Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Musings from the Trail

It's berry season! Blueberries and raspberries are ripening, making the birds and bears fat and happy.

But there are other berries out there that while edible to wildlife, people should not be eating. Like those white berries that have a single black dot in the middle - Doll's Eyes, aka: white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda). Toxic. Look but don't eat!

Here are some of the berries that were ripe yesterday:

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) - a beautiful purplish blue, these berries are disappearing fast to the wildlife. According to my copy of Native American Ethnobotany (Daniel Moerman), the roots of this plant was used by many native peoples for a vast variety of medicines and were often eaten. One group (Montagnais) did ferment the berries in cold water as part of a wine recipe.

Choke cherry (Prunus virginiana) is small native cherry that was eaten in a variety of ways by many native peoples. The thing is, it is very tart. I remember at summer camp that the "remedy" for eating choke cherries was to follow up with a handful of raspberries. The nature counselor, a wonderful woman who had a vast knowledge of wild edibles, used to make a jelly from the fruits, using little green apples as the source of pectin. Mildred was most famous, however, for her wild blueberry fritters and her wild foods banquet. Every year she also led a "live off the land" trip. One year they had snake, and another year I believe a woodchuck was served up as part of the main course.

Here's a nifty plant: Bulblet Fern (Cystopeteris bulbifera). Those area the spore packets on the back side of the leaf. They are sensitive to touch, easily dropping off when disturbed. This fern is found along cliffs or ledges of limestone and calcareous shale, but also in limy swamps. The ones here can actually fit either habitat description: they are at the edge of a cedar wetland, in an area where the local bedrock (a limestone) is really close to the surface.

It's not a berry, or a plant of any kind. This large land snail caught my eye yesterday. It was easily an inch across, possibly more, and because it was white, it stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. It was just hanging out under the mushrooms.

Dewdrops (Dalibarda repens) are blooming in the woods right now, and if you are lucky, like I was, you might get a glimpse of one of it's insect visitors! Originally, I had written that this was one of the dewdrop's pollinators, but it turns out that dewdrops have two kinds of flowers: sterile and fertile. The white showy flowers are sterile. The fertile flowers are hidden beneath the leaves and apparently never open up; they are self-fertilizing, which means that this fly is not a pollinator (at least not for this flower). According to Native American Ethnobotany, dewdrops are also called Robin Runaway; I'm still trying to find out why.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mushroom Madness

All this rain had to be good for something besides the watertable, and the things that are flourishing are mushrooms, mosquitoes and mosses! I went out on the trails this morning to try and get some photos of the flowers that are in bloom, and what I ended up with was close to 100 photos of mushrooms!

Now I'm not mushroom expert (remember, an ex is a has-been and a spurt is a drip under pressure), but I do love seeing the amazing variety that fungi exhibit. And the names! Who wouldn't be fascinated by things with names like "Dead Man's Fingers," "Earth Tongue," "Hare's Ear," "Devil's Urn," and "Common Jelly Baby"?

Some of these fungi were easy to identify, but others remain a mystery. If you are a mushroomer, perhaps you can help out with the ID of some of my mystery mushrooms.

Here are a few of the more interesting mushrooms found along our Sucker Brook Trail today:

White Elfin Saddle (Helvella crispa) - this funny looking fungus is apparently wide-spread, but not common. It's a solitary mushroom, found growing either directly on the ground or on very rotten logs, usually in conifer forests (this one was in a hardwood forest).

White Bird's Nest Fungus (Crucibulum laeve) - this is a fungus I have always wanted to see! It looks just like a tiny (as in 1 cm tall and 1 cm wide) nest. I found several patches, all in various states of development. The "eggs" contain the spores (I believe). This is apparently a common fungus and is widespread, occurring on dead twigs, leaf mould, rotting wood, etc.

Velvet-stalked Fairy Fan (Spathulariopsis velutipes) - these are really neat-looking fungi, growing in massive groups. Considered widespread and locally common, it grows either directly on the ground or on well-rotted hardwood logs. All the patches I found today were growing right out of the ground on the side of the trail.

Lacquered Polypore (Ganoderma lucidum) - this is a really lovely fungus, and on one tree I found it in several stages of growth. A common bracket fungus, this polypore is found on hardwoods. This one, however, I believe is actually G. tsugae, a similar species that grows on conifers.

I'm not sure about this one, but it might be Deadly Cort (Cortinarius gentilis), or not. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know. There were a lot of these, all sparsely located about the forest floor. If it is, then, as the name suggests, it is poisonous. Wide-spread but not common, it is found under conifers or in mossy areas. Update: after consultation with another naturalist, we suspect this is not actually deadly cort. However, it might be a Chanterelle Waxcap (Hygrocybe canthrarellus). I need to collect one and do a spore print to be sure.

This is another mystery mushroom. It was very tiny, maybe an inch high, if that. My first thought is Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) because of its color, but the amanitas tend to have rings, or collars, around the stalk, and this one does not. This is a very young mushroom, though, so maybe it hasn't developed a collar yet? Again, if anyone has a better idea, please let me know. The same person as above agrees with me that this might be an amanita, but too young/small for it to have the characteristic structures showing.

This Chanterelle (Cantharellus spp.) was just lying in the trail. It was a rather large mushroom - maybe the size of my hand. Not being a fungophile, I don't know which variety of chaterelle this is. It might be C. cibarius, or C. cinnabarinus, or it could even be Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, which looks like C. cibarius, but is in fact a false chanterelle and while edible has been known to cause problems with some people who eat it. I know a lot of chanterelle foragers who might now be tempted to come to the VIC and harvest a sack full of mushrooms, but please remember that it is illegal to pick or collect anything on the VIC's property.

Last one. This odd-looking fungus is Worm-like Coral Fungus (Clavaria vermicularis) - I think. My first thought was it might be an Earth Tongue, but I'm leaning now more towards this coral. Wide-spread and common, this coral is found in grassy spots in open woods. This particular specimen was found in an almost open area of the woods.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Weather and Wildflower Updates

We are now looking at over 6 inches of rain for July! What a change from two weeks ago! Things are well-soaked and I think everyone is happy to see the sunshine today (campers not the least).

All this rain has done wonders for our waterways. The Hudson is up, the lakes are filled. The emergent vegetation is currently submergent. But, as our keyboard specialist would say, it's all good.

I had another paddle program up Rich Lake this last week. Only two folks participated (most opted not to chance the rain), and we had a good time. Only a little rain fell, but not enough to make a difference. The highlight was the stunning mixed colors of the pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris) - purples and yellows. Vast expanses of them. Very attractive, indeed.

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) was budding at that point, and with the sun out today I am sure it is now in bloom. Did you know that the cardinal flower is specially adapted (dare I use the "e" word and say it has evolved?) to be pollinated almost exclusively by the ruby-throated hummingbird? It has no landing platform, so insects have a difficult time getting nectar from it. It has instead a projection coming out from the top of the flower that contains the male part of the flower, upon which the pollen is located. As the hummer hovers before the flower, sticking its beak and head down into the nectaries, it hits its forehead against the stamen and gets dusted with pollen. Then, as it moves from flower to flower, whacking its head each time on the projecting parts, it transfers pollen from plant to plant. A nifty arrangement and one that has served both the plant and the bird well for centuries. If you get a chance to be near water during the next few weeks, looks for cardinal flowers and check out their architecture. If you are lucky, you might even see a hummingbird taking a meal at one.

We also saw swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in bloom - just starting. Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) should be starting to bloom soon, too. This is the season for the wetland flowers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

And the Rains Came Down

Holy Cats! Did it rain! Two days ago we were looking at a monthly precipitation total of 1.99". As of this morning, however, we are sitting pretty at 4.79", 2.19" of which fell in the last 24 hours.

Now I know for folks in the mid-west that this is small potatoes, but for us up here, this is significant rainfall. I even have standing water in the veg. garden at home! It's a good thing I finally remembered to turn off the drippers yesterday. I'm guessing I won't need to turn them back on for a while, especially since more rain is in the forecast for the rest of the week.

Thanks to all this rain, the Hudson River is up - even flooded in some areas. I'm looking forward to walking down to the Pump House this evening after dinner (unless it is raining again) and seeing how many steps are underwater. I bet most of the rocks are submerged again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another Day in the Butterfly Garden

Okay - I admit it - I am hooked on the insects in the butterfly garden! Check out some of this morning's finds:

This is a Virginia Ctenuchid moth (Ctenucha virginica). Isn't it gorgeous? You should see it when it is flying, for when the wings open up, a brilliant metallic blue body flashes out and grabs your eye! This is a diurnal moth which is usually found in wet meadows of the eastern U.S. and Canada. Apparently it also likes dry butterfly gardens. I haven't been able to find out much else about this insect, except that its larvae eat grasses.

This bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) was very focused on the milkweed flowers. In fact, it was so focused on this one flowerhead that after I took its photo and walked around the garden a bit, chatting with visitors, I came back to find it still drinking away in the same place! Anyone who knows me well can likely tell you that I have a very healthy respect, shall we say, for bees, wasps, hornets, etc. So, the fact that I actually got close enough to take this one's photo is a big deal for me. This is especially true for the bald-faced hornet, which is a rather aggressive member of the yellowjacket genus of wasps (in other words, it is not a true hornet). This is the insect that builds those paper nests outside your backdoor, nests that can sometimes reach three feet in length! And they guard these nests diligently. Should you disturb them (and it doesn't take much), they will come at you, aiming for your face, and sting repeatedly. Like I said - I have a healthy respect for them.

The hollyhock, which was just a bud yesterday, is in full bloom today.

This has become one of my favorite garden flowers. It is a Verbascum, but I'm not sure which variety of verbascum this is, however. Mullein, which grows in the wild all over up here, is also a verbascum (Verbascum thapsus).

One of the great things about being a naturalist (and a generalist at that) is that there is an endless supply of unknown things to learn about. Insects rank right up there as uncharted territory for me. I never really cared for insects as a child, but now that I am older (and wiser), and can take the time to sit quietly and just observe, I find that insects are indeed quite fascinating. And colorful. This little fellow could be a fly or a "bee" (I'm leaning towards fly since it has only two wings, a trait of the Dipteras); it was hanging out on the globe thistle leaves, gently bobbing its abdomen up and down. It looks dangerous, but I'm guessing that the odds are it is a harmless little pollinator. Update: this is a syrphid fly, specifically it is Metasyrphus venablesi. It is in the family of flies that are known, among other things, as hover flies. Check out the website: http://www.cirrusimage.com/Flies_hover.htm, which has some great images of these flies. Surphids are important (beneficial) insects, acting as pollinators for many flowering plants. While the adults only eat nectar and pollen, the larvae are voracious predators of insect pests, such as aphids, thrips and mites.

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is in the milkweed family. You can find monarch caterpillars on this as easily as you can on common milkweed.

Another flower that should be in all our gardens up here is Wild Bergamot (Mondarda fistulosa). This is a pink variety of bergamot (aka: bee balm), whereas true wild bergamot has a pale lavender flower. Still, it is a native wildflower, a member of the mint family, and one that is very popular with many of our insect pollinators (and hummingbirds). I have found that this pink variety (as well as the wild one) does not spread as voraciously as the deep red and magenta varieties that are popular in nurseries, nor is it prone to mildews (like the others).
The list goes on...so much to see. Hopefully this will temp you enough to go out and explore your own gardens...or come to the VIC and explore ours!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mystery Plant Unmasked...Maybe

The votes are in (all two of them). With thanks to Emily Selleck and Amy Ivy at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County over there in Westport, the final determination is that my mystery plant is a species of Filipendula.

Filipendula rubra is commonly known as Queen of the Prairie, a native plant that has a pinkish flower (and it is in the Newcomb's Wildflower Guide - page 234). My plant, however, is not F. rubra, but possibly some other species.

A somewhat exhausting search on the internet has, I think, finally proved successful: Filipendula vulgaris, aka: dropwort. This plant is edible - the young leaves used in salads and soups, the roots, roasted, can be eaten as a food of last resort (starvation food). It also has medicinal properties.

Still, it is not listed in the Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, nor is it losted in Daniel E. Moerman's Native American Ethnobotany. Both of these make me wonder just how long it's been in this country. Hm...

Life on a Milkweed

I headed out to our butterfly garden to snap a photo or two of the milkweed flowers to use for my Plant of the Month this month and got completely wrapped up in all the life on the milkweed! The more I looked, the more I saw. Ants, bugs, beetles, bees, spiders, moths, butterflies...the list went on and on. Here are some images of what I saw:

I think this is a flower spider (Misumena spp.). If so, the neat thing about these spiders is that they can slowly change their color (presumably to blend in with the flower on which they are hunting). This one seems to have successfully caught an ant.

I've seen this lovely beetle before. This one was skulking around the flowers of the milkweed, but fell onto the stem as I was jockeying for a better photographic position. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology (the Internet), I now know that this is a Labidomera clivicollis - Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle.

This white admiral butterfly (Basilarchia arthemis) has seen better days. Behind it a variety of ladybug is creeping along a blossom.

And here we come to one of the facinating things about milkweed: its pollination strategy. Rather than tyring to paraphrase the entire process as I found it on http://globalswarminghoneybees.blogspot.com/2007/07/got-milkweed.html, here is not only the link, but also the text that the owner of this blog copied down from her (his?) copy of a 1920s book titled Honey Plants of North America:

"Milkweed flowers are called pinch-trap flowers because they possess a remarkable clip-mechanism found in no other family of plants. Two club-shaped masses of pollen are attached by flexible bands to a small, dry, triangular disc placed midway between them. In this membraneous disc there is a wedge-shaped slit at one end. In its effort to obtain a foothold on the smooth flowers an insect is likely to thrust a claw, leg, antennae, or tongue into one of the slits. If one of these organs is drawn upward in the slit, the dry disc becomes tightly clamped to it. When the insect flies away it carries with it the disc and the two masses of pollen strapped to it. Exposed to the air, the strap-like stalks dry and draw the pollinia close together. As the insect alights on another flower, they are easily thrust between two anther wings, where they come in contact with the stigma; but, once inserted and pulled upward, they can not again be withdrawn. The insect can obtain its liberty only by breaking the connecting bands. If it cannot do this, it perishes slowly of starvation. Disc after disc may thus become attached to an insect until it is crippled or helpless."

Now, then - take a close look at the feet of the bumblebee above. Do you see the yellow bits by its feet? Those are the pollen bits that have detached from the plant and stuck to the bee's feet. This robust bumblebee seems to have been able to escape from its floral traps, but can you imagine being permanently caught by the foot by a flower? Kind of makes you stop and think, doesn't it?

Still, it is a lovely flower.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hurray for Snakes!

I love snakes. I know that this goes against the norm, but I've always had a fancy for them. Maybe it's my soft heart and the way I always root for the underdog. Regardless, I think snakes are fascinating and beautiful animals, which always seem to have a smile on their faces. And even if most folks don't like them, my goal is to at least get people to appreciate snakes for the important roles they play in our ecosytems. The world would be a poorer place without snakes.

So, why the soliliquy on snakes today? Last night I saw a northern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctata edwardsii) as I was leaving the Chris Shaw concert hosted here at the VIC. I was the first to leave (wanting to beat the maddening crowd), and as I walked up the driveway to the parking lot, I saw what looked like a shoelace lying on the gravel. As I got nearer, it resolved into a ringneck snake about a foot long. It looked rather flat, and I feared someone had encountered it on the way into the concert and had stomped it, but as I reached down to pick it up, it slowly slithered off into the grass and woods.

For those who don't know what a ringneck snake looks like, here is a photo from the Univeristy of Georgia website (http://www.uga.edu/):

The northern ringneck is a small and fairly secretive snake, reaching lengths upwards of about 15 inches. They usually don't get much bigger around than a pencil...maybe a thick pencil. They sport a yellow (or orange) ring around the neck, and here in the north they have a lovely reddish belly (which is why I often confuse them with red-bellied snakes).

Where does one usually find ringnecks? They are denizens of moist woodlands, preferring a somewhat fossorial (under leaf litter/in loose soil - they do not burrow into the ground) existence where they hunt for their favorite foods: insect larvae, salamanders, earthworms and frogs. Red-backed salamanders (extremely common in our woodlands) feature high on the menu.

The ringneck is mostly a nocturnal animal (which is why I found it out and about at 9PM). During the day it seeks shelter under rocks, logs, boards and other debris. And while it does prefer its woodland habitat, it is not unusual to find them in basements up here in the north. If you should encounter one, don't panic! This gentle snake is not harmful to humans, although if picked up it is likely to release a foul-smelling musk, which accomplishes it's purpose when the person grabbing it lets it go!

Unlike most snakes, it seems, the ringneck is a social animal and sometimes can be found in colonies of upwards to a hundred or more individuals. Smaller groups are more probable in most locations.

As with all animals, this small snake plays an important role in the balance of its ecosystem. On the one hand, it is an effective predator of small creatures. Additionally, by moving through the soil and forest debris, is helps with decomposition and the turnover of nutrients in the soil. Finally, it is a food source for other animals further up the food chain.

Because ringnecks pose no genuine threat to people, they should not be harmed when encountered. If a ringneck, or any other snake for that matter, is found in your basement or house, you should simply relocate it outside where it can find suitable food and shelter and go about its daily business.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Birding with Kids

There are days I definitely love my job. Today was one of those.

We had a group of students in from the southern part of the park today to do birding. They were 4th-6th graders, about 17 in all, and they had just finished doing some studies on birds in the Adirondacks.

For their birding program here, we had half sit in on a Bird of Prey program where they got to see, up close and personal, a red-tailed hawk, an American Kestrel and a great-horned owl. The other half went with me to learn the ins and outs of Birding (with a capital B). I reviewed binoculars (how to use them - as in how to focus), spotting scopes, field guides. We went outside and worked on techniques for finding birds in the forest. We discussed pishing and making squeaky noises.

But the highlight, of course, was when they actually saw birds.

The first group was wowed by red-breasted nuthatches. There were many of these little tree climbers flitting all over the place, and, as it turns out, the young have recently fledged and what we were seeing was foraging lessons! At one point we were watching a group of four: a small (and rather harried-looking) adult stuffing food (seeds and insects found on/in the tree bark) into the mouths of the larger (and brilliantly plummaged) offspring. They were going up and down and round and round the trees, flitting from one trunk to the next. The kids wanted to stay there and watch them the whole time...and we had only gone about ten feet down the path on our walk! I couldn't blame them - the nuthatches were fun to watch and this feeding behavior was a first for me as well.

The second group got a great view of an osprey flying overhead. "Look - there's a bird up there!" "It's a just crow." We trained our binocs on it and lo! and behold, it was not a crow, but another raptor to add to their list of raptors seen that day.

Chickadees, purple finches, robins and a chipping sparrow completed the roll call, with red-eyed vireos calling continuously in the background.

While not the most glamorous set of birds to encounter, for kids just learning how to use binocs, it was a great way to begin! I think one or two might even add birding to their list of hobbies as they get older.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bat Rescue

We had a visitor come in this afternoon reporting that "there's a bat out there under the bench out front." I went out to verify, and sure enough, a juvenile bat, probably a little brown (Myotis lucifugus), although possibly a big brown (Eptesicus fuscus), was clinging to the side of the building just behind the bench.

My first thought was to relocate the little guy to a spot where it could rest in peace and quiet until nightfall, but there was no place near the building that would’ve provided the right shelter away from curious people or dogs. I was also concerned that if I moved it too far its mother would not be able to find it and nurse it come nightfall. So, I was left with the option of taking it inside.

I scooped it up, with much distress on the part of the bat, who did everything in its power to evade capture (even unflighted these guys can really move right along, scooting across the ground on all fours), and successfully deposited it in my Bird Rescue Unit (a cardboard box). With the aid of Mr. Mike, our Maintenance Man, we raised a giant ladder against the side of the building, and up I went, armed with the boxed bat. Let me just state for the record that it isn't easy climbing a ladder while carrying a 10" square box, especially for someone who has a healthy fear of falling.

Once at the top of the ladder (or, I should say, as far as I was willing to go), I discovered the bat's home: a gap behind the roof's flashing about 4" high and 2" wide - more than enough room for bats to emerge (and enter). Little brown bats only need a 1/4" space to get into a structure (or cave, etc.), while big browns need a space only a little bit larger.

On the first attempt, the bat dashed around the box, past my hand (I was wearing gloves, as any intelligent person does when handling bats), and finally over the edge of the roof. With its wings spread, it fluttered to the ground. Mr. Mike, using the BRU (the box), retrieved it and once more the box, bat and I ascended the ladder.

This time, rather than try to grab the bat and place it on the roof, I let it crawl out of the box on its own. It scrambled along the flashing, trying to reach the cedar shingles to climb up, but they were just out of its reach, and the flashing was too slick. So across the roof it scooted and right into the opening to the roost. Success!

According to my bat records, juvenile brown bats around here aren’t volant (capable of flight) until late July/early August. So, while this little one could flutter as it drifted to the ground, it could not fly. Odds are it had crawled out of the roost and tumbled off the roof, kind of like a kid falling out of bed. It had no way to get back to the roost, so it did the next best thing – it clung to the side of the building about 8” above the ground.

If You Find a Bat
Contrary to public belief, most bats are not rabid. The national average is that fewer than one half of one percent of bats are rabid – you have a greater chance of getting food poisoning at a church picnic than you do of getting rabies from a bat. That said, the average in NY State is higher (something like 6-8%), which could simply be a reflection of a greater number of bats submitted for testing.

Regardless, if you find a grounded bat, especially during the day time, it is always best to treat it as if it is diseased. In other words, DO NOT HANDLE IT.

If you are fairly confident that the bat is not diseased (as in this juvenile who fell from the roost, or a bat that is flying actively around your house at night), then there are some steps you can take to assure the safety of the bat and yourself.

1. Wear gloves.

2. If the bat is on a wall, or the ground, find a container, like a coffee can, and a piece of stiff cardstock. Place the can over the bat and gently slide the cardstock underneath, being careful not to squash the bat. This will trap the bat inside the can. Then you can take the canned bat outside and release it.

3. If the bat is flying actively around your room, open a window, turn off the lights, and leave the room, closing all other doors and windows. The bat wants to leave just as much as you want it out of your house. Using its echolocation, it will locate the open window and depart.

If you suspect the bat is sick (rabid bats tend to have a passive form of rabies – they are not aggressive, but instead tend to seek somewhere to hide), you should capture it (see steps 1 & 2 above), and contact your local health department. The bat will be sent in for testing.

Rabies is transmitted through contact with blood and saliva. In other words, you must be bitten to get the disease. If you are unsure if you have been bitten, seek medical attention right away. Rabies shots these days are a far cry from what they used to be. No longer do you receive a series of 21 shots in the belly. Instead, it is a series of about three shots in the arm. Pretty painless. It certainly beats the alternative.

Why Bother Saving Bats?
I have a special fondness for bats, as mentioned in a previous post (I’m also quite fond of snakes and spiders, but that’s fodder for another post). But more than that, I am very concerned about the prevalence of White-nose Syndrome (WNS) that is running through the roosting winter colonies of bats in New York State.

According to the latest information I’ve read, four of our nine species of bats have been affected by the disease: little browns, Indianas, northern long-earreds, and eastern pipistrelles. That leaves two of our hibernators WNS-free so far: big browns and small-footeds. The bats that leave the state for the winter (red, hoary, and silver-haired) seem to have dodged the bullet on this one.

Numbers indicate that upwards of 90% of the over-wintering populations of little browns have been killed off in some of the affected caves. While this species of bat is rather common across the country, these kinds of die-offs are drastic. Add to this the fact that bats do not reproduce rapidly (only 1-2 offspring a year), we could potentially be facing a catastrophic decline in bat populations here in New York State.

To me, this alone is enough reason to rescue any healthy bat that is distress.

And when I think back on the number of black fly and mosquito bites I got this spring (and am still getting), I want to do whatever I can to help restore the population of our number one insect predator. The world will be a much sadder (and buggier) place if we lose our chiropteran friends.

Moose Crossings and Other Musings

No...I still haven't seen a moose, but apparently they are on the move, for reports of sightings are trickling in.

Where to Go to See a Moose
There are several regions in the Park that are moose hot spots (although no guarantees are made): the Moose River Plains over near Old Forge, the Indian Lake region, along the Blue Ridge Road between Newcomb and the NorthWay (Interstate 87), and the Paul Smiths region.

The Latest Sightings
Rumor has it that there are three (3) moose (a bull, a cow and a calf) hanging around Long Lake. They've been seen at Shaw Pond and out to the Lake Eaton Campground. A report just came in, too, of moose tracks over at the County Line Road and along the County Line Flow (this is between Newcomb and Long Lake).

Other Stuff
The summer flowers are starting to come into their own now: brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia serotina), St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), meadowsweet (Spirea latifolia), fleabane (either daisy or common...I haven't looked that closely yet). Still blooming in great profusion are the ox-eye daisies, the birdsfoot trefoil, hop clover, red clover, bedstraw, wild parsnip, yarrow, chickory, stitchwort (commonly mistaken for chickweed, but the stem and leaves are different). Coming soon (because I saw it blooming "down below" en route to Glens Falls): fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) and Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota). I also heard a cicada chirring away down below on Friday. If this warm weather keeps up, we should hear them soon in Newcomb, too.

Isn't it interesting that many (if not most) of the "wild" flowers that we consider to be the indicators of summer are all non-native plants that have naturalized over the centuries since the colonists brought them here? Did they, like the non-natives that worry us so today, act as invasives and push out the native flora? If so, what native plants would've been the harbingers of summer in these parts? Hm. I see a research project in this.

On the bird front, one of "my" sets of bluebirds will be fledging any day now, if all goes well. Another has only just hatched, and the batch in my yard are about midway between the other two in timing.

Yesterday morning I watched a crow chase a sharpshin hawk out of a yard as Toby and I went for our stroll. I heard a ruckus and looked up to see the hawk streak away about six feet overhead, the crow stopping in a maple tree, probably figuring he had chased the interloper far enough.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rich Lake Paddle

One of my favorite things to do is explore waterways, especially wetlands. And I get paid to do this when I lead guided paddles of Rich Lake as part of my job!

Yesterday was my first paddle of the season, the earliest I've been out on Rich Lake. Many of the plants that I usually encounter as blooming on this trip were nowhere near putting out blossoms yet. Still, we found some interesting plants up in the wetland at the western end of the lake: gentians (we were too far away to determine if they were bottle or narrow-leaved), fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata), spatterdock (Nuphar variegatum), and bittersweet/deadly nighthade (Solanum dolcamara). The latter was a surprise - I've never encountered this nightshade in a wetland before, so it came as a bit of a shock to find it here.

Plenty of birds were singing, and the redwings were flying all around, in and out of the tall marshy plants, no doubt guarding their territories and feeding. Winter wrens, vireos and cedar waxwings all made their presence known along the shores of the lake.

The highlight for the paddlers was no doubt the sighting of a group of three adult loons.


Other plants now blooming along the roads and elsewhere: chickory (Cichorium intybus), white sweet clover (Melilotus alba), bedstraw (Galium spp. - I will have to key it out to determine the species), and spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium).