Sunday, May 16, 2010

Exploring Moreau Park's New Trail

A great day for a walk in the woods -- in fact, a great day for any activity outdoors, so clear and sunny and pleasant it was today. I had learned of a new trail at Moreau Lake State Park that leads to the Hudson on the Warren County side of the river, so that's where I went this afternoon. My pleasant adventure started as soon as I stepped from my car at a parking area alive with clouds of little Pearl Crescent butterflies. The butterflies never hold still, of course, but I did manage to catch one resting for just a second on a rock. (For a much better photo of lovely Pearl Crescent, scroll down my sidebar photos on the right.)

And here's what the butterflies were visiting: these bright little Common Cinquefoil, which covered the broad rocky outcroppings in the sun. The red-capped lichen called British Soldiers provided a colorful accent to the yellow cinquefoils.

The trail quickly descends from the sunny parking area into a deep shaded forest and promptly crosses a tiny stream lined with mosses and Sweet White Violets.

While pausing to admire those violets, I was serenaded with the sweetest song imaginable, and it came from right over my head. Looking up to the treetop, I spied a male Scarlet Tanager, lit up by the sun and as red as a big ripe tomato. Alas, by the time I could focus my camera's lens, the bird flew away. I would have liked to share that image with my blog readers, but I know I shall never forget it.

Many birds filled the forest with song as I moved through deep hemlock woods on paths made soft by generation upon generation of fallen needles. I could hear the Black-throated Green Warbler calling his Zee zee zee zoo zee and the questioning conversation the Red-eyed Vireo holds with himself. Then the Hermit Thrush pealed his bell-like song, a phrase repeated three times, each time at a slightly different pitch, the final time pitched so exquisitely high I could barely hear it.

Much of the first part of the trail passes through towering dark hemlock stands, beneath which hardly anything else can grow, since so little sunlight reaches the needle-covered ground. But after a while, the darkness lightened as the trail moved closer to high banks along the river, and oaks and beeches began to predominate. Here, old stone walls suggest that a road may have followed the river here, or else that the land had been cleared for some kind of farming.

Soon, I began to catch glimpses of bright blue sun-spangled water glittering through the trees.

And finally, just as the trail took a turn to return to its starting point, the beautiful Hudson came into clear view down below. I recognized the rocks across the river as marking where the river takes its sharp turn from Corinth to head northeast toward Glens Falls.

Continuing on as the trail looped back, I spied this little patch of Downy Rattlesnake Plantain emerging from the dead leaves of the forest floor. This is one of our least showy native orchids, with spikes of late-summer-blooming small white flowers that in some ways are far less impressive than its swirly white-veined green leaves.

And then, what a treat! This American Red Admiral butterfly came flitting through the shadowy woods, and landed in a pool of bright sunlight, spreading its wings to display all its vivid colors -- including those two blue dots at the bottom of each wing. (Click on the photo to see them better.)

The trail soon joined the old service road that provides access to Spier Falls Dam, as well as an easy walk to return to my car. All along this road, clouds of Bluets crowded close to the path.

And forests of newly unfurling Hay-scented Ferns spread masses of greenery along the way.

I hurried my steps as the hour grew late, but the sight of these Hair Cap Moss spore stalks lit up by the lowering sun stopped me dead in my tracks. The road here is bordered with expanses of broad flat rocky outcrops that are carpeted with this moss, whose bright red stalks and flame-shaped spore caps almost appeared to be on fire.


squirrel said...

I have been so busy and haven't had time to visit your blog. You have seen so many wonderful things this spring. I have never noticed the blue dots on the Red Admiral before, thanks for pointing that out. I'm going to go back and check my photos. I read somewhere that we are having an erruption of them this year.

I loved the moss from the previous post. It is a little dry in my region so I don't see the variety that you do nevertheless what I do see is so interesting. Great photo, really great!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, squirrel. I had never seen those blue dots, either. My lucky day!