It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with towering conifers laden with snow and needles of ice underfoot, where frost has thrust up from the sand.
The leaves of Shining Sumac were Santa-suit red, trimmed with glistening snow.
And yet, the foliage colors of autumn still glowed along the edge of Mud Pond in Moreau Lake State Park this morning, where Sue and I met to walk around the pond.
We were hoping to find some Frostweed exuding its frothy curls of ice, but instead found it buried under a thick coat of snow.
The warm glowing gold of Beech leaves presented quite a contrast to the icy blue of the snow.
On the western bank of the pond, all traces of snow had melted away in the warmth of the rising sun. That sun had just cleared the hills behind us and was only beginning to cast its rays on the beaver lodge, which still bore a dusting of snow. Although we found many freshly felled trees, we did not see any beavers moving around this morning. We did, however, enjoy the antics of a solitary otter cutting through the still water, teasing us into trying to take its photo, only to dive each time we raised our cameras.
While we stood there watching for the otter, a small flock of Canada Geese came sailing in. We could hear their musical calls long before they circled the pond and then splashed down for a landing.
A killing frost has finally shriveled most of the flowering plants, but the leaves of Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera tesselata) remain fresh and green all winter. Sue was eager to show me a patch of this native orchid that she had only recently discovered.
Sue thought these fruits might be those of a Hackberry tree. That's a tree with which I am not at all familiar, so I couldn't say. I would have guessed they were some kind of viburnum, maybe Nannyberry, although the leaves are more like those of Witherod. The berries are certainly attractive, dark-blue clusters dangling from rosy-red pedicels.
At least I had no doubt about the Maple-leaved Viburnum that spread its rosy leaves all over the forest floor.
Sue got right down on that forest floor to capture a shot of viburnum leaves backlit by the rising sun.
I was intrigued by this pebbly growth on the trunk of a beech tree. I have no idea what it could be, whether fungus or slime mold. We've had an amazing year for such organisms, which are stimulated to fruit during years of abundant rainfall. I wonder if we will have abundant snowfall this winter. The snowfall certainly started early enough, and I heard we are likely to get much more tomorrow.