I'd been hearing tales that one of my favorite Adirondack ponds had been mobbed by visitors this past pandemic year, and that they'd trashed this lovely site so bad that it was no longer a place I'd want to paddle. But that sun-dazzled rainless day last Friday tempted me to brave what I might find. And I'm glad I took that chance! There wasn't another soul on the pond when I arrived, nor was there a beer can nor bait box littering either the parking area or the shore. The serene, only slightly breeze-riffled water reflected the puffy white clouds and the bright-blue sky, inviting me to set off in my solo canoe to follow the forested edges of the pond.
I especially love the rocky, mossy, deep-green woodsy north-facing shore, with its shady steep banks that let me edge right up to where the forest meets the water.
Nestling my little canoe right up to the rocks, I can marvel at all the beautiful shapes and colors of the shoreline plants. On this day, I took great delight in the brilliant masses of Bunchberry fruits (Cornus canadensis).
I had barely taken five strokes of my paddle before I saw my first orchid: a Small Club-spur Orchid (Platanthera clavellata), its cluster of light-green florets standing out against the deep shade of the woods. And this was the first of dozens I would espy as I inched my way along this forested shore.
Here's a closer look at the Little Club-spur Orchid's greenish-white flowers, held erect on slender stems, each floret displaying the long spur distinctive to this species of native orchid.
A particularly impressive patch of Clintonia (Clintonia borealis) was arrayed at the base of a tree stump.
The fruits of the Clintonia had ripened to the wonderful blue color that suggests one of this native lily's vernacular names, Bluebead Lily.
Oh, but talk about BLUE! And what a surprise it was, to see the beautiful Narrow-leaved Gentian (Gentiana linearis) already beginning to bloom! It seems weeks early to begin to see this radiantly blue flower.
There were many, many plants of Narrow-leaved Gentian, still in bud, growing in amazing numbers all along the shore. What a show they will put on, when all are in bloom!
Another native flower that thrives on these rocky banks is Dalibarda (Rubus repens), a low-growing plant with heart-shaped leaves and flowers so brilliantly white they are difficult to photograph without them being over-exposed. Another of its names is Dewdrops, a pretty name for a pretty flower.
If I had started my circuit of the pond an hour or so later, I probably would have found the pretty pink flowers of Marsh St. John's Wort (Hypericum virginicum) fully open. As it was, the barely opened buds were very pretty in their own way.
As I paddled through the swaying grass-fine sedges and stiffly erect bur-reed leaves, it was like moving through a radiantly blue snow-flurry of Bluet damselflies, all flitting and dashing and wafting about and never pausing long enough to get a clearly focused photo of them. Finally, one pair perched long enough to initiate a "romantic encounter," while a spread-wing damselfly also took a brief rest on a bur-reed leaf. All my other attempts at a photo of them show only bright-blue smears against the dark water.
After pulling my boat ashore, I walked through a patch of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), hoping to find a Monarch caterpillar or two. Not yet did I find any caterpillars, but several adult Fritillary Butterflies were very busy sampling the nectar of many flower clusters.
I'm glad I found no butterflies trapped by their tongues or legs in the milkweed's florets, but I did see this tiny blue-winged insect (a sawfly?) suspiciously unmoving when I moved my camera in close for a shot. Sure enough, one of its legs was snared by the milkweed's pollen-bundle threads. I was glad I was able to pull the floret apart sufficiently that the insect flew rapidly away.
Too late, though, for this hapless bee, snared not just by one, but TWO legs caught within the slits of the florets! Sadly, the bee was long past any chance of being able to fly away if released. I left its lifeless form in the hope that it might be food for some other creature seeking sustenance.
This bristly-butt, hairy-headed fly was resting on a nearby leaf. Despite its rather ferocious appearance, this adult Tachinid fly eats only a liquid diet of flower nectar and the honeydew exuded by aphids. Other insects, though, do have much to fear from it, for female Tachinid flies lay their eggs on insects like beetles and grasshoppers, which, when the eggs hatch, are devoured from the inside by the larvae. Consequently, these flies should be very welcomed by farmers and gardeners hoping to eliminate insect pests.
This spindly-legged creature, most commonly known as a Daddy Long-legs or Harvestman, was resting atop the developing fruits of an Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana). A Harvestman is not a spider, although it does belong to the same family of Arachnids. Like spiders, they do hunt other insects, but not by spinning webs. Instead they deposit a glue-like substance that traps the insects they hope to devour. We larger creatures have nothing to fear from them, since they are not venomous nor do they bite humans.
After all the days and days and days of rain we've been having of late, I was surprised not to find the woods here carpeted with fungi of many kinds. At least I did find this charming little Salmon Unicorn Entoloma (Entoloma quadratum), with its bright-orange pixy cap, so vividly displayed against a patch of emerald-green moss.
Another brightly colored organism of the forest floor was this patch of the slime mold called Scrambled Egg or Dog Vomit (Fuligo septica), its yellow fruiting bodies forming on a rotting conifer log that is also home to a species of green-colored liverwort. Slime molds are not fungi, although they do behave in a similar way to fungi when they form fruiting bodies like these, where the spores are developed and dispersed. I found this patch particularly fascinating, because I could still see its string-like "plasmodium," masses of undifferentiated cells that can move in an ameboid-like fashion as the organism searches for nutrients.