Monday, December 29, 2014

Outdoors Again At Last!

Just as I craved all those Christmas cookies I enjoyed this past week,  I now crave getting back outdoors, and not simply to walk off those cookies' calories.  Just as food sustains my body, nature sustains my soul, and I was so happy on Sunday, when my friend Sue was free to join me for a lovely long walk all around the shore of Moreau Lake, our favorite place of pilgrimage.

The last time we had walked here together, we had discovered a small stand of young poplars whose bark had been pulled off in narrow shreds, and we made sure to reexamine those trees this time, trying to guess what kind of creature had wreaked this debarking.

At first sight, we had thought it might be from a buck deer rubbing his antlers on the trunks, but then we noticed the bark had been stripped all the way to the very tops of several saplings.  No deer could have done this, but perhaps it could have been done by a mouse or a chipmunk, tearing off tiny strips of bark to create a cozy nest underneath the ground.  If any of my readers has a better suggestion, I sure would love to hear it in a comment.

This  small hoarfrost-lined hole we found at the base of these stripped saplings contributed to our suspicion that some little creature might have created a cozy underground nest composed of fine strips of bark.

As we continued our walk, we enjoyed the quiet darkness of the forested shore and the beauty of Paper Birches reflected on the water-topped ice of the lake.

Although the day was chilly and gray, we delighted in finding bright splashes of color here and there, such as the vibrant red of these Winterberries.

A dark muddy section of shore was punctuated by the bright pink leaves of some tiny infant plants (Dwarf St. Johnswort?) and the yellow-green grassy wisps of another plant, which we could not identify.  Since this section of shore is usually under water, these are definitely plants that don't mind being submerged.

Even when there are no flowers to be found, we can count on finding a fascinating variety of evergreen plants, such as these tiny Pixy Cup lichens, which appear to have sprouted one minuscule lipstick-red fruit.

We love to revisit a fallen log we know of along the shore, one that has sprouted a veritable miniature forest of lichens, mosses, and liverworts, all of which can be found any time of year, even in the middle of winter.  Here on this little section of that log, about the dimensions of a playing card, we found some Broom Moss and a Cladonia lichen with powdery gray-green stalks with brownish tips, both growing out of an underlying carpet of a glossy-brown liverwort called Ptilidium pulcherrimum.

Here's a clearer photo of that Ptilidium liverwort, which has the most delightful common name of Lovely Fuzzwort.

Patches of Haircap Moss were as sprightly and green as if it were spring, and they will stay that way all winter.

Equally sprightly and green were these fuzzy stems of the clubmoss called Running Pine (Lycopodium clavatum).

A small log covered with Stereum fungus added a splash of bright orange to the forest floor.

Although wrinkled and brown, this jelly-like Wood Ear fungus looks about the same as the day it fruited last fall, or maybe even a year ago last fall.  It's a very persistent fungus, and also edible, a close cousin to the dark brown fungi often found in Chinese food.

Most folks could complete a circuit of Moreau Lake in only an hour or so.   But at the pace Sue and I took, stopping every few feet to examine many wonderful finds, we found ourselves only half way around as the sun began to sink behind the mountain.  Reluctantly, then,  we picked up our pace, but not until we stopped a while to marvel at the pearly glow of the sun's path across the shining water.


Uta said...

Wonderful pictures. Hope you managed to get home before dark.
At our age you don't want to stumble in the dark.

The Furry Gnome said...

So nice to get back out, and you always manage to find the most interesting things on your walks. We're back to winter here after a green Christmas, and lots more snow forecast this week.

catharus said...

'Love that paper birch photo!