Friday, September 30, 2016

Beautiful River, Fine Companions

What could be better than having a perfect day to paddle the Hudson River?  How about having four terrific friends to paddle with you?  That was my delight this past Wednesday, when four of my friends from the Thursday Naturalists -- Sue, Kathy, Nancy, and Kathie -- met me at the Sherman Island Boat Launch off of Spier Falls Road in Moreau.  The weather gods had certainly smiled on us, presenting us with a sun-warmed, blue-sky day with little wind, so the water lay mirror-still before us as we pushed off to paddle downstream, following the bends of the river as it flowed among forested mountains.

Yes, I admit we were just a bit disappointed that the leaves had hardly begun to turn their gorgeous autumn colors, although we did find a bough or two of vivid leaves leaning over the banks.

And the Winterberry bushes offered much compensation with their branches studded with beautiful fruit.

Back in a swampy area, the Buttonbush shrubs were adorned with rosy-red orbs, the seed-heads that once held their perfect spheres of white blooms.

As we eased our way slowly along the banks, we came upon a patch of Swamp Candles that were studded with little red pods in every leaf axil.

A closer look revealed that these little red pods were the plants' clonal organs, called bulbils.  Although Swamp Candles do reproduce sexually via their flowers and the resultant seeds, these little bulbils will also promote the spread of this flower, eventually falling off into the mud or carried away by the river's current to produce new plants where they land.

Here was another discovery we found as we passed under the overhanging boughs of Speckled Alders: clonal clusters of Wooly Alder Aphids, their waxy white "fur" covering their tiny bodies as they dined on alder sap.  As I have described several times before on my blog, this cluster of aphids consists of all female wingless clones that will later produce a winged generation (which will also include some males) that will fly away to mate and lay eggs on their host tree, the Silver Maple.

After about a half-hour's paddle  during which we started to feel a bit of buffeting wind, we entered a quiet backwater surrounding this pretty little island crowned by three tall White Pines.

Behind this Three-Pine Island (my personal name for it!) lies a swamp densely populated by Black Tupelo trees that had started to turn their typical brilliant scarlet.  I find it amazing how half of a Black Tupelo's leaves will remain glossy green while the other half turn ruby red.

Continuing along the convoluted and rocky banks that distinguish this stretch of the river above the Sherman Island Dam, we next paddled behind a larger island to enter a part of the river I call Shelter Cove.  A gale may be blowing out on the open river, but back here the water often quiets and the gusty winds grow still.

Paddling close to the steep and moss-covered banks, I was charmed by this patch of Partridgeberries decorated by a single ruby-red tupelo leaf.

The banks surrounding Shelter Cove are composed of many huge boulders, offering us our pick of pleasant places to perch while we stretched our legs and enjoyed our picnic lunches.

A glorious day, indeed!  And one I hope we may soon repeat.  As a final blessing, the wind that had buffeted us on our paddle downstream, now pushed on our backs as we made our way home, alternately gliding on satin-smooth water or moving through patches of glittering wavelets dancing in the sun.


The Furry Gnome said...

That sounds like an idyllic day. The island looks so much like northern Ontario, but it certainly wouldn't have Tupelo trees anyplace nearby!

Uta said...

Looks like you had a wonderful day for yourself and I enjoyed it with you through your wonderful pictures.