Saturday, September 1, 2018

Once More, Around the Back Bay

Sometimes, my friends ask me why I don't tire of returning to the same nature sites over and over again.  Well, the simple answer is, they're never the same place twice!  I certainly experienced that this past week, when I explored the back bay of Moreau Lake four times:  twice to lead nature walks for two different groups, once to preview what I would show to the groups, and finally, once again yesterday, all by myself. Each time, I discovered something new to amaze me. Yesterday, I just moseyed aimlessly along, letting the spell of this wooded lakeshore lead me where it would, revealing its treasures without my purposefully searching them out.

Since I wasn't constantly searching the shoreline, trying to isolate and name the astounding variety of native plants that grow there, I could lift my eyes to all that surrounded me, including the bordering  woods.  How beautiful the deep dark shade, the soaring height of the trees, the mix of multiple textures and colors of shrubs beneath those trees!

I also paid more attention to the lake itself, noting how the water level had fallen so low that, close to shore,  the Fragrant Water Lily blooms were lifted up on their stems, rather than floating on the surface as they usually do.  The flowers were still as luminous as ever, and I loved the black reflection of them in the dark water.  I wondered, though, how that stem would withdraw that pristine white flower, as soon as it was pollinated, and deposit it under the water in the mud, since the water there was barely over an inch deep.  (We never see a wilted or discolored Water Lily, because this is what normally happens to fertilized Water Lilies.)

Because I was all by myself, not constantly raising my "outdoor" voice  to name the plants we were there to discern, I could creep slowly and quietly along.  Thus, I was able to approach quite near to this Little Green Heron before it opened its wings to soar away in search of a more private fishing perch.

Yes, I could put a name to most of the plants in this photo, but today I just enjoyed the marvelous crazy-quilt of their commingling, amazed by how they could coexist so companionably.

Many more Closed Gentians had achieved their optimal radiance now, the gorgeous royal-blue of their blooms so beautifully complimented by the rosy-pink of the nearby Slender Gerardia.

On my previous walks this week along this shore, I had isolated individual plants of Canada St. Johnswort in order to distinguish this tiny-flowered plant from the equally tiny-flowered Dwarf St. Johnswort, noting this plant's slender leaves and blood-red seedpods. Today, I could simply marvel at how the numerous tiny bright-yellow blooms were scattered across the sandy shore like stars in the sky.

Here is another beautiful scattering, of the bright-red berries of Partridgeberry, nestled among a patch of lime-green Pincushion Moss.

Best of all, today I could stand stock-still for as long as it took to observe the various flying, creeping, or spinning creatures going about their food-gathering ways.  This little brown moth, a Schinia arcigera, appeared like a fuzzy brown blur as it flitted from aster flower to aster flower.  Although this moth species does lay its eggs on certain species of aster, today it appeared simply to be feeding on the flowers' pollen. It was impossible to achieve a perfectly clear photographic image, since it never stayed long enough on each bloom.

The Meadowhawk dragonfly was much more accommodating to my photographic efforts, returning to this same perch again and again as I crept closer and closer, until I finally got the shot of its tomato-red abdomen, big brown eyes, and black-lace wings.

It was easy to photograph this multicolored Brown Owlet Moth caterpillar, since it was happily feeding on goldenrod and wasn't in any hurry to leave.

This Grasshopper Hunter Wasp was also very loath to leave its perch in a cluster of Sweet Everlasting blooms. Although this wasp's larvae dine only on grasshopper meat,  the adult wasps themselves happily feast on plant pollen.  I was able to re-position the flower to better observe the wasp's brick-red abdomen, and I never worried I might get stung, since this wasp is known to be very placid, saving its stinger venom for its only prey, grasshoppers.  (To see one in action, check out my blog post for July 24, this year.)

I was truly amazed that I happened upon this next scene, as a small Striped Garden Spider captured, stunned, and wrapped in silk for later consumption a shiny Green Bottle Fly.  In this first photo, we see the underside of the spider as it sinks its jaws into the fly to introduce the venom that will paralyze the fly so its frantic efforts to escape don't destroy the spider's web.

I moved around to observe the top side of the spider, which displayed the striped pattern that distinguishes this Argiope species, the Striped Garden Spider (A. trifasciata), from the Yellow Garden Spider (A. aurantia).  Both species can grow to prodigious size, although this one was rather small, its body a bit less than an inch long (not counting the tiger-striped legs).

As I watched, the spider wrapped the stunned fly in silk and suspended it in her web.  It then retreated to rest a while before dinner.  Note the zigzag weaving in the web, one of the distinctive features of webs woven by spiders of the Argiope genus.

1 comment:

Lynn's mom said...

What a perfect day, and perfect words to celebrate it! Best late summer wishes from Jane