Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Roadside Pocket Swamp

We got some SNOW!  Only an inch or so, but it's been cold enough the past few days to keep it on the ground.  It's also been cold enough to re-freeze the melting ice in the swamps, allowing me access to areas far too mucky for exploring in summer.  I remembered a little pocket swamp just off the Corinth Mountain Road where I found some orchids last summer, so I went there today to poke about to see what else I might find.

The first thing I noticed was an abundance of deer tracks throughout the swamp.  How odd that the deer seemed to constantly drag their feet!

The other most abundant animal tracks were those of fishers.  The area is thick with hemlocks, favorite winter food of porcupines, which in turn are the favorite food of fishers, so it was not surprising that fishers would frequent these woods.

In autumn, this swamp is ablaze with the bright-red fruits of Winterberry, and some of the shrubs still held a few shriveled berries.

Still adding color to the swamp were the rosy-red buds and twigs of Highbush Blueberry, which today were festooned with the silky fluff of neighboring cattails.

Some of the cattail heads were still intact, and I couldn't resist the urge to give them a squeeze, and then stand back to witness the explosion of billowing fluff.

(Thank you, Ed Miller, for teaching me this wonderfully amusing activity.  The speed and abundance with which that compressed fluff billows out is truly amazing!)

I wondered if I might still find the remnants of the Little Club-spur Orchids (Platanthera clavellata) I had found here the first time I explored this swamp, during the summer.  The winter landscape looked quite different from the lush, leafy, mossy greenery of summer, but I remembered that those orchids grew on a mossy log at the base of three trunks.  This looked like the site.

Sure enough, there was a stalk topped by the tell-tale pods of the little orchids growing out of that mossy log.

I counted a number of the orchid remnants at the same site, including this one growing out of a clump of moss at the base of a tree.

How did I know that these were the pods from the Little Club-spur Orchid and not some other plant? For one thing, the remnants still possessed traces of the long spur this native orchid is noted for. And of course, I had found them at this site before.   Here's what they look like in full bloom.  I look forward to seeing their charming blooms again when summer returns, now that I know where they grow.  They are not a rare plant in New York, but I don't find them all that often, either.

The thin layer of snow that covered the forest floor was beautifully light and fluffy, sparkling and glinting where rays of sunlight penetrated the tree cover.  And today those sparkles were flashing  all the colors of the rainbow.  I could see those colors well with my naked eye, but I had to enhance the saturation to make those colors more evident in the photograph.  I'm not sure what the conditions have to be to produce this colorful effect, but it's always a delight to witness it.


threecollie said...

It is so hard to capture the sparkle on the snow like that. Well done!

The Furry Gnome said...

I like that last pocture. Brings out the snow sparkles. Glad you got some smow too!