Winter Plant ID Quiz #2

Yesterday’s continuing warm temperatures once again ruled out ski touring.  So, on this President’s Day, I chose to enjoy the abundant sunshine while trekking along the trails at the new Anchor-Diamond Park at Hawkwood Estate in the Town of Ballston.  This park opened in late autumn 2016 and features several trails meandering through woodlands.

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View along Stonewall Trail (blue markers) near far west end of park

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View along Stonewall Trail (blue markers) in hemlock grove near center of park

My hike inspired me to once again offer you a winter plant ID quiz.  Consider this the “final exam” for this winter!  To identify each plant, simply click on “Answer” beneath each image.  Have fun!

Please ID the two stems (left to right) in the foreground (not the one with leaves) - (1) Large stem along left edge of photo: (2) Smaller stem slightly right of center of photo:

Please ID the two stems (left to right) in the foreground (not the one with leaves) –
(1) Large stem along left edge of photo:  Answer
(2) Smaller stem slightly right of center of photo:  Answer

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Please ID the plant wrapped around the red twig: Answer

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Someone took the time to add this adorable little snow sculpture along the trail today!

Now that the plan ID quiz is completed, I saw two other things that prompted these two extra credit questions (NOT about plants) –

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What animal created these holes in the bark of this tree?  Answer

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What animal created the cavity in this tree? (Please also note wood debris at base of tree.)  Answer     View a short video of the making of a cavity.

Happy trails!

“Snow fleas” and a couple of other trailside critters

With last weekend’s significant snowfall, I have been awaiting this weekend to get out and enjoy some additional ski touring for the season.  Unfortunately, since then the temps have been near or in the 40s and sunny days have taken a toll on all that fresh powder snow.

Nevertheless, I headed to Historic Champlain Canalway Trail for an outing.  No such luck.

I was greeted with this sign at the entrance to the trail from the northern end parking lot off Upper Newtown Road –20170218_103332-sample

So, on to plan B.  I drove over to the southern trailhead of the Zim Smith Trail off Coon’s Crossing Road.  Upon my arrival, two snowmobilers were reviewing the trail map and another pair of snowmobilers were making their way to the trail by way of shoulder of Coon’s Crossing Road.  After they cleared out, I skied westerly with a yet unknown destination in mind along the trail.20170218_111624-sample

I had not traveled very far and crossed paths with this litter chatterbox –

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Junction of Zim Smith Trail with trail at Ushers Road State Forest

Junction of Zim Smith Trail with spur trail at Ushers Road State Forest

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Nicely tracked (from snowshoers) trails winding through Ushers Road State Forest

Winterberry fruit

Winterberry fruit frequently found along all trails at Ushers Road State Forest

Old grove of large Eastern Hemlock trees

Old grove of large Eastern Hemlock trees near intersection of spur trail and loop trail at Ushers Road State Forest

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View along southern segment of loop trail at Ushers Road State Forest

 

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“Snow fleas” were very prevalent along the spur trail and also along the southern segment of the loop trail at Ushers Road State Forest.  Watch a very brief video from today.  (Read more about them here.)

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View along northern segment of loop trail at Ushers Road State Forest

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Young grove of small Eastern Hemlock trees along north segment of loop trail at Ushers Road State Forest

Grove of large White Pine trees

Grove of large Eastern White Pine trees along north segment of loop trail at Ushers Road State Forest

Young grove of seedlings and other small Eastern White Pine trees

Young grove of seedlings and other small Eastern White Pine trees along spur trail on the way to Zim Smith Trail.

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View along Zim Smith Trail near Ushers Road State Forest

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Panoramic view of south end of Village of Round Lake from Zim Smith Trail

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Eastern Cottontail Rabbit basking in the sunshine

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I had no difficulties maintaining my speed below the stated limit.

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Trailside amenity complements of The Mill on Round Lake

I saw/heard:  Pileated, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers; tufted titmouse; American robins, white-breasted nuthatches; American goldfinches; black-capped chickadees; American crows; mourning doves; blue jays; red squirrel; Eastern cottontail rabbit; and a northern mockingbird.

In all, I skied to the Village of Round Lake (with a detour to ski the trails at Ushers Road State Forest) and back (with a second detour to ski the trails at Ushers Road State Forest).  What a gorgeous day to be outside!

Hope you find an opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature this weekend.  Happy trails!

 

 

 

First (skiable) snow!

At last.  The results of two snowfalls this past week accumulated a sufficient depth to prompt me to blow the dust of my pair of cross-country skis and hit the trails.  First outing of the season!

After considering several local trail choices, I selected Woodcock Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park.  These trails wander through woodlands and often provide wildlife sightings or other signs of forest critters.

I started by checking out the trail map, conveniently provided in a trailhead kiosk.20170211_110322-sample

View the trails map.

Let's go! Heading out from parking lot along White Trail.

Let’s go! Heading out from parking lot along White Trail.

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Making my way along north boundary (on right) and open marsh (on left).

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Critter tracks crossing Yellow Trail.  I believe these may belong to a Bobcat.

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White Trail nearing its intersection with Red Trail near west end of preserve.

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Making my way along Red Trail in northwest portion of preserve.

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Oval cavity in dead tree along White Trail along west boundary of preserve. This is the work of a Pileated Woodpecker.

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Entrance of Blue Trail off White Trail. Blue Trail explores the far southern portion of the preserve.

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A “grove” of dried fertile fronds of Sensitive Ferns near small pond along Blue Trail.

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Along Blue Trail at southern boundary of preserve.

I saw/heard:  American Crows, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, American Robins.  I also saw tracks from White-tailed Deer, Gray Squirrels, mice and Bobcat (? – see photo above).

In all, I made four trips around all of the trails for a total of approximately 8.5 miles.  During my last loop, my smartphone alerted me about a winter storm warning calling for 10-14″ of new snow between Sunday morning and sometime Monday.  Looking forward to my next outing…

Happy trails!

Forthcoming Wildflower Guides

Given the near absence of winter thus far, I have continued my wildflower inventories at a few locations.  And those activities have me thinking about spring and the upcoming return of blooming wildflowers throughout the next growing season.

With that in mind, I wanted to offer this sneak peak screen shot of five new wildflower field guides that will be available on this site in March.  Each of these new guides will be in Microsoft PowerPoint Show format (ppsx), featuring easier navigation throughout each document and higher resolution photographs as well as additional information regarding many of the species contained in each guide.  Unfortunately, each of these digital files is much larger than my previous wildflower guides; thus, downloading will take more time.  Those new wildflower guides will include:

  • Ashford Glen Preservea-field-guide-to-wildflowers-ashford-glen-preserve-1st-edition-march2017-chokecherry-sample-page
  • Bauer Environmental Parka-field-guide-to-wildflowers-bauer-environmental-park-1st-edition-march2017-cranberry-viburnum-sample-page
  • Old Iron Spring Fitness Traila-field-guide-to-wildflowers-old-iron-spring-fitness-trail-1st-edition-march2017-fringed-loosestrife-sample-page
  • Peter Desrochers Memorial Country Knolls Trailsa-field-guide-to-wildflowers-peter-desrochers-memorial-country-knolls-trails-1st-edition-march2017-woodland-agrimony-sample-page
  • Zim Smith Traila-field-guide-to-wildflowers-zim-smith-trail-1st-edition-march2017-common-arrowhead-sample-page

Also, please check my updated status of wildflower inventories.  I will be adding one of those destinations (Anchor-Diamond Park at Hawkwood Estatel) as a new page on this site sometime later this year.

In the meantime, view my winter plant ID quiz.

Lastly, a reminder to keep a watchful eye for ticks.  During a winter as mild as this one has been, they remain active.  Last week, I found two while visiting a local preserve!

Happy trails!

Forensic Botanizing: Woodland Forbs

On this Christmas Day, I visited the Woodcock Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park.  I was rewarded by spotting this Barred Owl (not a great image, but you can find it near the middle of this photo).

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

I had also viewed this owl in practically the same spot during my hike here on New Year’s Day to begin 2016.

As I continued my hike, I chose to wander along the Blue Trail since this portion of the preserve is open at this time of year.

Blue Trail trailhead - Woodcock Preserve

Blue Trail trailhead – Woodcock Preserve

My hike inspired me to offer you a winter plant ID quiz.  To identify each plant, simply click on “Answer” beneath each image.  Have fun!

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas!  Here’s hoping everyone enjoys happy trails in the New Year.

Christmas Fern

Christmas Fern

 

Beginning to Look Like Winter

Fall...into Winter

As Fall progresses into Winter…

The winter solstice will occur on December 21.  The arrival of this new season will mark the return of the shortest days of the entire year.  We should all consider extending these short days with evening outdoor activities as well as being prepared to make the most of the daylight hours available. 

Here is a list of winter outdoor activities to consider:

Winter is a great time for birdwatching from the comfort of your own home.  Consider putting up a few bird feeders.  For more info about winter bird feeding, please view my prior post.  Winter is also an excellent time to learn about animal tracks.  View this guide to winter tracks.

Read about how snowflakes form.  View the science of snowflakes. View a slideshow of photographs of snowflakes. 

Speaking of snow, here are some recipes and other ideas for you to consider:

Happy trails!

Columbus Day = Time to pick the cranberries!

Columbus Day marks the date of a very enjoyable autumnal ritual of mine – picking wild cranberries.

Today was a gorgeous day for a slog through my favorite bog.

Panoramic view of a bog

Panoramic view of a bog

Closeup view of bog

Closeup view of bog

In particular, I was hoping to find the fruit of Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon).

First cranberry! (Large Cranberry = Vaccinium macrocarpon)

First cranberry!

Ripe cranberry ensconced in diversity of bog plantlife

Ripe cranberry ensconced in diversity of bog plantlife

My cran-apple lunch out on the bog

My cran-apple lunch out on the bog

This year, I actually found very few.  The hard freeze (especially in this lowland) during the peak bloom time of these plants clearly prevented many of them from bearing fruit.

Ripeness, size and quality of the cranberries I found

Ripeness, size and quality of the cranberries I found

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my outing and found enough to add to baked goodies later this fall and this coming winter.

Looking for some culinary inspiration with cranberries?  Take a peak at these suggestions.

Wild Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce, New England Style

Cranberry Mors

Homemade Fresh Cranberry Juice

Wild Cranberry Jelly

Cranberry Recipes: Create a Cranberry Feast

Cranberry-Wild Rice Bake

Cranberry-Wild Rice Stuffing

Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad

Fresh Cranberry Desserts

Cranberry and Wild Blueberry Pie

Want to know more about wild cranberries?  Read this.

Happy trails!