Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Walking the Wilton Preserve

 Oh, but it was grand to swing my legs under a wide open sky today, feel the sandy path under my feet, smell the scent of oaks and pines, and enjoy a nice long walk through the Wilton Wildlife Preserve with my good buddy Sue.  After a solid week of feasting and family togetherness -- all of it grand, but most of it indoors -- I was eager to get back to my nature haunts and the quiet companionship of a fellow nature nut enthusiast.

 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? 

And isn't it odd to find a Spring Peeper on the very last day of November?  Shouldn't they all be tucked away for the winter?  Another blog friend at "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.


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

Wonderful pictures, such filigree in nature too!
You have a such a treasure trove there, im just so thankful that you share it with us.

squirrel said...

I love the trumpet lichen and well, all of it. I can see that you have learned many more than when you first started blogging. You bolg is beginning to be a moss and lichen reference for me. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

First of all - thanks for the reference to my blog - that salamander was ... beyond amazing!

I, too, love the mini-gardens that the moss et al create - many times I read your blog, go out, and lo! there's something you've mentioned - or - I'll see an interesting organism, come home, read your blog, and there it is!

Thanks so much for blogging; sharing what you know and find!

WendyFromNY said...

Ay carumba! LOVE your blog! Both my parents were photographers, but your pictures are every bit as good as anything they ever took. You even manage to find outstanding colors in the dreariest season of the year! And your macro shots are fascinating. Awe inspiring, please never stop taking pictures!

We are a little new to this part of the state, don't see any Butterfly Weed (Asclepius tuberous) up here, what about you? I finally got some seeds and grew my own!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thank you Cranky and squirrel and hiker and wendy for so many generous comments. I'm delighted you like to come along on my walks through my blog. Your appreciation is part of what keep me doing this.

wendywoo, we do have lots of Butterfly Weed in late summer. It likes sandy open places like the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and the Woods Hollow Nature Preserve in Ballston Spa. I also see lots of it growing in the median of the Northway between Glens Falls and Schroon Lake.

WendyFromNY said...

I haven't seen ANY since we moved up here to Schoharie County from downstate twelve years ago. Really missed seeing it, it was my mother's favorite! Grew in waste places, roadsides down there. I grew my own, and it lives in average garden soil, go figure. If you ever see some and think about it, could you post a picture? I'll bet you could really do it justice!

threecollie said...

Your photos just make me sight with delight. Love them! And how neat to see a peeper at this time of year...or any time of year...

asita said...

Beautiful. And thanks for your comment on my post about the Rattlesnake plantain flowers: I will wait patiently until they bloom in summer. Thanks for teaching me more - in fact, I urge you to, if I write something that could be corrected!

Ethan M. Dropkin said...

Amazing pictures, Wilton Preserve looks like a great spot. I just wanted to let you know that the plants you have labeled as Pussytoes (Antennaria sp.) are more likely Hawkweed (Hieracium sp.).

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Ethan, thanks for correcting my labeling. I do believe you are correct that these are hawkweeds and not pussytoes, most likely Mouse-ear Hawkweed. I'll add a correction.