Saturday, June 23, 2012

Happy Paddling on Pyramid Lake

A big storm came through Saratoga this afternoon, bringing a wonderfully refreshing change in the weather, chasing that horrible heat wave right on out.  It was probably still horribly hot yesterday, but Sue and I couldn't really tell, since both of us were out on the cooling waters of Pyramid Lake up in the Adirondacks.  Although we were only an hour's drive north, we felt we had come a world away from the bustle of Saratoga or Queensbury,  here in the heart of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area.

When we first arrived, the wind was blowing so fiercely we almost scrapped our plans for a paddle, but I was sure we would find quiet water in a swamp at the far east end of the lake. And so we did.

The Sheep Laurel growing there was the biggest and brightest I've ever seen.

Every fallen log in this shallow end of the lake was populated with a marvelous variety of plants.

Among those plants was the insect-eating Round-leaved Sundew, which bit off more than it could chew when its sticky tentacles trapped this bright-blue damselfly.  Poor thing!

Although the damselfly was still alive when I freed its wings from the sticky trap,  I'm afraid its wings were too crumpled to allow it to ever fly again.

Another insect-eating plant in the swamp was Common Bladderwort,  whose underwater bladders can suck in passing mini-creatures that live in the water.

The Fragrant Water Lilies were at their peak of absolute perfection.

If you click on this photo and gaze at it for a while, I think you might find it easier to believe, as I do, that there is some kind of Great Goodness that lies at the heart of creation.

Some of the swamp plants required a closer look to appreciate their intriguing structure, such as this Water Bulrush with its curling white tendrils clasping the stem.

This little rush with gracefully slender underwater leaves that sway like mermaid's hair in the currents used to be identified with the scientific name Scirpus subterminalis, but it now goes by the new name of Schoenoplectus subterminalis.

A real surprise was this fluffy little water plant called Small Bur-reed (Sparganium natans), since I have never found it blooming this early in Pyramid Lake.  The fact that I have ever seen it at all is something of a miracle, since it is threatened, endangered, or outright extirpated in almost all states surrounding New York.  It is ranked as "Threatened" in New York, but it grows by the hundreds in this shallow end of Pyramid Lake.

After an hour or so of prowling the swamp's quiet shallows, it seemed the wind had lost some of its force out on the open water, so we thought we would try to circle the lake, still clinging close to the shore where the gusts were less likely to buffet us.  By staying this close to shore, we also had a better chance of spying the shy little flowers along the forested banks.  Even so, I would have missed these dainty little Twinflowers if Sue had not pointed them out to me.

I did see a patch of the pretty Wood Sorrel in bloom, and I even managed to get close enough to take a photo of one of its candy-striped flowers, set amid its equally pretty heart-shaped leaves.

After stopping back on shore to have lunch, we set out in our boats again, this time to explore the swamp at the opposite end of the lake.  In this photo, we are trying to paddle as quietly as possible to the site where Sue saw a grazing deer.

Here, as in the opposite swamp, every grassy and ferny hummock was peppered with bright-pink Rose Pogonias,  still at the peak of their beauty.

I probably have dozens of Rose Pogonia photos in my files, but every time I find one as exquisite as this, I have to take another.

We pulled our boats up onto the shore of a cedar thicket and pushed through the prickly boughs, determined to find the rare Pink Pyrola  (Pyrola asarifolia) I'd seen in there two years ago.  Alas, they were not to found, for the second year in a row.  The place was full of pyrolas, however: Shinleaf, of course, and also this lime-jello-colored one, called Greenish-flowered Pyrola (Pyrola chlorantha).

We also found a single specimen of this little plant, still called One-sided Pyrola although recent taxonomic research has placed it in another genus, Orthilia secunda.

Both of the pyrolas we did find are considered very rare in many surrounding states, but lucky for us here in New York, it's only the Pink Pyrola that's considered a threatened species.

Paddling back to camp at the end of the day, we had many insect visitors as we moseyed along close to shore.  When I plucked this odd insect mess out of the water with my paddle, I thought at first it was a drowning moth struggling at the surface.  On closer examination,  I wondered if it was one insect being devoured by a second.  But now that my computerized image offers me a really close look, it appears to be an adult insect emerging from its nymph pupa, the remainder of its crumpled wings and green segmented abdomen still captured within the being-cast-off skin.  Anybody have any idea what this insect is?  Guess I'd better go ask

Update:  Hurray for, they always come through!  A prompt responder to my query suggested this is most likely a Caddisfly emerging from its pupa.  Well, of course! Just look at that skinny head, those big bulgy dark eyes, and the super-long antennae.

As I sat in my canoe, my outstretched, nearly sunburnt legs seemed to be a magnet for a number of dragonflies and damselflies.  Although Sue had given me a Stokes Guide to Dragonflies, I still have a hard time telling one from the other.  I'm guessing that this blue-eyed, green-marked percher belongs to the group called clubtails, due to that swollen section at the end of its abdomen.  Since, according to my guide, even experts have difficulty with this group, "clubtail" is as far as I will venture to give it a name.

After the clubtail had perched on my sun-baked leg for a few moments, it began to lift its abdomen to an almost completely vertical position.  Sue told me this posture is called "obelisking," by which the overheating dragonfly attempts to expose as little of its body to the sun as possible.

A few damselflies found my legs irresistible, too, which gave me a chance to take nice clear photos of them, a rare opportunity when it comes to damselflies.  Even so, I'm still not sure what the name of this dusty-blue one is.  Perhaps it's a "Powdered Dancer."

At least I'm pretty sure that this is a Variable Dancer.  I sure couldn't find any other damselfly in my book with a purple abdomen tipped with a bright-blue terminal segment.  Pretty!


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

Wonderful as always, Jackie! I just saw the white wood sorrel today in WV for the first time! It's an endangered species here in Ohio and one I had longed to see with my own eyes. It's beauty rivals even that of my favored orchids :)

Bill and dogs said...

This was an especially beautiful post and yours is one of the best blogs on the Internet. I learn much about what plants to look for on my own hikes. Thank you.

June said...

I am so glad you found out about the caddisfly, but I still can't make all the parts look like one creature. What I think are the eyes are in the wrong position in relation to the wings...
It's like one of those puzzles that you have to unfocus your eyes to see!

suep said...

Your blog is so good, I learn new things each time, even if I was actually THERE with you !

happyone said...

What a wonderful place and way to spend the day. Everything is so beautiful. I just love the water lily.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Andrew (A.L.), you should see how this beautiful sorrel carpets the forest floor up here in the Adirondacks!

Thanks, Bill. I started this blog as a way to increase and share my knowledge about my home territory, so it really does my heart good to learn that you learn from it, too.

Yes, June, that mess of bug presented quite a puzzle to me as well. It took me some time to see part was which. The bulging dark eyes are directly beneath those long antennae, either side of a very narrow head. The wings are still crumpled and folded, only partly emerged from the pupa case.

Oh Sue, you know that I always see so much more of fascinating stuff when you are along with me.

You're right, Happyone, about Pyramid Lake: a wonderful beautiful place. Thanks for stopping by to visit.

Anonymous said...

I got to PLC every year and these photos remind me that I want to be there RIGHT NOW! Thanks for posting!

hikeagiant2 said...

What a spectacular contrast the blue damselfly in the sundew! I love watching dragonflies and damselflies flit about - they are like winged confetti, there are so many colors - they never sit still for me, so thank you for your lovely photos!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Well, hikeagiant, that blue damselfly didn't have any choice about sitting still, since it was stuck fast among the sundew's sticky hairs. But it certainly was amazing to have those other odes land on my leg and just sit there.

hikeagiant2 said...

I did read somewhere that if you extend your arms dragon- and damselflies will settle ... they've never done me the honor, but I live in hope! ;-)