a burgeouning beaver population around the lake.   Can't you just picture a group of them all lined up at this beaver buffet?

Some other creature had enjoyed a shellfish feast along the shore.  Otter?  Raccoon?  Mink?

 Striding briskly along at the edge of the lake, I was brought to a halt by the sight of this marvelously encrusted log, inhabited by a remarkable variety of mosses and lichens of many different colors and shapes.  It required a closer look.


 What a beautiful miniature forest!  I can tell you that this is a Cladonia lichen, but I cannot tell you what species.  Even experts sometimes have to use chemical tests to tell them apart.

There appear to be at least three different kinds of Cladonia in this clump.  Is that brown stuff they're growing out of another lichen or is it a moss?  Or maybe a liverwort?

I had my camera's macro lens take a closer look.

And even closer.  Looks like a moss to me, with all that leafyness.  Update:  But I was wrong!  This stuff is actually a leafy liverwort called Ptilidium pulcherrimum, also known by the common name of Lovely Fuzzwort.  What a great name!

Even though the day was dark and gray, and the trees are now bare or brown,  bright spots of color could still be found, such as this vivid sprig of Highbush Blueberry leaves . . .

. . . or this spray of Sugar Maple leaves still a brilliant yellow.

Dewberry leaves looked especially lovely against the silvery gray bark of a fallen limb.

Ah, but nothing equals the fiery glow of Meadowsweet, in tones of orange and yellow and rose.

Among fungi, it would be hard to surpass the Cinnabar Polypore for vivid orange.

And the underside with its many pores is even more vividly orange.

 The days darken so early now, especially when it's as heavily overcast as it was today.  As I hurried along the shore of Mud Pond to return to where I had parked my car, several flocks of geese came sailing down to rest for the night.

The forecast calls for freezing temperatures tonight, maybe a little snow.  Thinking of winter approaching, I'm reassured when I see the bright green leaves of Trailing Arbutus, which will happily spend the winter under the snow, then shelter the flowers that are among the earliest to bloom in the spring.

Hepatica leaves will do the same, wintering under the snow to be among the first to catch the nourishing sunlight come the spring.   They have already donned their fur coats, in preparation for the winter to come.


Anonymous said...

I don't have a lot of fond memories of growing up, but one that is special is of my dad taking me out into the woods and identifying plants - hepatica was one of those, and I always smile when I find some.

The little red tops on the lichen - I've been told these are called 'british soldiers' (Cladonia cristatella) - they too make me smile.

Thanks, as always, for the lovely hike.

Raining Iguanas said...

Thank you for being a steward of this great trail. As a local resident and lover of this park I appreciate your commitment.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

I'm glad you have that happy memory, hikeagiant. I did not have that great a relationship with my dad, but his enthusiasm for nature was one of the few joys we shared. Regarding the lichens, there are a number that have red tops, and one of those is called British Soldiers. But I always think of British soldiers as having red COATS, not HATs. I'm glad that at least one lichen has a common name, since most don't. There's another red-tipped one called LIpstick Powderhorn. Isn't that a great name?

Raining Iguanas, we share a love for that park. What a treasure, with so many trails and waterbodies and habitats to enjoy. I hope we meet on the trails some day. Why don't we arrange to?