Thursday, April 26, 2018

Birds and Blooms at Ballston Creek

Our stretch of warm sunny days has ended for now,  but the chill rain of this Thursday morning did not deter my friends in the Thursday Naturalists from garbing up for the weather and making the trip to the Ballston Creek Preserve today. The news had spread among our members that the Great Blue Herons were back on their nests in the Ballston Creek swamp, and we were determined to see them.

There are many fewer nests this year than there were in the past, for as the swamped tree snags lose more and more of their branches to age and wind, there are fewer and fewer crotches for these huge birds to build their enormous nests in.  But one central cluster of trees still offers plenty of secure nesting sites, so we were able to observe the comings and goings of their occupants today.

We were delighted to find many spring flowers had now opened their blooms, despite the return of cool rainy conditions. At the very start of our trail to the heronry, we were met with the glorious sight of masses of Bloodroot carpeting the forest edge with hundreds of snowy-white blooms.  When I was here one week ago, there was not yet a trace of them having emerged from the soil. It almost seems they appear as if by magic!

I did see some buds on the Spring Beauty plants last week, but today the forest floor was virtually carpeted with their beautiful pink-striped blooms.

The speckled leaves of Trout Lily were just as abundant, and we also found a few buds of their flowers among the leaves.  I bet by the end of this week, those buds will open to reveal the pretty, yellow, dangling flowers.

Considering how advanced these other spring wildflowers were, I was surprised that the many Round-lobed Hepatica plants we found held buds that were barely open. But I find the softly furry bracts that enclose the lavender flowers are quite charming in their own right.

This is a fungus and not a flower, but the elegant undersides of the Split Gill Fungus are just as lovely as any spring bloom. 

Last week, I was scheduled to lead my friends in our Thursday group to the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve, but I canceled the outing because of bad weather as well as the lack of any other flowers  blooming beside the Snow Trilliums.  I told my friends today that the Snow Trilliums were still in bloom if anyone wanted to go and see them, and one of our group took me up on the offer.  So off we went to visit Orra's preserve in Wilton.  And sure enough, these lovely little diminutive flowers were still in their glory.

We also found Dutchman's Breeches about to bloom, with stalks of swelling buds held high above the lacy foliage.  One week ago, I could not find any trace of them.  All it took for them to emerge was a couple of sunny warm days.

I was also delighted to find this mossy bank along the creek punctuated by the bright lemon-yellow blooms of Round-leaved Violets (Viola rotundifolia).

Such a charming little violet, so deeply yellow with its lower petal vividly striped with purple.  The flowers open wide before the leaves completely unfurl.  After the flowers disappear, those leaves will continue to grow larger and rounder, and we can see these leaves throughout the summer, lining trails through the Adirondacks.  This is a different species of yellow violet than the Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens), a violet with slightly paler flowers that bears its leaves on its flower stems and blooms a bit later in spring.


Kathryn Grace said...

It’s always such a delight to follow your photo journey on one of your walks. This one, with its spring blooms lifts my spirits and heart. Thank you.

wash wild said...

My mom grew up in 'old' Wilton at the foot of Mt. McGregor. Orra Phelps was her neighbor and Mom knew her well. Phelps was an extraordinary woman - gifted, ambitious and adventurous. People who enjoy visiting the preserve might want to read 'Doc' by Mary Arakelian. It's a biography of Orra written by her niece, with insight into how important botany and nature study were to the Phelps family.
I also remember Mom talking about hiking, picnicing and swimming at Black Pond up the mountain beyond the end of Woodard Road. Nowadays it may not be publicly accessible. Wilton used to be a much different place before the Northway was built and the Town got 'malled'.