On October 5, I scouted a favorite Adirondack lake to see how the autumn color was developing. As my blog post for October 6 revealed, I could see that the color was already spectacular, even though rainclouds obscured the mountainsides on that visit. Time to alert my friends Ruth and Sue that we'd better get up to Lens Lake very soon, before the foliage passes peak color. So October 12 found the three of us setting out on the lake in our solo canoes, just as the morning fog was lifting to reveal a beautiful blue sky, with lakeshore and mountainsides ablaze in autumn splendor.
One of the most inviting features that Lens Lake offers a paddler is the presence of acres and acres of sphagnum-covered floating bog mat, plus miles of convoluted forested shoreline to explore for interesting plants. It is also a very quiet lake, with very few homes along a short stretch of its shore, and with very strict limits on how fast a low-horsepower motor boat can travel on its waters. As we inched along close to shore or wended through narrow channels in the bog mat, we were never in danger of exceeding even that very low speed limit.
Cottongrass danced on the bogmats, weaving and bobbing, but each white tuft atop each slender stem was moving as if to its own music, never in unison with its neighbors.
The grasses and shrubs were still wet from the morning fog, so all of the doily webs spun overnight were strung with droplets that glistened in the early sunlight.
Here's a closer look at one of those webs strung with water droplets, the spider that spun it resting at the center.
As the fog burned off, we could see the entire blue sky, adorned with some of the most beautiful clouds we had ever seen. Their upswept forms appeared to be echoing our delight at being present to witness their grandeur.
As we made our way among the bog mats, we greeted our favorite bog plants as if they were old friends. This crowded clump of Northern Pitcher Plant displayed a variety of the gorgeous colors this familiar denizen of northern bogs is known to exhibit.
We found a few ripe Large Cranberries, too. This was a bit of a surprise, since one of our cranberry-picking friends had informed us that she had already picked them all. But with acres and acres of bog mat to cover, she couldn't have combed every inch.
We were not surprised to find the spring-blooming Sheep Laurel in beautiful bloom once again. That has been our experience every time we visit this lake in the fall.
I was not surprised, either, to find once again many of these green-tinted, transparent gelatinous masses suspended underwater. This lake is the first and only body of water I have ever found them in, and I find them here again each year. The first year I saw them, I searched the internet to see what I could learn about them. According to the Ask the Naturalist blog, these masses of transparent greenish jelly are formed by a colonial microscopic single-celled protozoan called Ophrydium versatile, and they can be found all over the world in fresh water. The individual cells line up side-by-side in the "blob"and attach themselves to a jelly-like substance they secrete. They are symbiotic with microscopic Chlorella algae that live inside the Ophrydium cells and give the blob its green color.
Here was another interesting underwater species we find at Lens Lake and seldom at other waterbodies we paddle. This is a freshwater sponge, probably Spongilla lacustris. Despite its green color and seaweed-like appearance, this is actually a colony of animals, not a plant. A lake sponge is a simple filter-feeding animal, possessing many cells but lacking a mouth or a brain or muscles or heart or any ability to move, once it becomes attached to a submerged rock or fallen limb. It somewhat resembles a green plant because of the green algae that inhabit it in a symbiotic relationship. The algae help the sponge utilize available food, while the sponge supplies the algae with a place to live.
I was certainly puzzled by the pink growths on this Bog Rosemary bush. They looked like neither the small pink pumpkin-shaped fruits I'd expect to find this time of year, nor the pink-tinged white globular bells of the spring flowers. These growths were rather hard to the touch, the pink covering dry and papery. I wonder if they could be galls instead of fruits.
This photo of a Merganser family perched atop a lichenous boulder is three years old. When I first saw the ducks, they were all arrayed with their bills pointing the same direction, but just at the moment I pushed the camera's shutter, one rebel turned to look in the opposite direction. Even so, all the bills were held perfectly level, at the very same angle. It appeared that the wind was blowing the upstart's crest feathers in the opposite direction, too. I have always loved the quirky moment this photo captured, enhanced by the glorious colors of the background trees. On every return to Lens Lake, I hope to find Mergansers atop this same rock.
And this year, there they were! Six of them, this year. But not at all as neatly arranged as they had been the first year I saw them. This time, each individual was doing its own thing, either preening or gazing off in a different direction.
This waterfowl reiteration represents one of the reasons I love returning to this beautiful lake again and again. I expect to find many of the same treasures I have found here before. But I also expect some fascinating surprises.