Accompanied by the croaks of Wood Frogs and the calls of Red-winged Blackbirds, we explored both the open marsh and the wooded wetlands that make up this nature preserve, stopping to notice the long pendulous male catkins of the alders, and also the little red puffs of this shrub's female flowers.
At our second stop of the day, the Ballston Creek Preserve near Ballston Lake, we found other female alder flowers that seemed a bit bigger and redder than the ones at Bog Meadow. I know we have at least two species of alder, but I can never remember how to tell them apart.
We had come to the Ballston Creek Preserve to observe the active heronry there, and we were not disappointed in finding the giant nests already occupied by Great Blue Herons. We were, however, quite disappointed to find that the Osprey-occupied nest we'd been observing the past two years was totally gone, with not a stick remaining nor any sign of the Ospreys. I wonder if last summer's hurricane blew the nest away. Or if the Osprey pair will return to build a new nest. They may have decided to relocate among less inhospitable neighbors. My post from last year recounts one of their not-so-friendly encounters with the herons.
It looks like one red-feathered bird (perhaps a woodpecker?) had a very unfriendly encounter with some kind of predator, to judge from this gob of remains Sue found on a log. We weren't quite sure if the gob was feces or regurgitated matter.
As we sat on a bench to eat our lunch, we were serenaded on all sides by birdsong and frog calls. Out in the marsh we could hear the motorboat chugging of what Sue was pretty certain were Pickerel Frogs, while off in the woods to either side of us we could hear the loud quacks of the Wood Frogs seeking mates in the vernal pools.
I wasn't able to record with my camera the distinctive sound of the Pickerel Frogs, but I did manage to record the quacking Wood Frogs. Of course, the frogs fell silent as we approached the pool, but after we sat there quietly for a good long while, they once again began to croak their distinctive calls.
On our way back to Saratoga, we decided to pull in to the Malta Nature Preserve, a small natural area of wooded marsh and ponds set among surrounding housing developments. Our reward for stopping was the sight of a good-sized flock of Ring-necked Ducks resting from their migration on one of the ponds. Once again, Sue amazed me with her ability to recognize them immediately, even at quite a distance. Unfortunately, they were too far away for a photograph, but I was quite excited to be able to see these unusual ducks through my binoculars.
While standing on a dock observing the ducks, we looked down into the water to notice these fish that seemed to be observing us.
After Sue returned home to prepare for an evening obligation, I decided I still had time for one more nature adventure today and drove up to the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve in Wilton. There, I was astounded to find the diminutive Snow Trillium already in bloom, at least two weeks earlier than I've ever found it before.
Although this lovely little trillium is not native to areas this far north, it seems to have naturalized very well in this location. No doubt, it was Orra Phelps herself who planted it years ago in her woods, for which I am very grateful. Otherwise, I would never have the chance to see this brave little beauty that dares to open its blooms so early, some years even while snow remains on the ground around it.