Sunday, January 17, 2016

Riverside Wander

Feeling much better today but still a little fragile, I went for an easy walk along the Hudson River, parking my car at the Sherman Island Boat Launch and walking a ways along Spier Falls Road.  The day was overcast,  rather mild, with no wind, so the river flowed smooth as satin.  Here's the view looking upstream.

And the view looking downstream.  The shelf of ice on the near shore will grow thicker as the winter grows colder.  Wild animals use this relatively snow-free ice shelf as their energy-saving highway, as can be evidenced by the multitude of fisher, otter, coyote, fox, and mink tracks preserved when there is a thin layer of snow coating the ice.

When walking in the winter woods, I like to challenge myself to identify plants in their winter disguises.  The long, sharp thorns on this shrub are a give-away that this must be a Hawthorn.  I never had noticed how ruddy the buds were, before.

The leaf and flower buds of Hobblebush are covered with cinnamon-colored flocking.  It's hard to believe that that meagre covering will keep them safely unscathed all winter long, even through sub-zero temperatures.  But it will.

This clump of old Indian Pipes looked as if it were exploding out of the snow.

The presence of Beech Drops scattered around indicated that stately American Beech trees were nearby.  And so they were, although most showed evidence of the disease that will eventually kill all these glorious trees in our northern woods.  So sad!

I could tell these were the winter-killed fruits of Doll's Eyes (White Baneberry) by the stubby pedicels holding each shriveled berry.

There must be quite an insect infestation of this old snag, to keep a Pileated Woodpecker working at it until the hole got so big.

Across from the Spier Falls Dam I slipped into the woods to witness these cascades of icicles sheeting down from ledges of steep cliffs.  This is an area of mountainside that was quarried to create the boulders used to build the dam back at the start of the 20th Century.  At the time of its completion in 1903, this was the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, so it took a lot of rock to build it.  This is only one of several places along Spier Falls Road where such quarries can be found.

In the woods near the dam we can still find old stone structures that were built to support  conveyance cables for moving the rocks from the mountainside to the construction site.

I can't quite figure out what this little cubical structure was built for.  It's not hollow inside, but that square opening extends all the way from the opening back to the wall of the cliff.  Of course, I had to peer in.

It was too dark in there to make anything out with my eyes, but I used the flash on my camera to illumine this shaft, wondering if perhaps any animals had made it their home.  Ooh, are those BONES back in there?!!  I wonder if a coyote dragged a hunk of deer back in here so as to feast in peace.  Guess I'll never know.


The Furry Gnome said...

Some interesting finds in the woods! Glad you're feeling better.

catharus said...

What disease are you referring to that threatens to destroy our American Beech? That is very sad! It's hard enough seeing all the ash trees succumbing to emerald ash borer, but the beech is a favorite of mine!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

The disease I mentioned, catharus, is called Beech Bark Disease, and it's caused by both an introduced insect ( a European beech scale) and a fungus that colonizes the insect damage and eventually destroys the tree. The disease is pretty rampant where I live in northern NY, but here and there we find occasional specimen trees that seem to be resistant to infestation. So there's hope that this beautiful forest tree may recover eventually. But perhaps not for centuries. In the meantime, those gorgeous groves of silver-barked golden-leaved trees are disappearing.

Unknown said...

Hello, really neat blog.
Would you mind sharing the info on where, in relation to the dam, the quarries are located? I love taking photos of ice and will be in the are this weekend.

Thank you!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Marcin Chabros, there are several areas along Spier Falls Rd., across the road and upstream from the dam, where the mountainside was quarried for boulders with which to build the dam. There is a parking area across from the dam, and if you walk the road upstream, you will find at least three areas in about a half mile where the rock was removed. There is also a waterfall in this area, where a brook tumbles down the mountainside. It has some spectacular ice build-up sometimes.