day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky: and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
Where did the last 10 days go? I sure wasn't here on my blog! And it all seems a blur of various appointments that busied my days, plus several days spent reacting to a Covid booster shot that had me napping under heaps of blankets three afternoons in a row and not spending much time outdoors. I did manage to get out here and there and take a few photos, so I'll post some now, just to catch up.
November 7, Bend of the Hudson River, Moreau: This was such a beautiful Sunday afternoon, my husband wanted to join me for a walk. And we did have a lovely walk through an old abandoned cemetery back in the woods. Usually, when I walk with my husband, I don't stop to take any photos. But driving home along Spier Falls Road, which follows the Hudson River, we both were struck by the beauty of the river banks made golden by the low afternoon sun, so perfectly reflected in the still water. So I did stop and take some photos.
The Warren County bank of the Hudson, right where the river bends sharply to the northeast:
November 13, the Saratoga County banks of the Hudson at Moreau: I wanted to show my friend Amy Godine the stretch of the Hudson that had inspired this blog back in 2009. Amy, a loyal reader of my blog, is also a marvelous writer and frequent contributor to the magazine Adirondack Life, and she told me she plans to write an article about my blog for this wonderful magazine. Oh my gosh, what an honor! Of course, I'd hoped for a beautiful day, but we got a rainy one instead. No matter. We had a great walk and talk together, and I do believe Amy was truly impressed by the wild natural beauty of this stretch of the Hudson, where forested mountains fall straight to the water's edge and wooded islands dot the quiet bays. And we will have other occasions to walk together, in nicer weather.
November 14, Stark's Knob, Schuylerville: I had been slated to lead my friends in The Thursday Naturalists on a visit to this remarkable geologic site this week. And it is an amazing experience, to stand beneath this huge mound of Pillow Basalt, and imagine being here some 460 million years ago when this site was well beneath the sea and lava poured through a crack in Earth's crust to immediately congeal to solid rock in the water. Just looking at this huge mound of black bulbous rock, I could certainly imagine that lava boiling up from below the sea!
November 15, The Hudson Crossing Park, Schuylerville: This park is not just a scenic walk along the Champlain Canal and the Hudson River, although it certainly is that, with about two miles of easily walkable trails offering lovely views of these waterways. It is also an educational destination featuring signage describing the historical significance of the site for both native people and later arrivals, as well as descriptions of its natural history. There is also a children's play park and a covered pavilion for picnickers. This photo shows a historic iron bridge, no longer used by autos but now converted to a walkway for pedestrians and a lane for snowmobiles.
As for botanical finds, there are many American Bladdernut shrubs (Staphylea trifolia) along the riverbanks. The hollow bladders holding the seeds still remain on many shrubs.
Ah, but the FUNGI stole the show today! We sure found lots of different kinds and colors. These Split-gill Fungi (Schizophyllum commune) were very small, but also quite visible against the dark wood of a rotting tree limb.
And here was the genuine fungal bonanza: a single tree stump colonized by lots of different fungi, all fruiting at once! The following photos are my best guesses as to the names of the individual fungi inhabiting this one stump.
All of the fungi we found on this visit are known to be persistent instead of ephemeral. So I am eager to show them all to my friends when we visit this Hudson Crossing Park later this week.
If I needed further reassurance, the brittle needles of frost heaving up from the sandy powerline path convinced me that freezing cold still reigned down close to the ground, despite a morning sun warming my shoulders by now.
Even the fine-textured hoarfrost that coated these baby oak leaves was still intact, muting the colors of the leaves and outlining their shapes in sparkling crystals.Baby oak leaves (Querqus species)
And there it was! Frostweed doing its frosty thing, and in numbers I had never seen before at this site!Canada Frostweed patch (Crocanthemum canadense)
Here's a closer look at how the frothy ice curls around the split stems.
And as fragile as those icy curls are, it was still so cold, they had not yet begun to melt, even as the sun rose higher and found some of them.
The curls seemed much more frothy, this year, as if they had been formed from vapor instead of liquid. They looked like frozen clouds.
With this particular specimen, the icy mass appeared to have been formed from hair-fine threads and reminded me of cotton candy.
Once I had satisfied my quest for finding the Frostweed curls, I looked around the site for other icy transformations. The frost looked particularly pretty decorating these crimson oak leaves.Leaves of a baby oak (Quercus sp.)
Whole swaths of reddening Dewberry leaves were outlined in silver.Northern Dewberry (Rubus flagellaris)
The deep-red leaves of Lowbush Blueberry were fluffy with icy fur.Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
Vast patches of Common Haircap Moss, punctuated with tiny tawny fungi, were sparkling with icy crystals.
Pretty clusters of Fan Clubmoss bore deep-green cedar-like flattened branches tipped with white.Fan Clubmoss (Diphasiastrum digitatum), also known as Ground Cedar
Also tipped with white frost were the rounder branches of this Tree Clubmoss, which appeared as if exploding from a patch of deep-pink Sphagnum Moss.Tree Clubmoss (Dendrolycopodium dendroideum), over pink-colored Sphagnum Moss (species unknown)
The branches of Running Clubmoss are often tipped with white hairs, which suggested its alternative vernacular name of Wolf's Claw Clubmoss. But today, all the hair-fine leaves were whitened by frost.Running Clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum)
When I first arrived at this site this day, all the needles of small sapling pines were whitened by hoarfrost. But as the sun-warmed morning wore on, each needle became tipped with sparkling drops of melted ice.
As I prepared to leave, the mounting sun's rays had begun to warm the formerly shaded Frostweed curls. But rather than dripping water, the frothy ice just seemed to dissipate into the air, reinforcing my impression that the curls might have been formed from freezing mist instead of liquid sap. I wonder if anyone has ever filmed the process as the curls were forming. That would be something to see!
Here it is already, the last day of October, and it feels as if I'm still waiting for fall: those frosty mornings and crisp, clear, blue-sky afternoons amid blazing autumn foliage. But we haven't yet had a real frost, and our tree leaves have mostly turned from fungus-spotted, insect-damaged yellowing green to withered brown. It's rainy and gray today, but last Friday was a crisp, clear, blue-sky day, perfect for a walk around Moreau Lake, where some of the trees, anyway, offered some of the brilliance we hope for each fall.
This sapling Red Maple was doing its best to remind us of what fall foliage used to look like, having somehow managed to escape some of the Gypsy Moth and fungal damage that attacked most of our mature maples this past over-heated and soggy summer.
I wonder if the continued warmth of our weather has been a factor, too, in muting the color of our fall foliage. We have not yet had a killing frost, so even a few flowers still offer their blooms to a few insect foragers, like this tiny bee in a blooming Philadelphia Fleabane. As in the case of several other spring-blooming flowers I have found recently (Bunchberry and Dog Violet, for example), this species of fleabane has started blooming again, long after its early-summer flowers had gone to seed.
I was even more delighted to find this wee little flatsedge tucked in among the dry stones higher up on the shore. For this is one of New York's rarest species, the Small-flowered Dwarf Bulrush (Cyperus subsquarrosus), only recently re-discovered to exist on Moreau Lake's shores in uncountable numbers.
Here was another great find: A male Snow Bunting, only recently arrived from its arctic breeding grounds to spend the winter here "down south."
I was able to recognize this unfamiliar bird, because exactly to the day 12 years ago, on October 29, 2009, I photographed this same species here on the shore of Moreau Lake, in almost the very same spot. (Luckily, I was able to approach the Snow Bunting much closer, back then, and got a much better photo.)
As the afternoon shadows began to lengthen, I passed this grandpa and grandson fishing by the bridge, a scene that somehow made me feel that, here in this small sun-warmed spot on the planet, all was right with the world. Maybe it just reminded me of how much I had adored my own grandpa.
While I passed through the woods on my way to my car, I came upon a fallen log populated by a long stretch of small caramel-colored fungi. They were so small and plain, I almost passed them by without more than a glance. But something about them urged me to take a closer look.
Now, here was a really colorful fungus, its lovely red cap set off beautifully by the bright-green moss behind it. Called Painted Suillus (Suillus spraguei), this mushroom has a mutually beneficial relationship with Eastern White Pines. In return for the sugars the photosynthesizing pine provides to the fungus, the Painted Suillus provides water and minerals to the tree through its underground mycorrhizal network.
Not only are fungi fascinating, some are astoundingly beautiful. And Turkey Tail Fungus is one of the most beautiful of all. I have found its thin and flexible caps adorned with stripes of many different color combinations, including royal blue and school-bus yellow or chocolate fudge and creamy vanilla. But never have I found a population colored with such a vivid and velvety moss-green, as I did this day. Wow!