Wednesday, September 22, 2021

An Adirondack Pond and its Autumn Pleasures

No need to check the calendar to know that Fall has arrived. Even though this past Monday grew summer warm by noon,  the morning was sweater-chilly when I stood on the shore of Oliver Pond and noticed the just-changing colors in the pondside trees.  I had come to this isolated Essex County pond to enjoy a paddle with my friend Ruth Brooks, and we both stood enchanted by the scene before us, almost reluctant to stir these mirror-still waters that were rendered even more quintessentially Adirondack by the haunting call of a loon.

Although the color-change in the standing trees had just begun,  this scarlet Red Maple leaf afloat on the pond was a foretaste of the brilliantly beautiful season just ahead.

The foliage colors of Fall offer us wildflower enthusiasts some comforting compensation for the close of the floral season.  As we find so few blooming flowers now,  I especially treasure the ones we do encounter, such as this abundant cluster of Panicled Aster blooms (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum) tucked in between two fallen logs on the shore of Oliver Pond.

And I wasn't the only creature happy to find these flowers.  Usually, this shiny-green, yellow-striped  Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Moth caterpillar (Cucullia asteroides) is found amid the golden flowers that suggested its common name. But considering that both goldenrods and asters reside in the same Aster Family (Asteraceae), I should not have been so surprised to find it feasting on Panicled Asters.

The only other flowers we found blooming today were these floating Water Smartweeds (Persicaria amphibia), clustered together in a quiet cove, their bright-pink flowers reflected in the still water

On our last visit to Oliver Pond, in early September two years ago, we had marveled at the abundance of Purple Bladderwort flowers (Utricularia purpurea) protruding from the water, flowers made even more fascinating because they were snowy-white instead of the standard pale-purple. We had hoped we might find just one or two remaining blooms today, but all we found were the masses of the bladderwort's brownish underwater structures.

But no matter if our flower finds were few and far between.  We still found much beauty to marvel at on many floating "nursery logs" that were covered with a rich and colorful variety of mosses, lichens, and leaves. This particular log was populated by a huge colony of red-topped lichens called Lipstick Powderhorn (Cladonia macilenta).

Another log was plush with masses of Sphagnum mosses of various colors.

Yet another Sphagnum-carpeted log held the remnant now-brown flower stalks of Spatulate-leaved Sundews (Drosera intermedia).

And a nearby log was populated by several green-leaved plants (Meadowsweet, Cranberry, and a lime-green moss), as well as the red basal leaves of Spatulate-leaved Sundew, all aglitter with the sparkling drops of sticky fluid meant to tempt insects to their mortally dangerous pads.

Here was a log that provided a home for a large patch of Marsh St. John's Wort (Hypericum virginicum), that plant's stems and leaves assuming a Cherry-Twizzler red color in their decline and rendered as translucent as stained glass by the bright sun.

The very light was dazzling today, the sunshine beaming through crystal-clear Adirondack-autumn air. As the breeze picked up and set the shoreline thickets of Slender Sedge (Carex lasiocarpa) to dancing, the reflected light danced along with the gleaming leaves.

The surface of the pond also started to dance in the afternoon breeze, each wavelet sparkling like diamonds.

By now, the morning's chill had yielded to summer-like warmth, but this Autumn Meadowhawk kept returning to the sun-warmed skin of my bare shin, as if it were hoping to store up some extra warmth for the colder days to come.

A single pair of Common Loons had claimed this pond for their own, and we learned they had managed to rear a single chick this year.  We did see all three in the hours we were on the pond, but only from a far distance. I couldn't believe how clearly my camera managed to zoom in on this solitary swimmer.

And here's the person who told us about this loon family, this yellow-hatted woman (left) named Ellie George, whom we met just as we arrived at the pond and she was leaving after paddling here to check on the resident loons.  Ellie is a very active observer of loons in the Adirondacks, monitoring their health and behavior on a number of lakes and ponds near her home on nearby Paradox Lake.  In fact, she and her husband have participated in rescuing loons that have been injured, many of those injuries caused by the barbed lures and tangling lines abandoned by careless fishermen.

My friend Ruth (right) is a passionate birder and already knew Ellie and about Ellie's work, and Ellie recognized my name from having often seen my blog.  It turned out we all had many mutual friends among the birders and botanizers and other naturalists of our region of New York State.  A small world, yes, but one that is filled with amazing and smart and informed and dedicated folks who do what they can to protect the plants and animals and their habitats.  I am so grateful that there are so many of them. And especially that I can call so many of them my friends.


The Furry Gnome said...

That's an amazing picture of the lichens on the log. The naturalist community does include some amazing, smart people!

Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful photographs. Yes, naturalists are special people -- perhaps I'm biased since I've known so many knowledgeable, caring people who are dedicated to the natural world.

threecollie said...

What fun to enjoy such an interesting meet up! Love your photos, as always, and love loons especially.