There were ducks on the bay too far away for my camera to capture, but Sue with her excellent birding skills was able to tell me immediately what kind they were, including two pairs of Ring-necked Ducks and a pair of Wood Ducks. Sue was also the first to spy this just-opened arbutus blossom growing on a sandy bank. Peering close, I noticed that the petals were edged with brown. Could it be that our snowless winter has made the flower buds vulnerable to damage?
As we walked along the sandy shore, we came upon a fallen log covered with a wonderful mix of colorful mosses and lichens and liverworts. At least, I think that these mats of reddish stuff are a liverwort. But it's not one I know the name of.
Looking closer, I didn't find the braided sacs I usually associate with liverworts, but I did see those shiny black spheres on stalks that I do associate with liverwort fruiting bodies.
Here's an even closer look at those fruiting bodies, very tiny, emerging from cylindrical cases.
I've sent these photos to some friends who are very knowledgeable about bryology, so I hope I will eventually have a name for this fascinating organism. Update: Evelyn Greene suggested this might be the liverwort Ptilidium pulcherrimum, which I googled and found photos that look quite similar. This is one of the few liverworts with common names: Naugahyde Liverwort is one name, and Lovely Fuzzwort is another. Guess which one I'll be calling it. Love that Lovely Fuzzwort!
Down the beach from that liverworty log was a beautiful mound of Haircap Moss, its starry green stalks crowned with rusty-colored cups that hold the ripening sperm.
Overhead, yellow-and-red puffs of male Red Maple flowers showed their colors to best advantage against that blue, blue sky.
On the same sandy bank where I found that Draba verna the other day, Sue saw these wild-haired yellow heads in the grass, the flowers of some kind of sedge, but a rather small one. The flowers look just like those of Plaintain-leaved Sedge, but the leaves are much narrower.
As we rounded the lake and reached the road that would take us back to our cars, we noticed that some of the roadside posts were polka-dotted with tiny bumps, like nothing we'd ever seen before.
A closer look revealed that each of those bumps was affixed to the post with a very fine thread so that they dangled down about an inch from the attachment site. Also, the bumps turned out not to be spherical, but rather flattened, like teensy bowls. Very strange! I've never seen anything like this. Is it a fungus? Maybe a slime mold? I sure don't know.
Sue had to leave to go to her job, but I was free to continue my day in the woods. After stopping at home for lunch, I then headed out to the Skidmore woods, where I found Hepatica just opening its beautiful flowers, a good two weeks earlier than I have ever seen them.
The tightly pleated leaves of False Hellebore have thrust up from the ground like green rockets.
The fuzzy buds of Leatherwood have split open to dangle their bright-yellow trumpets, so lovely against the sky.
I didn't expect to find English Violets today, and almost didn't bother to take a detour to find them. But the day was still young, and very warm, so I decided to make my way to the other side of Broadway on the chance that they just might be in bloom. And so they were. Or rather, so IT was. Just one, but with many buds soon to open. And oh so fragrant, as its Latin name, Viola odorata, would suggest.
I wasn't the only creature enjoying the summer-like warmth of the woods today. A Mourning Cloak Butterfly spends the winter as an adult, sheltering under leaf litter with its blood charged with glucose to prevent it from freezing. On warm days in early spring, it emerges to feed on plant sap and spread its dark velvet wings to absorb the energy of the sun. This one kept teasing me by lighting too far away for a photo, but my patience paid off as it landed at last by my feet.