Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Perfect Adirondack Day

My friend Woodswalker invited me for a paddle yesterday at her personal paradise - a privately owned lake in the eastern Adirondacks (she doesn't own it - it's held by a church group). We met at 9 AM, just as the sun was burning off the fog. Spider webs in numbers uncountable graced the wetland near the entrance to the property.

The fog cleared in next to no time while I got the grand tour of cabins and the immediate property. Being nature nuts, we were both drawn to the wildlife:

Mr. Toad (or it could've been a Ms. Toad - I didn't see the enlarged "thumbs" that are usually associated with males) put up with our photography obsession for quite a while,

but even he eventually tired of the attention and left for less crowded environs.

We launched our boats and headed out along the shoreline, paddling widdershins.

The air was mild, the sky blue with but a few wispy clouds, and the colors were just starting to change in the trees. A more perfect day couldn't have been had if we had placed an order.

The highlight of the paddle was a pair of loons - an adult and a juvenile. As soon as we saw them we stopped paddling so as not to disturb them. They seemed completely unfazed by our presence and continued fishing all around our boats.

The water on this lake is so clear that when the juvenile dove and swam underwater along the side of my boat I could see its every stroke. Very cool.

I missed the money shot, though, when the adult stood up and shook its wings - I was busy repositioning my canoe when the bird rose and flapped. I did, however, get a shot of the juvenile with a small fish in its beak.

The lake has two wetlands that we poked around, each with old abandoned beaver lodges. We followed a channel into the depths of one of the wetlands. I wonder if it was an old beaver channel.

The waterlilies were still in bloom, which sort of surprised me. I tend to think of them as flowers of July and August.

One of the more puzzling things we encountered were these little green balls.

There were hundreds of them floating in the water of one of the wetlands (they didn't photograph well in the water).

They were soft and squishy, and came in varied sizes, from teeny tiny to almost a centimeter in diameter. Does anyone know what they might be?
UPDATE: My paddling buddy got an ID confirmation on the Little Green Balls. Soon after I published this post, my friend Evelyn emailed me that a friend of her's thought they were Nostoc, and then later ammended that to Volvox. Well, this just goes to show you should never change your answer; they are Nostoc, a cyanobacteria. For Jackie's excellent write-up, visit her blog at http://saratogawoodswaters.blogspot.com/2009/09/green-ball-mystery-solved.html.

We found a couple types of burreed. This one reminded me of medieval maces.

These wetland plants have triangular stems filled with a spongy pith (as seen in this cross-section); the are very much like the leaves of cattails.

By 1:00 the wind had picked up, almost blowing whitecaps up on the lake's surface. We headed back towards the beach and took out our boats. It was a delightful way to spend a day - next time I will have to clear my calendar for the whole day so we can linger longer.
Thanks for the invite, Jackie!


  1. Sounds (and looks) wonderful! 'Just completed my hike of the NPT, and learned a new term, vlei (or vly). Do you know if there is an ecological/biological distinction between a vlei and a bog?

  2. Catharus - congratulations on completing the NPT! I've only done about a 32 mile stretch, and that was back when I was 15. Despite the rain, bugs and humidity, it was quite nice.

    As for bog vs vly, well, that's a tricky one. Bogs are acidic wetlands, usually characterized by a peat mat made from partially decomposed sphagnum moss and other plants (like leatherleaf). A bog also generally has no inlet or outlet of water, getting its water primarily from rainfall and snowmelt.

    A vly, on the other hand, is something else. I read an article about The Great Vly somewhere a year or two ago (darned if I can remember now), but I had the overall impression of an open, grassy area in a wide valley. Water ran through it, making parts marsh-like. Used to be a great hunting area, for early colonists and native Americans alike. I've found no definition of a vly on-line, or in my dictionaries, though. I suspect the word has Dutch origins. I tried the staff at the Ecological Center with no luck. I finally found this definition of The Great Vly on-line:

    The Great Vly is a circumneutral bog lake located at the northern border of Saugerties and the Town of Catskill. According to Hudsonia, a circumneutral bog lake is a “spring-fed, calcareous water body that commonly supports vegetation of both acidic bogs and calcareous marshes.” This is a rare habitat type in the Hudson Valley and it is known to support many rare species. The wetland area consists primarily of open water, cattail marsh, common reed marsh, and shrub swamp with buttonbush alder and water-willow. The Great Vly is one of
    the largest wetlands in Saugerties (and continues into the Town of Catskill) that is mapped and regulated by the NYSDEC. It is a Class III wetland.

    I don't know if all vlies are similar or not. Maybe DEC could help with this; afterall it's the Great Vly Wildlife Management Area and DEC manages it.

    Hope this helps!

  3. J*E*A*L*O*U*S!!! I haven't been in a canoe or kayak since March -- unheard of!! I'm glad you had a good time and spent at least part of your day in such good company.

  4. What a great way to spend a beautiful day.
    Vly is a new term to me. Thanks for the definition.

  5. What fun to revisit our day at Pyramid Lake through your lens! I love your photo of me. I'm planning to contact someone at Skidmore to try to ID the green balls. Quite a puzzle, they are! One clarifying note: Pyramid Life Center doesn't own the whole lake, just the shoreline where their buildings are. The rest is state wilderness. Forever wild. What a joy to think of that.