Monday, November 7, 2011

Late Fall Along the River

The Hudson gleamed silver under a pearl-gray sky when I slipped my canoe into its quiet water this morning for what may be my final paddle of the season.  But maybe not.  I am very reluctant to store my boat away for the winter, so long as the river's beauty still beckons.  Here was the view today from the boat launch site along Spier Falls Road in Moreau.  The beeches and oaks still hold their leaves, turning the forested mountainsides into a crazy quilt of colors.

Despite several snowfalls and many frosty mornings,  I had to get back on the river at least one more time, to look for these amazing creatures that cling to the alders leaning over the water.  These are Wooly Alder Aphids, their "fur" a white waxy substance extruded from their tiny bodies.  Yes, they do suck the sap from the alder twigs, but they never occur in numbers large enough to do real damage to the trees.  I found only three small colonies today along a half-mile stretch of the Hudson.

Except for the beeches and oaks, most trees have shed their leaves by now.  This is true for American Hornbeams as well, but their clusters of winged seeds still dangled from the branches.

The seed pods of Hop Hornbeams also still clung to the trees, dangling like ornaments over the water.

Witch Hazel has shed its leaves but not its flowers, which today were unfurling like yellow stars against the dark green background of conifers.

One of my destinations today was a cluster of three small islands that lie just upstream from the boat launch site.   I have my own names for them -- Birch, Azalea, and Sweet Fern -- indicating the preponderance of plants that grow on each.

I would guess it's obvious why I called one of these islands Birch.   The one I'm standing on is Azalea Island, named for the many Early Azalea shrubs that bloom here in May, scenting the air with their sweet fragrance.  As these rosy-red shrubs reveal, I could have called it Blueberry Island, too, except blueberries and huckleberries grow profusely on all three islands.

One shrub of Highbush Blueberry was especially vivid today.

Sweet Fern Island lies just upstream from Azalea Island, across a narrow rock-filled channel.

I noticed the Sweet Fern had already sprouted the catkins that will winter over to bloom in the spring.

Bright-yellow Meadowsweet provided a stunning contrast to the rich red of the Silky Dogwood that surrounded it.

What a charming little cluster of Wintergreen, set off so prettily by a green mosaic of lichens and mosses!    I find it somehow reassuring to think that, even as winter closes in,  these little plants will all keep their vivid colors under the snow,  to greet us again with their beauty unchanged come spring.


June said...

Being out there by yourself must be pure bliss.

Amanda said...

Hi, I've been following your blog for several months now and felt it was high time I commented to thank you for posting your beautiful photos and the logs of your walks and paddles. I work as an ecology research assistant at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, but my work has me at the computer all day and I rarely get out into the woods anymore. Your blog provides a much needed break many days from data analysis and writing. So thank you!

shari said...

Great Blog! Great pictures and awesome reflections- literally and figuratively.

Caroline said...

Love the smell of sweet fern! My mother-in-law brews a concoction of sweet fern tea that is in demand for its relief giving properties against poison ivy. Old farmhouse remedy that seems to work just great.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

You're right about that, June. Pure bliss!

Amanda, how nice to meet you! I'm so glad my blog can remind you of the woods and waterways you work so hard to protect.

Thank you, Shari, and thanks for stopping by. I love the blogger feature that lets me just click on your name to go to your own fun web site. I encourage all my readers to do so.

Caroline, I love that Sweet Fern fragrance, too, often grabbing a handful of leaves and crushing them to my nose as I hike by. I'd heard that you could make tea from the leaves, but I thought it was to drink it. But why not both, as a drink and as a skin remedy. I think it has insect repellent properties, too.