Monday, June 17, 2013

Flowers and trees and reptiles this morning at the Mohawk River State Park.

This morning, I met botanist and author Ruth Schottman near one edge of the Mohawk River State Park. The park and its trails cover 107 acres in the vicinity of Lock 7.  We'd only gone a few steps when we stopped to examine the blossoms of a catalpa tree. Ruth knows about the trees and plants that grow here. I could listen to her all day.

Ruth had graciously offered to give me a tour of the area. I was especially eager for her to show me the easy labeling system that volunteers are using here to identify trees growing in the preserve.

Printed on a home computer, these labels are made on something akin to a bumper sticker, both sturdy and waterproof, yet lightweight. Volunteers use a heavy-duty stapler to affix the labels. The labels are low-cost and so can be easily replaced as needed.

The Thursday Naturalist group that does this work in Niskayuna will be coming to Malta this week. They will help us to get started labeling trees at the Malta Ecological Park.  I think this system will work well for us.

A single Yellow Hawkweed blossom was an opportunity for a flower identification lesson for me. But when I got home and studied my guide, I still could not tell Hawkweed from Two-flowered Cynthia. I will have to keep working at this.

Madam Snapper became a startling obstacle halfway down a steeply eroded trail. We decided to clamber back up the muddy slope and go around her.

The detour provided an opportunity for Ruth to show me New Jersey tea...

... and the delicate yellow flowers of bush honeysuckle.

The reptiles just kept showing up. We had already seen a number of toads and frogs, in addition to the very large turtle. Here, a medium-sized garter snake was enjoying a sheltered sunny spot.

We came out from the woods onto a bike trail near Lock Seven of the Erie Canal system. The Mohawk River seemed a little calmer today.

Just off shore, a great blue heron stood quietly fishing. Can you see him?

Here's a cropped close-up, below.

I can't remember for certain what kind of dogwood this was. Gray dogwood, maybe? I really need to do more studying and better note-taking.

My camera couldn't capture the amazing emerald color of this ebony-winged damselfly. It was so lovely basking there in the sun.

We spotted one more garter snake along the bike trail as we headed back to our cars.

Thank you, Ruth Schottman, for a beautiful morning. You are a patient teacher and a genuine inspiration.

Two days, two different open space experiences in Saratoga County.

Canada Anemone (This is a good plant.)

On Saturday, I joined one of the nature walks sponsored by the Friends of the Kayaderosseras. (They have two more programs planned for this month; check out their website.)

Wild Chervil (This plant is invasive; not a good plant.)

Jackie Donnelly led our trip and helped us identify invasive species like Japanese Knotweed and Wild Chervil, plus beautiful natives like ferns, dogwoods, and Canada anemone.

Our group began to gather at Gray's Crossing and then set off to follow the Kayaderosseras Creek, which was brimming after all of our June rain.

Here above, are Ostrich ferns with wild cucumber weaving through them.

Japanese knotweed, above, has been classified as an invasive.

Jackie showed us how to tell some of our native dogwood species apart. I need more practice.
A few of the trees along this trail had been caged to protect them from beaver.

I didn't notice any evidence of beaver, but a raccoon had recently passed this way.

The wooded stream-side trail eventually looped back and brought us to this lovely meadow. On Saturday, it was filled with Canada anemone. Such a lovely sight. You can see Jackie Donnelly's own version of this trip at her excellent blog, Saratoga Woods and Waterways.
On Sunday, I drove up the east side of Saratoga Lake to enjoy the 18th annual Sundae on the Farm. This year, the event was hosted by the McMahon family, of thoroughbred Funny Cide fame.

Despite some rain, there was a huge but cheerful crowd for this popular Father's Day tradition.

I had a nice chat with Catienus, one of the twelve stallions currently "standing" at the McMahon farm. He was a pretty handsome fellow.

Over in the yearling barn, several fillies were being readied for the famous Fasig-Tipton thoroughbred yearling sales scheduled for later this summer.
One thing I learned: it is not the owners who get to choose which horses go to this sale. The Fasig-Tipton agents visit the breeding farms each spring and they decide which horses are spiffy enough to be part of this elite sale. So after the yearlings have been selected, the next few months of their lives are pretty pampered. They are carefully exercised, their manes are fussed with, their little boo boos are quickly patched up, all so that the yearlings can look glorious for the few short minutes they will be paraded around the sale room.

My last stop was at the barn for mares and new foals. Why these horses hadn't all had a nervous breakdown with all of these hundreds and hundreds of people milling around, I don't know. But both mamas and babies seemed pretty calm, Still, I bet they slept well last night when it was all over.

Sundae on the Farm takes place at a different farm in Saratoga County every Father's Day. It's very organized, the farmers clearly love doing this, and everyone seemed to be having a terrific time.
Remember it for next Father's Day and check it out.