We had some beautiful weather last week, and my friend Ruth and I arranged to meet at the Sherman Island Boat Launch to enjoy a paddle on the Hudson River. Our only dilemma was, "Should we paddle upstream or down today?" The forested mountains fall right down to the water along this catchment between the Spier Falls and Sherman Island dams, offering beautiful unspoiled vistas in either direction. Also, botanical wonders await us plant enthusiasts whether we paddle upstream or down, on the Saratoga County side or over along the Warren County banks. Ultimately, we chose the Saratoga banks and the downstream route, mostly because this steeper and more boulder-lined shore offered more rocky nooks and crannies for lots of mosses and liverworts to thrive in. Ruth has a special interest in bryophytes, and I am an eager student.
Well, we hadn't ventured more than twenty yards downstream when I remembered, "Oops! I left my lunch bag in my car!" So we beached our canoes right there (the river was low, providing a broad sandy landing spot), and I ran back to the parking lot to fetch my food while Ruth lingered there to explore the wooded shore.
It always delights me to find a carousel of Canada Lily seedpods (Lilium canadense), especially since the Scarlet Lily Beetle has extirpated so many of this beautiful native wildflower's local populations. I was happy to be reminded of the beautiful bright-orange lilies I had seen dangling from these stems at this very location last July.
Look what else we found at this most interesting patch of riverside woods: a Spotted Alder branch that held several tufts of white furry stuff.
Note how these ants appear to be tending to the aphids. Like other species of aphid, these Woolly Alder Aphids excrete a fluid called "honeydew" as a waste product, and the ants feed on that fluid, fiercely defending their "flock" by driving off any predators. I have read that Lacewing larvae, voracious predators of aphids, will avoid the defender-ants' notice by covering themselves with the aphids' woolly "fur" and moving undetected amid the cluster, feeding as they go. Like wolves in sheep's clothing! Wow! Nature is so amazing!
After marveling at how much fun we were having on this one small patch of riverbank just a few yards from where we had started, we agreed we should get in our boats and see what we could find while we ventured downstream. As we paddled, we were charmed by the royal-blue profusion of many Closed Gentian flowers.
A decomposing tree trunk provided a very happy home to this group of attractive mushrooms, their plump yellowish caps speckled with rusty red dots.