Monday, May 10, 2010

Ballston Blooms and Birds

After a weekend of cold, wet, windy weather, today dawned bright and sunny, if also a bit cool. Good thing, too, since I was eager to get out to the woods to see what has burst into bloom. My journals tell me that Pink Lady's Slipper should start blooming right about now, so off to Woods Hollow Nature Preserve in Ballston Spa I went. This beautiful native orchid blooms profusely in the sandy, pine-shaded woods of Woods Hollow, and sure enough, I found them right where I always do.

Another favorite flower, Bunchberry, was just beginning to bloom at the edge of the pond. Today I found just one of these miniature dogwood blossoms, but soon the banks will be carpeted with them, and the now-greenish "flowers" will grow to be snowy white. (The actual flowers are those little non-showy nubs that grow in the center and produce bright red berries by summer.)

I continued on south of Ballston Spa to explore a parcel of woods just recently acquired by Saratoga PLAN, called the Ballston Creek Preserve. I'm scheduled to lead a nature walk here this summer, so I figured I'd better acquaint myself with the trail as the seasons progress. I was here some weeks ago, when Spring Beauties carpeted the woods in numbers I'd never experienced, and today they had been replaced by thousands of Wild Geraniums.

As is typical of land that has been disturbed (these present woods were once cleared for farmland), the sunlit edges of the forest were a thicket of alien honeysuckles. But I was struck by the deep, deep pink of some of the honeysuckle blooms. Most of the honeysuckles that line our roadsides now are either a much paler pink or a very soft yellow.

And just a few steps inside the woods, I found a true native honeysuckle: the beautiful Glaucous (also known as Limber) Honeysuckle. Kind of in between a vine and a shrub, it has clusters of purple buds and orangish blossoms with yellow stamens, all very showy. This species is considered a rare plant in many surrounding states, so I always feel really privileged when I find it.

To see Jack-in-the-pulpit's flower, you have to get down on the ground and peek in under the "pulpit." This specimen was still all-green, although it had grown quite large. Some individuals are more heavily striped with purple.

The most remarkable feature of this Ballston Creek Preserve is the Great Blue Heron rookery that lies at the end of the trail. Standing on the shore of an extensive wetland, I could see a number of nests on the standing snags.

And look what else I saw! One of those nests actually had a heron on it!

Uh oh! Someone else has arrived. My eyesight's pretty bad, but this looks like an Osprey to me. Will this raptor be a threat to the heron's nest?

But look, the Osprey has landed on a snag just above another nest. Is it going to eat heron eggs or baby herons? Where are the heron parents?

Oh my, here comes another Osprey, and it looks like it's carrying something. Its mate leaves the nest to greet it.

It sure looks like this Osprey is bringing a fish to this nest. Why, I'll bet that's the Osprey's own nest! I wonder if there are little Ospreys down in it?

I could have stood and watched this drama for hours, but the day grew late and I imagined my husband would start to worry. For sure he would want his dinner. So home I went. But not before stopping to admire the beauty of this very ordinary flower.

Yes, to see Ospreys and Great Blue Herons was very exciting. But sometimes the light strikes a dandelion puff just right, transforming it into something to marvel at.


Wayne said...

Jackie, The osprey nest in the heron rookery is a great find, but you seem to have a talent for great finds almost every day! If I can get away from yard work, I will try to follow in your footprints. Seems I have been missing a lot of local sights while spending my time in the Adirondacks for years. Thanks for sharing your finds.

Allan Stellar said...


Love the Osprey photos!!

I'm told that Osprey aren't doing very well because they migrate out of our borders and Mexico still uses DDT. Just another reason to buy local produce...

greentangle said...

Adventures in birding! Too bad you had to bring your husband a fish and couldn't watch longer.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Wayne, I love the Adirondacks, too, and get there as often as I can. But every day I am thankful to live among amazing natural beauty almost at my doorstep. No, LITERALLY at my doorstep.

Thanks, Allan, for reminding us of one of the reasons to buy and eat local produce. Around here, I feel lucky to see even more Osprey than ever before.

Hi greentangle. Thanks for taking time in your process of moving to Yellowstone to stop by and leave a comment. Your image made me smile!

Curious By Nature said...

Thanks for sharing your adventures and beautiful blooms with the rest of us - very much appreciated! The osprey photos are fantastic.

The green Jack-in-the-pulpit that you photographed is actually Northern Jack-in-the-pulpit. The one with purple and green is Jack-in-the-pulpit. They are indeed two distinct species.

Happy trails!