Saturday, May 15, 2010

Woods-hopping Here and There

I've been hopping all over the place these last two days, but not stopping to blog. Tonight is catch-up time. First, what's happening in the Skidmore woods? I try to get out there at least once a week, since it's such a rich habitat, with new wildflowers in bloom every day. Yesterday was a violet day: Canada Violets in full bloom, sharing the shady forest floor with graceful ferns and the lacy, fern-like leaves of Sweet Cicely (not yet in bloom). There's that pretty moss, too, that looks like miniature dahlias, Rhodobryum roseum.

As far as I know, the Skidmore woods is the only place in the county where the oddly non-violetty Green Violet grows. And grows and grows and grows! Hundreds of them, a miniature forest about two feet high, grow right next to the path. Here's a photo of the entire plant, with the small green flowers dangling from the leaf axils. Does this tall plant look like a violet to you?

The little humpbacked blooms don't look much like violets, either.

The last of the bellworts have just started blooming. If you look closely at the inside of the petals of Perfoliate Bellwort, you can see the granules that distinguish this one from the earlier blooming Large-flowered Bellwort, which also has stem-pierced leaves.

The Large-flowered Bellwort is now past its bloom time and just starting to grow its fruits.

Here's another fruit just forming: the Prickly Gooseberry. I guess it's obvious how it got its common name. I wonder how any critter could eat this berry without scratching its throat?

These aren't fruits, but some kind of warty galls covering this leaf. (I should know what kind of leaf it is, but I don't.) I don't think that bug had anything to do with those warts, but who knows? I thought the bug was kind of pretty, with its stained-glass wings.

Okay, that was yesterday at Skidmore woods. This morning I headed to Kawing Crow Nature Awareness Center in Greenfield for a mushroom walk with mycologist Sue Van Hook. The center's owner, Vince Walsh, had found a whole bunch of Black Morels just outside his front door, so of course we were hoping to find lots more as we searched his many-acred woods. Alas, we did not, although we found lots of little brown inedible mushrooms I can't remember the name of -- and had a great time tromping about in a beautiful woods with a group of fun folks. I, myself, was happy to find a nice big patch of Rhizomnium punctatum, a leafy green moss with ripening sperm granules filling the center of its posy-shaped structures.

Here's a close-up shot of those granules, with a few already shed. These sperm will be splashed about by the rain, and where they land on female parts of the moss, a spore stalk will emerge, like the one at the top of this photo. That stalk is just ripening now, after starting to grow last year. When ripe, it will open and spill its spores on the wind, which will carry them off to start a new colony somewhere else.

This little toad hopped up on the boardwalk that crosses the Kawing Crow marsh. And sat there just long enough for me to take his picture.

After lunch today, I convinced my husband to bring his long-lensed camera to that Ballston Creek Preserve and heron rookery where I found the Osprey nest this week. And we were richly rewarded with an Osprey air show, as the magnificent bird soared and sailed and swooped on the winds that were whipping the trees around. Most of my photos did not turn out, but my husband managed to capture this shot, with the light passing through the bird's feathers.

Photo by Denis Donnelly

When I came to this rookery earlier this week, I spied just one Great Blue Heron, standing next to its nest. Today, I was happy to find not only that one (now settled into the nest), but two other nests also occupied, with herons in them.

I've heard from the folks at Saratoga PLAN (the land trust organization responsible for preserving this remarkable habitat) that they were very happy to learn that this rookery is now active, since earlier reports had indicated the nests had been abandoned for some time.

Another treat we found at the Ballston Creek Preserve was this jewel-toned Leopard Frog. Or is it a Pickerel Frog? I have a hard time telling the two apart, so I'm hoping one of my readers might set me straight. Whatever species it is, it sure is a beauty!


troutbirder said...

Although the flowers don't last very long I do like the bellwort in my woodsy wildflower garden. And that violet? Strange.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi troutbirder, thanks for stopping by. All the bellworts have such pretty foliage, even after the flowers have gone, so yes, they do add real beauty to the wildflower garden. I agree that the Green Violet is a strange one. It's also pretty rare, but I can't believe it's because poachers have dug it up from the woods, because it's really not that pretty.

Jens Zorn said...

The toad is wonderful-- such a friendly aspect!

Wayne said...

More wonderful stuff! Hard to keep up with you. Just returned from a few days in the Adirondaks to find these wonderful photos. I am not an authority on herps, but I think that pickerel frogs are not normally as green as the one you photographed. That, and the facts that the spots look more round than square, and that they have distinct light borders leaves me to agree it's a northern leopard frog, and "emerald" is a fitting name for this one.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Jens, I agree about that toad. They always make me smile.

Thanks, Wayne, for the info on frogs. I see far more Pickerels than Leopards, and I agree that the Pickerels are never so green. And wow! What a beautiful green!