Monday, November 23, 2020

November Wanderings

Yep.  It's November, all right.  One day the temps are down in the teens, then two days later they reach the mid-70s (see my last two blog posts).  And after that, mostly gray has prevailed.  Maybe the sun breaks through for a bit, but low clouds soon cancel out that bit of blue in the sky. Next day, some rain, a few flakes of snow.  A sunny day dawns promising, but a chill wind drives the cold inside the winter coat.  It hasn't been very inviting out there, for this aging old lady with an arthritic knee.  But I have ventured out since I posted here last, just for an hour or so here and there.  And I'm always glad I did. Nature always has something delightful to offer. Even in November.

November 10, Bog Meadow Brook Nature Preserve

There's lovely color still to be found on this trail, even after the vivid autumn foliage fell many days ago.  The Winterberry shrubs that line this pond are thick with scarlet berries (above), and Red Osier twigs (below) glow lipstick red along the bank. The curling siliques of Northern Willowherb shine golden in the late-fall sunlight.

What once were the small white flowers of a trailside aster have turned into fluffy white tufts.

The pale-gold seedpods of Loesel's Twayblade Orchid are much easier to find this time of year than were their tiny greenish-yellow flowers hiding among summer's grasses.

How wonderful to still see dragonflies darting about on the autumn air!  Especially dragonflies as colorful as this Autumn Meadowhawk basking in the sun.

The sun goes down early these late-fall afternoons, and it cast a warm golden light on this small flock of Canada Geese floating calmly on a trailside pond.

November 18, Evergreen Plants at Mud Pond

I didn't get out until afternoon on this freezing-cold day. On my way to a powerline clearcut near Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park, I was surprised to see how thickly icicles hung from the spring-watered boulders along Spier Falls Road, despite their exposure to hours of sunshine this day.

The powerline clearcut above Mud Pond passes beside a pine woods, and the open area next to the woods is carpeted with thick mosses, this carpet studded with small seedling conifers and other evergreen plants.

I had come here on this Wednesday to prepare for leading some friends on an "Evergreen Plants Walk" the following Friday. But before I even began to catalog the many green plants that grow here, I was startled to see how the stems of many Frostweed plants (Crocanthemum canadense) were still surrounded with icy curls of frozen sap, even this late in the day (it was now 3pm).  Usually, these delicate curls melt or evaporate as soon as the morning sun touches them.  But the freezing cold had persisted all day long.

As I walked near the edge of the woods, my feet sank deep into thick carpets of moss. The predominant moss here is one called Big Red-stem Moss (Pleurozium schreberi).

Many other mosses thrive in this sandy soil, including this lime-green one with fern-like leaves called Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens).

Among all the green mosses were several mounds of Sphagnum moss that was colored a surprising pink! This mound was studded with tiny White Pine seedlings (Pinus strobus).

There were at least two species of Reindeer lichens (Cladonia spp.) sprouting up from amid the pine needles, both a pale-green one and this one, colored a beautiful gray.

Fallen logs lay at the edge of the woods, most of them covered with many different lichens, mosses, and liverworts, including this curly-leaved liverwort called Lovely Fuzzwort (Ptilidium pulcherimum).

Several clubmosses, too, are part of this evergreen community, including this Tree Clubmoss (Dendrolycopodium obscurum) with its golden pollen stalks.

Fan Clubmoss (Diphasiastrum digitatum) is another evergreen denizen of this powerline clearcut.

Running Clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum) also thrives here.  Another vernacular name for this sprawling, ground-hugging plant is Wolf's Claw, suggested by the pointed tufts of white hairs at the end of each branch.

And of course, there are several different kinds of baby evergreen trees, including at least two species of pine. I believe this one is a Red Pine seedling (Pinus resinosa), with its fascicles (needle bundles) containing two stiff needles.  White Pine seedlings, with fascicles containing five more-slender needles of a bluer shade of green, were even more numerous at this site.

An occasional Spruce seedling (Picea sp.), with its short sharp needles, could also be found among the other baby conifers.

I found only one Juniper sapling (Juniperus sp.) among all the other conifers, and it was abundantly studded with berries of the most beautiful blue.

I assert that we can call these British Soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) another evergreen plant, since its leafy thallus is definitely greenish, even when its fruiting bodies are a brilliant red.

November 19, Moreau Lake Shore

This Thursday afternoon was breezy and cold, but breaks in the clouds let a few rays of warming sun cast a golden light on the north shore of the lake.  My friend Sue had joined me to see how far we could walk on dry land around the lake.  But first we had to cross the brand-new bridge that spans the narrow waterway between the main lake and the back bay.  Thanks go to The Friends of Moreau Lake State Park for providing the funds to replace the old bridge, which had been much in need of repair. 

For the past month or so, I've been celebrating the emergence of the lake's walkable shore, as lake levels had started to fall from the highs that found the water risen well into the woods.  But wow! It looked as if just overnight the levels had fallen precipitously, as the still-damp sand along the north shore appeared to indicate.

Sure enough, we were able to easily stride along the shore, with ample amounts of dry footing between the woods and the water's edge.

We made it all the way to the cove along the eastern shore, where seven years ago I had discovered a large population of one of New York's rarest plants, the Endangered species called Whorled Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum verticillatum var. verticillatum). At that time, the population included nearly 300 blooming plants, many of which had been submerged now for nearly two years by remarkably high water levels.  Would we find any at all remaining today?  Sadly, only a few.  But the specimens we did find bore seed heads that had dropped their seeds, so we can hope that many more of this super-rare plant will once again find a happy home on the shore of Moreau Lake.


The Furry Gnome said...

Looks like a wonderful November walk!

Don Butler said...

Can you recommend a field guide to mosses, lichens, liverworts and such?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Furry Gnome. I am always happy to know you come along with me (virtually) on my walks, and I appreciate your loyal following. We are lucky to live, both you and I, where nature offers such marvelous rewards to every outing.

Don Butler, I do have a good guidebook for mosses (Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians, A Princeton Field Guide), but I usually rely on my bryologist friends for information, since distinguishing species among this group of plants often requires microscopic examination. Some of my friends use apps on their phones that will transmit images and receive back suggestions from reliable sources. Since I don't carry a cellphone, I haven't explored these apps, but I am often amazed at how reliable some can be. Worth exploring, I believe.