Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Flashes of Color Along Bog Meadow Trail

After a stretch of rainy unpleasant days, summer paid us a brief visit today, with warmth and sunshine to add to the pleasure of a walk along Bog Meadow Trail.  I entered the trail from a spur that comes in from Meadowbrook Estates, an access that leads to a boardwalk crossing a wooded wetland.

Although most of the trees have dropped their leaves by now, I still found flashes of brilliant color along the trail, especially among the little oak seedlings when the afternoon sun lit up their ruddy leaves from behind.

The rosy leaves of this baby oak looked so pretty, set among the yellowing leaves of Dwarf Raspberry and set off with a green sprig of hemlock.

Almost every wetland is now ablaze with the crimson fruits of Winterberry, and the Bog Meadow wetlands are no exception.

This sprinkling of the tiny Lemon Drop Fungus looked especially vivid against the dark wood of a rotting stump.

Bog Meadow Trail runs east for about two miles from an entrance on Rte. 50 just outside of Saratoga to its terminus on Meadowbrook Road, near the intersection with Stafford's Bridge Road.  I entered the trail about two-thirds of that way along and turned west.  Here the trail follows an old railroad bed through forested wetland on either side, with a wide-open marsh about midway along the trail.  That open marsh was my destination today, because I hoped to see if migrating waterfowl might be resting on the water.

As I strode along, I noticed that in the dark of the woods, the fluffy white seedheads of Flat-topped Asters glowed with a pearly light.

The leaves of Highbush Blueberry were so brilliantly red, they even dazzled the sensor of my camera, which didn't seem to know what to do with so saturated a color.

I noticed some recent improvements to the trail, with the addition of benches spaced at various points, as well as the placing of distance markers set at quarter-mile intervals.  Although the land through which the trail runs is owned by the city of Saratoga Springs, the trail itself is managed by Saratoga P.L.A.N. (a land conservation organization) and is maintained by dedicated volunteers.

When I reached the open marsh, I was a little disappointed not to see a single waterfowl resting on its quiet water, but I still very much enjoyed the beautiful view.

Wondering if there might be some ducks or geese hiding among the tussocks across the water, I took a seat on this waterside bench and let my eyes scan the distance for any movement.  At one point, a solitary duck came angling in, but when it saw me,  it wheeled around and flew away out of sight before I could try to identify it.  One thing I DID see, however, was a little fluffy white clump surrounding the narrow trunk of a spindly Speckled Alder just to the right of the bench.  Can you see it in this photo?

A closer look revealed a mass of Wooly Alder Aphids, each tiny insect exuding threads of white waxy material that made them look as if they were covered with fur.  Aside from their remarkable appearance, these are indeed fascinating creatures, for each member of this cluster is a clone of a single winged female aphid that landed on this branch and began to produce wingless clonal offspring without mating with a male.  And then the clones also began producing more clones.  The aphids feed on the sap of the tree, and when they have depleted the resources at this spot, they will produce an aphid with wings who can fly off and establish a new colony.

I was not surprised to find this cluster, since the whole time I'd been walking the trail, I'd noticed these tiny bits of blue fluff wafting about, and finally I  had reached out and caught one in my hand. This is the winged form of the Wooly Alder Aphid.  I just can't imagine a cuter little bug, with that baby-blue color, gossamer wings, and abdomen covered with fluff.

I found some other pretty things along the shore of the marsh, including this cluster of shiny red rose hips, the fruit of the same deliciously fragrant Swamp Rose I had stopped to delight in last summer.

Bittersweet Nightshade also produces a shiny red fruit, but theirs with a lovely translucency, and many today were dangling from vines that hung over the water.

I have never seen any other plant but Bittersweet Nightshade produce leaves of such a vivid purple.

And oh, when the sun lit those purple leaves from behind, they glowed like stained glass!

The day grew late and I had to turn and hurry home, but I drew to a halt when I saw this patch of Green Shield Lichen with what looked like a brown bat flying forth from its center.  Fascinating!  And just in time for Halloween!


June said...

That last looks like a home grown Green Man!
Thank you for the colors! Who would ever think to look at such a tiny little aphid for such beauty? A minuscule winged ballerina in a tutu!

The Furry Gnome said...

Looks like a perfect late fall day. Pictures are great! I love those really purple leaves.

Woody Meristem said...

Pretty, pretty photos -- good work in a beautiful place.

Momo said...

Yet again you have given us the gift of your remarkable Fall colors with such well-composed and interesting photos! Thanks.