Sunday, April 19, 2015

In Good Company

 I'm SO glad my friend Sue and I were able to walk together around Moreau Lake today!  What a beautiful blue-sky day it was, and I always see so much more when my friend Sue's along.  I have uncorrectable blurry vision, but Sue has the sharpest eyesight of anyone else I know, and she can point out many, many wonders that I would miss completely.

For example, Sue could tell at a glance that these white dots bobbing out on the lake were Bufflehead ducks.  I managed to concur after studying them with binoculars, but she could tell immediately with her unaided eyes.

She, too, was the first to spot the Spotted Newts that were basking in the shallows where the bright sun warmed the underwater sand.

She also could point my eyes toward this tiny green blur in the leaves, which a closer inspection revealed to be a very small, very green grasshopper.

I knew that we were surrounded by many flying insects as we walked along kicking up leaves, but I never would have ascertained that most of them were the adorably fuzzy Bee Flies, without Sue informing me.  From time to time the little flies would stop to bask in the warmth of the sun, and that's how I managed to get a closer look.

I know it was Sue who first spotted the half-open blooms of Trailing Arbutus among the wintered-over leaves on the shady banks along the western shore of the lake.  But she also remembered some patches of Arbutus she had found last year on the sunny eastern shore, and when we got there, what a treat to find these abundant clusters of wide-open fragrant blooms!

Now, here were some ducks I could recognize all on my own, as this pair of Wood Ducks scurried away from the bank of Mud Pond as we approached.  No duck has more glorious plumage, and they were still close enough to shore that I got to see and enjoy it.   But I sure couldn't see the groups of Painted Turtles out on those patches of mud, until Sue pointed them out to me.  She also described a pair of Snapping Turtles interacting with each other near another mud island, and these turtles were still under water! As for me, I never could get a good glom on them.   It amazes me how much I miss when my friend is not along.

But at least even I could spot these bright tufts of male Red Maple flowers, so dazzling against that blue sky.

The tiny little weed called Draba verna is much less showy than those Red Maple flowers, and we had to search and search to find them, even though we know exactly where they grow.  Count on Sue, of course, to spy them first.  I bet even if you could blow this photo up 10 times, you still would not be able to see what Sue is photographing.

Draba verna (also called Whitlow Grass) is hardly what you would call a showy plant, even when you do manage to see it.  It is awfully cute, though, with its tiny rosette of basal leaves and four petals so deeply cut they appear to be eight.

See how tiny they are?

Now, in case you are wondering why we would bother to go in search of such a wee ordinary weed, let me quote from the noted naturalist Aldo Leopold, who had some really delightful things to say about this tiny plant.

Within a few weeks now Draba, the smallest flower that blows, will sprinkle every sandy place with small blooms. He who hopes for spring with upturned eye never sees so small a thing as Draba. He who despairs of spring with downcast eye steps on it, unknowing. He who searches for spring with his knees in the mud finds it, in abundance.

Draba asks, and gets but scant allowance of warmth and comfort; it subsists on the leavings of unwanted time and space. Botany books give it two or three lines, but never a plate or portrait. Sand too poor and sun too weak for bigger better blooms are good enough for Draba. After all, it is no spring flower, but only a postscript to a hope.

Draba plucks no heartstrings. Its perfume, if there is any, is lost in the gusty winds. Its color is plain white. Its leaves wear a sensible woolly coat. Nothing eats it; it is too small. No poets sing of it. Some botanist once gave it a Latin name, and then forgot it. Altogether it is of no importance -- just a small creature that does a small job quickly and well.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949

1 comment:

The Furry Gnome said...

Nice to have your own spotter! And a beautiful day too.