Monday, September 14, 2015

Mud Pond is Mostly Mud

It was obvious we'd had some nice soaking rain these past two days, for when I entered the woods to walk around Mud Pond today, the forest floor was covered with  Mirasmius capillaris, an itsy-bitsy lampshade-shaped fungus that sprouts up by the thousands after a good long rain.

It would take many, many more days of soaking rain to begin to fill Mud Pond to normal levels, however.  In all the years I've been wandering the woods around this pond in Moreau Lake State Park, I have never see the water fall so low.  If it weren't for the beavers keeping some channels open, I think Mud Pond would indeed by nothing but mud.

This time of year, I always like to visit a part of the Mud Pond western shoreline I call the mud flats, which today was many times more extensive than I have ever seen it, extending more than halfway across the pond.  I come here to find some plants that are particularly suited to this muddy habitat, but today the grasses had grown so high I wondered if I would find any of them.  And what the heck is that black box and yellow mat out there?  Is someone conducting an experiment of some kind?

A closer look revealed a trail camera set up to observe whatever animal visitors might come to partake of a heap of corn arrayed within focal length.  Huh!?  That seemed kind of odd.  I thought it was state park policy never to feed the wildlife (aside from the roadkill deer carcasses put out on the ice each winter to keep Bald Eagles away from the dangerous roadsides).  I decided to stop by the park office later to ask about this.

My explorations of the mudflat were somewhat impeded by the jungle of waist-high plants that were difficult to push through.  One of the most common of these was the Pennsylvania Knotweed, also called Pinkweed, one of several species of Persicaria that populated this muddy stretch, including the much smaller Common Smartweed and the shin-stinging Arrow-leaved Tearthumb.

Standing taller than most of the plants was Pilewort, its tightly closed nondescript flowers now opened to white puffs of down.

Hiding among the grasses was this delightful looking sedge, species unknown to me (as are most sedges, alas!).

Way down under the grasses was this nice patch of Low Cudweed, a cousin of the garden plant Dusty Miller and with similar dusty-looking leaves.

The Ditch Stonecrop was easy to see now, as its greenish-yellow seedpods were starting to turn bright rosy red.

This wee little cluster of Dwarf St. Johnswort took quite a bit of searching to find, lost as it was among all the other, much taller plants.

I walked out on the mud flat as close to water's edge as I dared, before the mud grew soft enough to suck off my shoes.  It was out here that I found the black mud decorated by these pretty green rosettes of liverwort.  I have often found the floating liverwort Ricciocarpus natans in this pond, but at a much smaller, chubbier stage.  A Google search when I got home did show me images of R. natans that looked similar to this when the liverwort was stranded on mud.  As this one was, of course.

When I turned to go home by another path, I found my passage impeded by dense stands of Tearthumb and thickets of other plants, but I did manage to push on through and enter the woods with only a few bloody scratches to my bare shins.

I thought I might find many fungi in the rain-dampened woods, but except for those ubiquitous Mirasmius pindots I showed in this post's first photo, this caramel-colored polypore was the only fungus I found.  Pretty, though.  The Foamflower leaves added a nice touch to their portrait.

And here was a particularly graceful arrangement of evergreen Foamflower leaves trailing along a moss-covered log.  Also very pretty.

I did stop at the park headquarters on my way home to report that corn pile and camera set-up, and the staff there knew nothing about it, except that it was something absolutely not allowed on state park land.  Measures would be taken, I was assured, to remove the apparatus and the feed.


threecollie said...

Good that you spotted that illegal arrangement. Love the tiny fungi!

Don Butler said...

Wondering if the sedge might be Umbrella Sedge (Cyperus strigosus)