Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Colorful Day on Lens Lake

Good friends, a gorgeous day, and three sweet little Hornbeck canoes for paddling an Adirondack lake full of colorful wonders --  what could be better!  Here Sue (in hat) and Nancy ready their boats for exploring the convoluted shoreline of Lens Lake, a quiet and lovely lake about 5 miles west of Stony Creek, in Warren County.

Lens Lake is remarkable for the acres and acres of bog-mat islands that stud its pristine waters, all accessible for exploring from the comfort of our canoes.

With our little Hornbeck boats, we could squeeze into the narrow channels and shallow waters that would defy passage to larger and heavier craft.   Although very few flowers were still blooming on these bog mats, they were vividly colored by carpets of sphagnum moss and the still-bright leaves of plants like the Pitcher Plant in the foreground of this photo.

I think these pitchers were the deepest red of any I have ever seen.

The moss-covered hummocks seemed to vie with each other for which was the most colorful.  This hummock, carpeted with green and gold sphagnum, was spiked with the radiant leaves and stems of Marsh St. Johnswort and sprinkled with the white confetti of White Beaksedge

This sundew-studded mat held a Marsh St. Johnswort plant with buds that glowed like rubies.

The red and yellow sphagnums mingled together to form a carpet as vivid and intricate as any Persian rug.

This little islet, crowned with yellow sphagnum and studded with Beaksedge, was ringed with a ruby-colored fringe of Spatulate-leaved Sundew.

Here's a really tiny islet of the same sundew.

The small white puffs of Pipewort stood out against the vivid red of the sundew leaves.

A close-up view of the sundew reveals the wing of an unlucky insect caught in the sticky tentacles of this carnivorous plant.

Cranberries were starting to ripen to glorious red.  There should be plenty of ripe ones in time for Thanksgiving.

Bog Lycopodium looked like green fuzzy caterpillars crawling across a fallen log.

Bog Rosemary held clusters of pretty pink berries.

After exploring the edges of the bog mats, we then pulled our canoes up onto one mat and got out to explore on foot, sinking deeply into the squishy sphagnum.  All around us, fluffy white heads of Cottongrass waved and bobbed in the breeze.

As soon as I stepped on the mat, I spied this little Striped Garden Caterpillar (the larva of the moth Trichordestra legitima) curled on the sphagnum.

This little Leopard Frog wore golden stripes to match the gold of the surrounding moss (Sphagnum papillosum).

When exploring bog mats, it's very helpful to have a bryologist along, as we did with Nancy Slack, who pointed out another bright red sphagnum, differentiated from the other red sphagnum we had been seeing by its smaller size.  This is called, appropriately, Little Red Sphagnum (S. rubellum), while the larger red one is called Big Red Sphagnum (S. magellanicum).

Nancy also pointed out a small patch of bright green sphagnum (S. cuspidatum) in a very wet spot, and she told us this one has the very descriptive common name of Wet Kittens.  Yes, I see the resemblance.

I don't know the name of this tiny red mushroom.  It was only about a half inch across, but its vivid color announced its presence from some distance away.

Heading back to our launch spot, we took our time exploring some quiet pine-shadowed coves.

In the dark shallow water of one of these coves, we found these enormous convoluted blobs of transparent greenish jelly floating along the bottom, like some very creepy creatures from the Black Lagoon.  You can get an idea of the size of this blob by the Water Lily leaf floating above it.

I tried to pick one end of this "thing" out of the water, but my hand passed through it as if through a ghost.  I did manage to obtain some of its matter, which resembled clear jelly flecked with brown specks.  The closest I've been able to come to an answer regarding these blobs is that they could be formed by a colonial microscopic single-celled protozoan called Ophrydium versatile.

According to the "Ask the Naturalist" blog that I found on-line, these colonies "can be found all over the world in fresh water.  The individual cells line up side-by-side in the 'blob' and attach themselves to a jelly-like substance they secrete.  They are symbiotic with microscopic Chlorella algae that live inside the Ophrydium cells and give the blob its green color."

One last look at a lake that provided us with a day of wonderful adventures.  Next stop was for ice cream at Upriver Cafe in Lake Luzerne, sitting on a deck overlooking the Hudson River.  Lucky us!

Update:  One of our goals while exploring the Lens Lake sphagnum mats was to find a patch of rare moss, called Pennsylvania Dung Moss (Splachnum pensylvanicum), that we found here last November while paddling this lake with Evelyn Greene.  Although we couldn't find it this time, Evelyn assures me we could probably still find it if we looked in the right place.  Until I have a chance to return and search for it again, here are two photos of what this lush green moss looks like, as well as a link to last November's post about paddling this beautiful lake in late autumn, when abundant cranberries were ripe for the picking.

A patch of Pennsylvania Dung Moss on otter feces.  This moss is very particular about which feces or rotting carcasses it will grow on, and otter poop is one of its favorites.  Moose bones are another favorite site, but otter feces are much more common at Lens Lake than moose bones are.

A really close look at this Dung Moss reveals the tiny stars at the tops of its fruiting bodies.


Christmas-etc... said...

Thanks for taking me "with you" on this very special trip!!

catharus said...

'Just a blessing to look at the pictures! I look forward to learning more when you add your story.

Ian said...

A beautiful lake, plants and wonderful photos

Anonymous said...

Hurray back...and do tell about your photos and adventures !

Ellen Rathbone said...

So many reds! Autumn is truly on its way.