Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Back to Bog Meadow

When an old blog post of mine from October 31, 2019, showed up on my Facebook Memories yesterday, I was struck by how gorgeously colorful the Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail had been on that date. So off I went to see if this year's experience there would match the one from four years ago.

Well, it didn't, quite. At least, it didn't seem to at first.

As this photo of the trail reveals, about the only color that now remained was in the still-green leaves of all the invasive honeysuckle that thrives along the first half-mile of this otherwise wonderful wooded wetland trail.

Of course, this trail, even when not so colorful, is always interesting. I could see that the beavers were trying again to raise the water level in the trailside swamp.  This was just one of their recently built dams.

The Gray Dogwoods that looked so beautiful four years ago had already lost their white berries, and  their vivid red pedicels were now dark. But the Poison Sumac trees that thrive in the trailside swamps were festooned with many dangling clusters of off-white fruit.  We humans may not appreciate them, but the birds will be happy to find such abundance of nutritious berries when other late-fall food sources have been consumed. 

The tufts of Virgin's Bower seeds are hardly colorful, but they are certainly still attractive in their own fluffy way.

And these prettily curvaceous young fern fronds (some evergreen Intermediate Wood Ferns?) contributed a lovely surprise of spring green to this old moss-covered stump.

The now-rosy leaves of Spotted Geranium added their bright color to the otherwise fading trailside plants.

And WOW!  What could match the brilliance of even a single bough of this Winterberry shrub?

By the time I reached the section of trail that bordered an open marsh, an occasional sunbeam managed to poke through the otherwise almost complete cloud cover, brightening the scene.

A forest of mainly oaks on the far side of the marsh grew much more vividly colorful in this enhanced light.

Even as the sun was once again thinly veiled by clouds, the leaves of this Silky Dogwood shrub retained their rosy glow.

The richly coral-colored leaves of this Swamp Rose appeared almost as bright as flames.

The vivid leaves of small Red Maple saplings all lived up to their colorful name.

Even the fading seedpods of Buttonbush provided some lovely color to the watery edges of the marsh.

Here was a final treat:  a fluffy cluster of Woolly Alder Aphids being tended by a guardian ant.  As ants do with other species of aphids, they "milk" them for the sweet fluid called "honeydew" the aphids excrete, and the ants also fiercely drive any likely predators of the aphids away. I do often find these clusters of aphids, but not very often in the company of their guardian ants.

Why would I consider finding a bunch of bugs a treat?  Well, these are some truly amazing insects, almost miraculous, from a human point of view.  For all of these little aphids, their bodies covered with an extruded white waxy "fur" to protect themselves from weather and predators, are the wingless female offspring not only of a single winged female aphid but also of each other, clones of the single wingless clone that the winged female first deposited on this alder twig. At the end of their feeding season and before dying and dropping away, these individual females will each produce a WINGED clone of herself, and some of these will be males! (How a female clones a male clone I have yet to comprehend!)  Then all these winged Woolly Alder Aphids will fly off to some Silver Maple trees to find mates and lay eggs on the maple bark. The cycle than begins again next spring.

Meanwhile, many winged Woolly Alder Aphids are currently wafting about on the air, tiny pale-blue bits of fluff we now call "Fairy Flies."  Here's a photo of one I chanced to capture a few years ago.  Isn't she (or maybe it's a he) so lovely?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking me along on your walk!

Woody Meristem said...

Aphids are interesting insects with a very different lifestyle than most six-legged critters.