Thursday, February 7, 2013

Before the Snow

We're supposed to get really slammed with a snowstorm, starting tomorrow.  The forecasters are whipping themselves into a frenzy, claiming this storm will be of "historic" proportions,  with up to two feet of snow in some areas.  Two feet?!  Hey guys, calm down!  We've had bigger snowfalls than that around here, ones where the snow is heaped so high you can't tell which car at the curb is yours when you go to shovel it out.  As for me, I'm looking forward to snow, lots of snow, enough to cover the cold bare ground and stay there the rest of the winter.

On a walk at Bog Meadow Nature Trail today, I almost felt sorry for that bare brown earth, with no winter coat to insulate it against the bitter cold.  It's been cold enough lately to freeze solid the little stream that runs along the trail, and this created an easier pathway to walk on than the lumpy, frost-heaved trail.




The trail was an ankle-twister today, that's for sure!  I look forward to when deep snow will smooth the way for skis or snowshoes.





This time of year, there's not a lot to report on, out here in the woods.  If not for the mosses and lichens and liverworts, there'd be little color at all.





Small willow trees line the boardwalk where it crosses an open marsh, and today I noticed that almost all of the willows were sporting at least one of two kinds of galls.  The Shoot-tip Rose Gall looks like a dried flower at the tip of each branch, and is caused by a tiny fly (Rhabdophaga rosaria) laying its egg in a slit in the branch.  The tree then produces this flower-shaped rosette of tissue surrounding the egg, to protect the larva as it matures.




Other small willows were bearing multiple hard, brown, spindle-shaped swellings on their twigs, each one with a bud protruding out of the top of the gall.  After searching around on the web, I found photos of similar galls -- called Willow Beaked Galls -- that were identified as caused by another tiny fly  called Mayetiola rigidae.  The larva is wintering over within the gall and will emerge in the spring.  While reading up on these galls, I also learned that willows play host to more kinds of galls than any other woody plant.  The winter is the best time to find these galls, since during the growing season they are hidden among the leaves.





Making my way home along the shores of Saratoga Lake, I stopped to enjoy the brilliant orange-gold light of the sun as it peeked through a break in the thick cloud cover before falling below the horizon. It looked so clear off there in the west, it seems hard to believe that a massive storm is heading our way.  I guess we shall see.


10 comments:

Mike Fitts said...

Wonderful as usual Jackie! Stay safe during snowmageddon :-)

Elizabeth said...

Boy am I excited -- I might finally get to break in my new snowshoes. :) Enjoy the snow and stay safe! I'm looking forward to hearing about your adventures when it looks like winter out there again!

catharus said...

Very nice last shot! Yes, I too have those sentiments of the cold bare earth with no insulating layer of snow.

Carolyn H said...

I'm jealous of your impending snow. It appears I will be in what the forecasters are calling the dry slot between these two storms, which means I will get get nada. No snow, no nothing, except some wind afterwards. I am not a happy camper.

Ellen Rathbone said...

What a gorgeous final photo!

I've been thinking about the same thing: two feet = disaster? Really? When we had that huge storm Valentine's Day 4-5 years ago, which dumped tons of snow on the central Adirondacks (and no doubt other places), that didn't hit the news. The year Buffalo had 12' snowbanks after one blizzard - now THAT was a major storm.

Good luck - I'm sure you'll get thru just fine.

threecollie said...

Beautiful photos! I love the macro of the moss on the limb, and the sunset is gorgeous too!

The Stonehedge Farm said...

stay warm..great pix

Virginia said...

I'm with you--here's to lots of snow! It is snowing now and looks great, but it appears that our inches are being reduced. We'll see what we get in the end. It should still be plenty to play in :)

asita said...

Thanks for pointing out the willow galls, I will look for them next time I'm out.
├ůsa

Woodswalker said...

Thanks for stopping by to comment, dear friends. Our "historic" storm dropped about 4 meager inches on us, although it did indeed wallop the coastal northeast.