Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Local Treasure Box of Plant and Wildlife

I had a great opportunity to go for a nature walk this past weekend, and was once again reminded that no matter how hard I try to remember to slow down and appreciate what's going on around me, I still take things for granted. I have probably been to Moreau State Park at least 50 times in my life. As a child, my mom would take me to the beach there because it was nearby and clean. My grandfather took me snowshoeing across the lake when I was younger. We've had a couple of family summer picnics underneath the pavilion, and my husband and I even rode our bikes there when we lived a few miles closer. Sister and I have been there several times, in all seasons, for hiking and snowshoeing. It wasn't until this hike that I realized exactly how much plant and animal life the Park actually has to offer.

Despite the rain, we were rewarded with many great photo-ops!

An announcement in the newspaper for a hike scoping the park for frost weed caught Sister's attention, so she asked Diane (my mother-in-law) and me to join her. I was intrigued - I never had heard of frost weed before. Frost weed is a plant that forms ice crystals as it prepares for the winter freeze. Unfortunately for us frost weed seekers, that weekend in November was unusually mild and they did not bear any ice crystals. We saw plenty of other interesting things, however, adding an extra hour to our tour, despite the rain.

Frost weed - unfortunately too warm for ice crystals

We came across an American Chestnut Tree, which is now a rarity since the chestnut blight wiped out about three billion of these trees. The blight was caused by an Asian bark fungus that was accidentally introduced by importing Asiatic chestnut trees. Underneath the lonely chestnut tree were open spiny burrs, once occupied by chestnuts. These nuts continue to grow through the end of the summer, and the burrs open and fall from the trees around the time of the first frost.

From American Chestnut Tree

A flying squirrel poked his head out of its dead and hollowed out tree home to investigate the noise that our group was creating. Sitting ever so still, with only an occasional whisker twitch, it posed for a few pictures before disappearing back into the tall stump.

Flying Squirrel

With the recent wet weather, we were surrounded by an abundance of mushrooms. We learned about edible varieties such as hen of the forest, which allegedly tastes like hen, and chicken of the forest, which is said to taste like chicken. We saw shelf mushrooms and learned how to make a spore print. We saw plants such as spotted wintergreen and Christmas ferns, as well as some offering berries.

Sister found an Earthstar mushroom!

Near the shore of Mud Pond sat a huge beaver dam. The busy beavers left gnawed tree stumps behind as evidence of their hard work. We were told that you can see osprey and bald eagles in the Park as well. Who knew that all these existed together so close to home?!

Beaver dam- Mud Pond

Osprey - Picture taken when my husband and I went to Florida in 2007

If only I had a pen and paper or a tape recorder that day so I could share even more. It will be interesting to see what we can find on our own when we go snowshoeing this year, and when the flowers are in bloom next spring and summer.

Here is a complete photoset.


Live, Love, Laugh, Write! said...

Looks like a fun trip!

Anonymous said...

OMG! What a wonderful nature walk, you're so observant and knowledgable! Moreau is so close to me too, I'll have to take the kid's on a nature walk there too! The photo's are stunning, was it early morning when you went, looks misty still!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE hearing about your nature adventures! Please adopt me!!!

The story and pictures are awesome, and you newest necklace creation is beautiful!

I did not know you and Miesmama lived so close. How way cool is that...

A Keeper's Jackpot said...

Yeah, Meis down the road on the other side of the mountain from me! I'm sure kids would like it, and its an easy manageable walk.

The pictures of the mist were taken closer to afternoon, but it was a rainy, foggy, dreary day.

storybeader said...

Love the mist on the water! You're probably in a different state of mind, from where you were, on your previous trips. Sounds like a lot of things to look at, and a prefect hiking day. Great pics, as usual!

diane said...

You've included a lot more detail than I did; linked to you from my posting on our little adventure.

Thanks for a wonderful day!