Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Hello Again

So sorry, my dear blog friends, to have neglected my blog for so long.  I've had some set-backs in recovery from my knee injury that have caused me too much pain to sit at my computer for the hours it usually takes to edit photos and compose copy.  But I HAVE managed to get outdoors from time to time for brief walks, knowing how instrumental to recovery exposure to nature can be.  And lucky for me, I have many beautiful natural places with level ground to visit -- as well as dear friends who are willing to walk very slowly along the trails with me.  Here's a brief digest of some of the places I've been and wonders I've seen over the last week or so.

Thursday, July 23, Moreau Lake State Park

I stopped in the Nature Center at Moreau Lake State Park a week ago last Thursday to visit with the naturalists there and observe their amazing display of Monarch Butterflies emerging from  chrysalises.  The Monarchs were contained within a net cage (to be released eventually), but I was told that a Common Milkweed patch by the swimming beach was loaded with caterpillars.  Of course I had to investigate, and yes, indeed, I did find lots of tiny caterpillars.  Not Monarchs, though, but early instars of the Milkweed Tiger Moth, chewing away on the milkweed leaves whose toxins will be absorbed by the caterpillars to deter any predators.  As yet, they have not produced the brilliant coloring that will also warn predators to seek their meals elsewhere.  But they do look kind of tiger-like, don't they, all yellow and black and fuzzy?

Saturday, July 25:  Powerlines and Woods at Moreau

I could walk these powerline easements alone, but it's much more fun (and safer for me) to explore them with my dear fellow nature nut Sue Pierce.  We met last Saturday on Spier Falls Road at the top of Mud Pond.  Our goal this day was to search for the elusive Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain that we've found before in the woods around Mud Pond, but of course we had to check what was growing in the open areas under the powerlines.  Most notable, even at a glance, were the gorgeous yellow blooms of Early Goldenrod.

On every side, we saw Great Spangled Fritillaries wafting among the goldenrods, but only one sat still long enough for me to take its picture.

As we walked through the piney woods adjacent to the powerline, we searched for the little white orchid called Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain.  As is true for many orchids, it was not blooming where we expected to find it.

But we did find lots more plants than ever before, although in places we'd never seen them before.

Sharing the same mossy pine-needled forest floor were many unfolding stalks of ghostly-pale Pinesap.

We were surprised to find several Blunt-leaved Milkweeds still blooming here in the woods, still tempting pollinators to risk partaking of its pollen.  All milkweed flowers are capable of snagging the legs of visiting insects, and I often find dead ones dangling from the florets.  This was one lucky fly that managed to safely graze.

Sue then drove us to another section of powerline with an easy-walking sandy trail lined with Hazelnut shrubs.

Never had we seen Hazelnut shrubs so laden with nut clusters that the boughs nearly touched the ground.  And this has been true for every place we have found Hazelnut growing.  The squirrels and chipmunks and other nut-eaters will be feasting this fall!

Although Round-headed Bush Clover has a homely, weedy appearance from a distance, a close look reveals many tiny pink-striped blooms that are really very pretty.

We should be sure to revisit this powerline stretch when the abundant Blackberries have ripened.

How lucky that a sunbeam struck this American Copper butterfly at the very same moment it rested and opened its beautiful copper-colored wings! Without that illumination, its wings appeared just dull gray.

This Net-winged Beetle didn't need any extra light to show off its striking orange and black bands.

Friday, July 31:  Woods Hollow Nature Preserve, Milton

The Woods Hollow Nature Preserve just north of Ballston Spa offers a variety of habitats from forested wetland to oak-pine savannah.  It was the open sandy oak-pine savannah I visited on Friday.

Across a sunlit stretch of sandy meadow populated mostly by Sweet Fern, I could see stalks of light-colored plants growing under a stand of Black Locust trees.  On closer inspection, these proved to be Horse Mint, whose wreaths of red-speckled yellow flowers bloom beneath rings of pinky-green or whitish pointed bracts.

At the shady edge of the woods, I found several clusters of the vivid-pink Centaury, a really tiny flower that would be easy to overlook if not for its vibrant color.

My favorite finds this day were the dozens of Sand Tiger Beetles I saw scurrying across the hot sand.  They would shoot across the ground at amazing speed, then stop abruptly, only to resume their hell-bent pursuit of prey, until once again they halted then sped off again, sometimes  in a different direction, never taking to the air.  I looked this bug up on line, where I read that these beetles can run so fast, they outrun their eyes' ability to perceive their prey, which is why they have to stop   in order for their eyesight to catch up.  One of the fastest creatures on earth, relative to its size, is what I read at one site.

Saturday, August 1:  Betar Byway, South Glens Falls

When Sue asked me where I would like to walk with her this past weekend, I immediately asked to visit some place near water.  The Betar Byway, which runs along the Hudson River just upstream from Glens Falls, proved to be just the ticket.  And what a gorgeous blue-sky, blue-water day it was to amble there!

Sue has paddled these waters recently, so she was able to report that the rare Water Marigold was blooming in one backwater.  I was able to detect through binoculars its vivid yellow blooms protruding above the water, unfortunately too far away for me to take a photo.  This photo is one I took on a previous visit to this same site.

We also spotted the even-rarer Small Floating Bladderwort drifting along in the current offshore, and again it was too distant for me to photograph.  But I have seen it many times in this stretch of the river, where I took this photo last year.

Lucky for me, the vivid purple Pickerelweed was blooming abundantly nearer shore than those other elusive flowers.

And in the deep shade along the banks, the first Cardinal Flowers were blazing away, red as fire.

The air was filled with the musky fragrance of Groundnut flowers, which we had to search to find, their vines hidden among other green foliage and the flower clusters drooping downward, hiding their vivid rosy interiors.

A beautiful summer day it was, perfect for wandering the banks of this gorgeous river.  There were even benches to allow us to rest awhile, which my throbbing knee was begging me to do.  But hey, how's this for a lovely spot to rest?


Bill and dogs said...

I'm sorry to hear that your knee recovery has had some set-backs, but happy that you've been able to get outdoors and enjoy this glorious summer. Thank you for another lovely and informative post.

Sara Rall said...

What a beautiful set of pictures, and several flowers I've never seen before (some I've never even seen pictures of before). Good luck with your knee recovery!

Momo said...

What a spectacular and very special blog entry! Thank you, thank you! Even as you face your challenge, you have offered us, your "fans", a journey in the outdoors through your eyes and thoughts. I especially like the shots of the American Copper Butterfly and the Blunt-leaved Milkweed with its visitor. Healing thoughts and prayers to you.

threecollie said...

Sorry to read that things have been going wrong with your knee. Hope it gets straightened around real soon! Meanwhile, thanks for taking time to write this lovely post. As always I learn so much from your plant and insect identifications. I am not particularly strong on either.

Unknown said...

Was so happy to see that despite your recent setbacks, you were able to get out and about at the end of July. I have a very easily dislocatable kneecap which requires a few months of rest and physical therapy to heal. Because of this i often remind myself that although i wouldn't mind someone waiting on me hand and foot once in a while, when it happens due to injury, it's really not all that much fun.

Thanks for the post -- i enjoyed reading it!

The Furry Gnome said...

It looks like you've been able to get out exploring a lot in spite of your continuing knee problems. Interesting things you find, as always.

Unknown said...

I'm glad that you're okay now... happy to see a new post from you..
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suep said...

oh that sand tiger beetle is beautiful ! good thing he had to stop and rest -
by the way, a week later, the heavily-laden hazel shrubs I had seen up on the bike path were empty of nuts, green as they were-- all carefully nipped off by squirrels already !