Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Perfect Day on Archer Vly

How would I define a "perfect" summer day? Well, the weather would be sunny and calm but not too hot.  Check!  I'd spend the morning in my little canoe, paddling a secluded Adirondack pond.  Check! The pond would be ringed with a wide variety of interesting native plants.  Check! The birds and butterflies and other pretty bugs would be winging about, adding their beauty to the already lovely air.  Check! And best of all, I'd have as my companions dear friends who loved nature as much as I do and also had lots of knowledge to share. Check!  Lucky lady that I am, this was my Friday this past week, a perfectly wonderful time with friends Sue Pierce, Nancy Slack, and Ruth Brooks, paddling the perfectly beautiful pond called Archer Vly, up in the northwestern heights of Saratoga County.

Archer Vly is a small pond surrounded by vast tracts of the New York State Forest Preserve, just a mile or so north of the village of Lake Desolation.  It's a narrow pond with a basically east-west orientation, with a mossy, shady, steeply bouldered north-facing shore, and a flatter, muddier, sun-warmed south-facing shore that is edged with emergent reeds and other water plants.

We started our paddle around the pond by sidling up close to the north-facing shore, marveling at all the shade-loving plants nestled among the mossy boulders.  I had told my friends that we would find lots of the small native orchid called Little Club Spur Orchid (Platanthera clavellata), and we were not disappointed.  We must have seen at least a hundred, and all in perfect bloom.

There were so many of the Little Club Spurs that I quickly lost count, especially when so many occurred in clusters tight and numerous enough to make it hard to distinguish where one plant ended and another began.

These rocky north-facing banks were covered with wonderful mixtures of plants that defined the flora of the northeastern forest.  In this photo alone we have Bunchberry, Hobblebush, Lowbush Blueberry, and Goldthread, just to name the obvious ones.

Here's a closer look at the aptly named Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) with its cluster of brilliant red berries and wreath of deeply veined leaves.

A bit further along, masses of Dalibarda (Rubus repens) carpeted the banks.  This pretty plant also has the common name of Dewdrops.

This glossy-leaved, low-growing plant called Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) was dangling waxy, white, bell-shaped blooms.

So tiny as to be almost invisible, this wee little bloom of Canada St. Johnswort (Hypericum canadense) would have escaped my notice if Ruth had not called my attention to it. The slender, blood-red achenes next to it are what the tiny yellow flower will produce when it goes to seed.

A number of shrubs -- Sweet Gale, Witherod, Arrowwood, and more -- hung over the water, but we were especially struck by the beautiful vibrant-red fruits of the Mountain Hollies (Ilex mucronata).

When we reached a stretch of shore where the shallow sunlit water was filled with the slender green spears of Branching Burreed leaves (Sparganium sp.), the very air around us glittered with the sparkling wings of uncountable numbers of tiny spreadwing damselflies.  If I had a frustrating moment on this otherwise perfect day, it was trying to photograph these tiny gossamer beings as they flitted in constant motion, alighting for only microseconds as I struggled to focus my camera on them.  Luckily, this male must have grown weary of hauling his egg-laden lady around and decided to take a rest long enough for me to snap this photo.

While the damselflies were flitting around us down near the water's surface, the air above was filled with the fluttering wings of Cedar Waxwings, darting and soaring here and there in pursuit of insects flying over the pond.  Those I could NOT get a photo of!

Oval pads of Watershield (Brasenia schreberi) covered the water surface in some of the quiet bays, and a few of its flowers protruded from the water.  Watershield flowers are fascinating.  They bloom over the course of two days, with the pisitillate parts emerging first to expose receptive stigmas, and after the stigmas are pollinated with wind-borne pollen from other plants, the petals close over the pistils and the flower submerges.  The next day, the flower emerges from the water again, this time as a staminate flower ringed with anthers.  After the anthers release their pollen, the flower is again withdrawn below the water, where the fruit develops.

White dots of Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum) decorated the dark still waters of a shallow cove.

We were thrilled by all the beauty we found on this lovely day in July, but after seeing all the Narrow-leaved Gentians (Gentiana linearis) crowding the shore, we knew we would have to come back in a couple of weeks to see the thousands of bright-blue flowers that then will be leaning over the water.

Here's a photo I took on August 20 last year of this very same cluster of Narrow-leaved Gentians. I'm sure you will understand why I want to return to see this glorious display once more.

After paddling for several hours, we then took a short walk on the trail that surrounds the pond.  That gave us a chance to see up close some of the plants we could only get a glimpse of from the water.  Since many of those plants were mosses and liverworts, we were fortunate to have our expert bryologist, Nancy Slack, to school us in some of their names. Here, Nancy (seated) is showing a moss to Ruth, an avid student of all things botanical.


Mosses and liverworts can be gorgeous indeed, as these neighboring clumps of Bazzania trilobata liverwort (left) and Leucobryum glaucum reveal.  The Leucobryum has the very apt common name of Pincushion Moss.

We even found a few bright-colored fungi nestled among the green mosses.

The abundance of Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) in these woods convinced us we need to come back next spring to see many rose-splashed white flowers when they are blooming.  Now, the plants are bearing small ovoid fruits that will turn bright red in late summer.

Before heading off to Tinney's Tiptop Tavern for lunch in the nearby village of Lake Desolation, we spent some time admiring fragrant stands of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) that were perfuming the sun-warmed air.  All that fragrance had attracted a veritable swarm of Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies to come and feast on the flowers' nectar.  At one point, I counted 14 of these brilliant-yellow butterflies working their way among the florets.

And here was another creature we found feasting on the milkweeds. But unlike the butterflies that can sip nectar from any number of blooming plants, the Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) eats only milkweed leaves and nothing but.  They are hatched from eggs laid on milkweed stems and spend their whole lives feeding on this plant. In addition to being very colorful, these beetles are also very smart. If they were to get too much of the milky sap in their mouths, the sticky stuff would glue their jaws shut and they would starve. To prevent this, they nip the veins upstream from the leaf-edges they feed on, so then they can chew away on the leaves to their hearts' content.  As the ragged leaf in this photo reveals, the beetles have had their dinner and now are enjoying a little post-prandial romp.


Anonymous said...

Looks like a beautiful day

Titus Family Blogs said...

Lovely account and photos!

Woody Meristem said...

What a great place! You must have had a very pleasant time cruising the shores of the pond.