Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Own Woodland Wonderland

No exotic landscapes, no amazing animal antics, no adventures worth a write-up in National Geographic -- it was just a simple walk in the woods on a crisp and lovely late-autumn afternoon that filled me with joy today.  It sure doesn't take much to make me happy.  And happy, indeed, I was,  to abandon my pre-holiday preparations at home and set out for Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park, to walk the trail that circles the pond, which today lay serene and calm under a clear blue sky.

I could hear the Hooded Mergansers out on the pond, their low rumbling croaks, as two males, bobbing their heads and arching their necks,  showed off their splendid black-and-white headdresses to a pair of females floating on the mirror-like surface of the pond.  I could barely see them, however, nor could my camera capture them with its limited zoom capability, but I know they are there in the center of this photo, because their calls are unmistakeable.  Click HERE to hear that amazing sound and see this duck's beautiful plumage.

The water level of the pond was remarkably low today, revealing extensive mud flats on the western shore.  A wash of bright green overlying the dark mud made me wonder if some new plants were growing there so late in the season.

Oh my gosh, there sure were!  Here's the liverwort Ricciocarpus natans, masses of it almost completely covering the shore.  I found this liverwort at this same location two years ago, but it then disappeared, and I have been searching for it ever since.  There was not a trace of it here all summer and early fall this year, but here it was again, in multitudes.  It's considered to be a floating plant, so my question is:  Does it form in the water and then get stranded on the mud when the water level drops, or does it form first on the mud and then float away in the spring when the water levels rise?

Further back on the shore of the mud flats, it was easy to spot the rusty-orange clusters of Ditch Stonecrop among the pale blades of dead grass.

The plump five-parted seedheads deserve a closer look to enjoy their intricate beauty.

Along the powerline clearcut at the northern end of the pond, a number of American Hazelnut shrubs still held frilly clusters of ripe nuts.   How is it the squirrels haven't devoured these nuts or stored them away in their winter caches?  Perhaps they are wormy or moldy.  Even if they are, I thought they looked quite handsome.

The sandy trail along the powerline is perfect habitat for the Mint-family plant called Blue Curls, which, in season, bears pretty little royal-blue flowers.  After the flowers drop, I find delight in the dainty seed capsules, each little cup holding two round seeds, like tiny eggs in miniature baskets.  I was surprised to see a few seeds remaining.

The little asters are long past blooming, but many still hold their puffy white seed heads, which I find kind of adorable, like little furry creatures.

With November's palette of browns and grays dominating the landscape now, it's always a pleasant surprise to see a little jolt of color like this baby oak leaf, still holding on to autumn's more brilliant hues.

And here's a promise of spring:  the male catkins of Sweet Fern are already present, clustered at the ends of the shrubby stems.  They will stay tightly closed all winter,  waiting until spring's warmth to open their scales and shed their pollen on the air, to waft to waiting female flowers.

As the sun fell lower in the sky, it shed a golden light on the banks of Mud Pond and lit up the white breasts of a small flock of Canada Geese resting on the still surface of the water.

I took the river road home, stopping to stand on the banks and gaze on the beauty of my beloved Hudson as it meanders among the mountains.  There was not a whisper of wind to riffle the reflections of forested hills and rocky islands.

I could not tell if my photos were in focus, since my eyes kept blurring with tears of gratefulness and joy that a landscape of such transcendent  loveliness was mine to inhabit.


Friend of HK said...

The scenery is very beautiful, but the last one is my favourite.

June said...

Your photographs always take away my breath. Great and tiny miracles everywhere. Everywhere!
The liverwort has very cute little stubby "fingers." I see faces the Stonecrop . . . foxes and birds.
Thank you so much for sharing what you see.

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

Phew! so glad there were no exotic animals or stunning scenery today, BECAUSE SOME TIMES I THINK I WILL HAVE A HEART ATTACK JUST LOOKING AT YOUR BLOG, MY HEART GOES MAD!
Hang on......they were completely stunning scenes and colours and serenity and im still here.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

What a surprise to find your kind comment, Friend of HK, arriving from Hong Kong, all the way on the other side of the world! This internet is amazing! A click on your name gives us access to your own blog and news of your part of the world. Thanks for stopping by.

Oh June, you are so right! "Great and tiny miracles everywhere." Thanks for pointing out the fox and bird faces in the Ditch Stonecrop. Now I will see them every time.

Dear Cranky, your enthusiasm is so delightful. You always make me smile. Thanks. Now I'm going to click on your name and visit your part of the world across the Atlantic.

Ellen Rathbone said...

That ditch stonecrop is glorious!!! And who knew that a liverwort could be aquatic - in my mind they are always clinging to rocks...guess I need to read up more on them in my ample spare time. :)

suep said...

so happy you re-found the liverwort, after so many trips to the Delta in search of it ...!