Saturday, May 2: I Love My Park Day at Moreau Lake State Park
On Saturday, we could not have had a lovelier day for rolling up our sleeves (or in this case, donning our yellow T-shirts) to whip our beloved Moreau Lake State Park into shape for the season. Dozens of volunteers showed up ready to get to work on a variety of tasks that ranged from flower planting to picking up trash to building a blind for watching birds in the woods. I showed up eager to pitch in where help was needed, and discovered my task was to scoot around to all the work sites and take photos of the people completing their projects.
This mother/daughter duo was hard at work helping to plant the pansies that prettied up the entrance to the beach bathhouse.
These eager workers were among a large group spreading mulch over the landscaped areas at the park's main entrance.
I would have loved this task! And what a gorgeous day to be on the water! These dedicated paddlers were just about to set off to circle the lake close to shore, cleaning all the trash within reach, either below the water or what they could reach along the shore.
How great to have this bunch of handy guys set to work to set up a birdblind, offering nature lovers a place to quietly and invisibly watch for wildlife in the woods and on the water.
Many people have no idea how extensive this state park's holdings are, reaching far beyond the campground and lake to climb over the mountains and cross the Hudson River, with portions of the park lining the river even on the Warren County side. Another group of volunteers was working over here on the riverbank, where two boat launching sites provide trailered motorboats access to the river -- and unfortunately are known to collect unpleasant amounts of trash. It's truly beyond me how people could come to a place as lovely as this, and not treat it with more respect.
Thanks to these folks, though, those boat-launching sites are all tidied up. At least for the moment.
There were other work projects I never had time to cover -- playground raking, other site clean-ups, etc. -- but I sure made certain I got to the Nature Center pavilion on time to enjoy a picnic lunch provided by the Friends of Moreau Lake State Park. This is Dave, who manned the grill and served up lots of hot dogs and hamburgs to the hungry crews who had spent the morning improving our beautiful park.
In my scurrying about from work site to work site, I did stop to marvel at the natural beauty surrounding us here. See the sunlight shining through these translucent baby Red Maple leaves -- as lovely as any stained glass!
On my way home, I stopped off at Orra Phelps Nature Preserve in Wilton to see if the Sessile-leaved Bellworts were blooming. Yes, they certainly were. Dozens of them, along the creek. But you have to crouch down low to see their lovely pale-yellow flowers dangling from gracefully arching stems.
I was much less happy to find this other pretty flower blooming along the same creek as the bellworts were. Yes, Lesser Celandine is pretty, and the sight of teeming masses of this introduced flower along creekbeds can be breathtakingly beautiful. But unfortunately, this invasive species crowds out all the native plants that might try to share this habitat, including those lovely bellworts shown in the photo above. So I pulled the Lesser Celandine out, not just this flowering plant, but also as many of its leaves as I could find. This is the third year I've found this flower and pulled it out, and so far I find only one or two easily removed plants each spring. Let's hope it stays that way.
I was truly surprised to find the White Trilliums so fully in bloom on Sunday, since it had only been a few days since I first found the Red Trilliums finally open. I usually expect a week or more to separate the bloom time of these two trillium species. That's equally true of the two bellwort species I found this weekend, the Sessile-leaved Bellworts blooming at Orra Phelps and the Large-flowered Bellworts I unexpectedly found already in full bloom at Skidmore, pictured here.
The violets are coming on fast now, and I was delighted to find large clumps of Long-spurred Violets throughout the woods. This violet, with its long hooked spur, thrives in the limey soil of the Skidmore site. All of the plants I found this day were very pale in coloration, as if all the color had drained to the center, except for that very purple spur. I have found more deeply purple flowers on this species in years past.
I found a few Downy Yellow Violets, as well, although not in the numbers I expect to find in the coming weeks.
We should be seeing more Dwarf Ginseng, too, as the warm weather continues. On this day, most plants were only in tight bud, but here and there I found one or two in beautiful starry bloom.
We should also have many more days to delight in the tiny snowflake-like flowers of Miterwort, which was just now opening its lower flowers.
It wasn't just flowers that caught my attention on Sunday. This large limestone boulder was covered with the thickest mat of Walking Fern I have ever seen (plus a few dainty Bloodroot flowers and one plant of Early Meadow Rue). This is a rather uncommon fern that thrives on boulders made up of either limestone or marble, and I know of several other sites where I find this "un-ferny-looking" species. But never in such profusion as on this particular boulder. Amazing!
Another intriguing find was this tiny uncoiling fern, cherry-red and covered with fine hairs. I am not sure of its species. It was growing in an open area under some power lines. Could it be Hay-scented Fern?
I just love the buds and baby leaves of Striped Maple, which at this stage almost look like pink-bodied green-winged birds flitting through the forest.
The opening leaves of Alternate-leaved Dogwood also have an elegant charm, deeply pleated, gracefully curving, and edged with dark red. As lovely as any flower, to my eyes.
With temperatures heading toward 90, Monday brought the kind of summery heat that causes me to seek the shade, a difficult thing to find when there are few leaves as yet on the trees. But the woodland trails at Bog Meadow Nature Trail offer at least the illusion of coolness, with a thick forest crowding the path and a dark damp swamp extending for acres on either side.
When I visited here last week, the Carolina Spring Beauties were still in tight bud, but today the summery warmth had enticed hundreds to open their pretty pink-striped blooms.
The pure-white flowers of Wood Anemone were starring the darkest corners of the woods.
I know of three different species of Horsetail Reeds that grow at Bog Meadow, but this Woodland Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) is the only one that has multi-forked branches, which give it a very fluffy, lacy appearance. Most of the individuals I saw today were the sterile plants, but I did find one or two of the fertile plants, each bearing a terminal spore-bearing cone called a strobilus. The strobilus will wither and disappear after the spores have been disbursed.
A tiny brook follows the trail for a while, the dark reflecting water providing a perfect foil for the dainty Miterwort that thrives along its course.
The violets have started to open along the trail, and the tiny Northern White Violet is one of our earliest to bloom, with green-throated white flowers that are as fragrant as they are lovely.
Another violet I saw this day was the pretty blue Dog Violet, distinguished from the Common Blue Violet by the fact that it bears its flowers and leaves on the same stem. It also has sharply toothed stipules that sheathe the leaf stalks. I wonder if the presence of these sharp "teeth" are what suggested this violet's common name. Its scientific name is Viola conspersa.
Oh what a sight to behold! Acres and acres of swamp solidly carpeted with the gloriously golden Marsh Marigold.! This is one native wildflower that surely outshines any cultivated plant the horticulturists could come up with.
More demure than the Marsh Marigold, but equally lovely in their own way, were the vast numbers of Trout Lilies I discovered growing in a wide flat area just off the trail. I hadn't recalled finding many Trout Lilies at Bog Meadow before, but oh my gosh, just LOOK at all these flowers! This was a surprise, and certainly worth the sweaty, buggy hike on this most unseasonably hot day to see.