A full slate of wildflower walks for 2019

Please join me for a wildflower walk in 2019.  This year, I will be conducting several series of wildflower walks with each featuring a unique theme.  Beginning on March 1 at Fox Preserve for the winter identification of invasive species, this variety of wildflower walks will continue until autumn, concluding on September 25 at 100 Acre Wood to view the last of the season’s woodland wildflowers in bloom.  Please view the Events page for details about each scheduled walk.

Combined, the 20 different walks will occur at five different locations to address these themes:

  1. invasive species identification walks;
  2. ephemeral spring wildflowers; and
  3. woodland wildflowers.

Japanese Barberry

Invasive Species Identification Walks:  Invasive species are non-native species that can cause harm to the environment, the economy, or to human health.  Invasives com from all around the world and are one of the greatest threats to New York’s biodiversity.  Invasive species may cause or contribute to:

  • habitat degradation or loss;
  • loss of native fish, wildlife and tree species;
  • loss of recreational opportunities and income; or
  • crop damage and diseases in humans and livestock.

This series of two walks (one in March and one in July) – both conducted at Fox Preserve – will focus on how to identify invasive species of plants.

Garlic Mustard

Dwarf Ginseng

Ephemeral Spring Wildflower Walks:  Spring ephemeral wildflowers are native perennial woodland plants that sprout from the ground early each spring, quickly bloom and seed before the canopy trees overhead leaf out.  Once the forest floor is deep in shade, the leaves wither away leaving just the roots, rhizomes and bulbs underground.  It allows them to take advantage of the full sunlight levels reaching the forest floor during early spring.  A separate series of three walks each will occur every two weeks beginning in early April at two different locations:  Shenantaha Creek Park and Steinmetz Woods.

Yellow Trout Lily

Wake Robin (purple form)

Woodland Wildflower Walks:  Deciduous forests cover much of the eastern United States. Our forests typically have several vertical layers of vegetation, including a dense, upper canopy of mature trees; a subcanopy of smaller or immature trees; and an understory of shrubs and low-growing herbaceous plants. Many woodland wildflowers, called spring ephemerals, bloom before the trees have leafed out; other species, which can tolerate partial or complete shade, flower later.  A separate series of walks will occur at two different locations:  five walks (between April and August) will be conducted at Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve and seven walks (between March and September) will be conducted at 100 Acre Wood.

Indian Pipe

I hope you’ll join me.  Happy trails!


A New Year’s Tradition

New Year’s traditions may be any of a wide variety of activities.  On this New Year’s Day, I continued one of mine.  I returned to Woodcock Preserve for what has become nearly an annual visit to start my New Year.  And, for some of those visits, I am greeted by one of its residents – an ever watchful Barred Owl.

Barred Owl near first intersection of White Trail and Yellow Trail at Woodcock Preserve.

View a past post regarding our prior New Year’s greeting to one another.

Read about these impressive birds.  The males have begun their annual courtship ritual of calls.  I heard one behind our home late Saturday afternoon.

May your 2019 see the continuation of traditions important to you and may you begin anew a few others.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

Happy trails!

A (temporary) White Christmas

Today’s fresh snow beckoned me to go search for some wintry Christmas scenes, even if in miniature – and fleetingly temporary.

I first visited Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park.  After strolling along the Long Kill Loop (orange trail), I wandered along the green spur trail and found this view of the Dwaas Kill.

During my outing, I observed these little scenes, each of which helped me see that – at least briefly this morning – we were indeed enjoying a White Christmas (eve) –

Speckled Alder “cone” (female catkin)

Snow on Eastern White Pine – look closely for individual flakes

Pipsissewa with dried flower stalk

Eastern Hemlock

“Forest” of moss sporophytes

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

I then visited Ushers Road State Forest, located in the Towns of Halfmoon and Clifton Park.  Slowly walking through the hemlock grove, …

Eastern Hemlock grove

… I continued by search of more miniature scenes before the snow cover disappeared in the sunshine that was now shining surprisingly brightly and uninterrupted.  Alas, the snow was quickly disappearing from sight!  But, I did get these few glimpses before the forest floor returned to its late autumn carpet of a myriad of brown hues.

Eastern Hemlock

Fruit of Asiatic Bittersweet

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

Fruit of Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good “White Christmas” Eve!

Greetings to a new season – welcome to winter!

The winter solstice will occur on December 21.  Its arrival will mark the shortest day of the year.  With the arrival of the new season, we all should consider the opportunity to include 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:

If you have bird feeders in your yard, winter will be a great time to watch them from the comfort of your own home.  Here is a guide to the most common winter visitors to your feeders.  If you do enjoy viewing birds at your feeders, consider participating in Project FeederWatch.  For more info about winter bird feeding, please view my prior post.

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

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

If snowflakes inspire you, here is a short list of some indoor activities to consider:

Happy trails!

Time to Pick the Cranberries

Columbus Day seems to be a great time to pick wild cranberries; they seem to be fully ripened or nearly so every year at that time.  Since today is a holiday for me, I made my annual pilgrimage to the nearest bog in search of my favorite ruby-colored fruit – cranberries!  Read more about this unique native fruit.

My destination – a bog

After meandering for a while, I at last spied my first gem –

First one – a single Large Cranberry fruit.

Thankfully, I began to find a number of clusters of Large Cranberry fruit and Small Cranberry fruit.  Without moving my feet, I picked 64 of the smaller-fruited species in one of the clusters I came across!

Cluster of Large Cranberry fruit

Biggest Large Cranberry I’ve ever found!

And other beautiful red fruit –

Fruit of Smooth Winterberry – NOT edible!

And something altogether different –

British Soldier Lichen

Also came across some native fauna –

Black and Yellow Garden Spider

Read more about this common large spider.

After 3 hours of wandering and picking, I headed for home with my bounty.

My bounty = 8 cups

Wondering what to do with your berries?  Give these recipes a try –

Wild Cranberry Sauce

Wild Wild Cranberries

10 Things to do with Fresh Cranberries

Frozen Cranberry Mousse

Cranberry and Orange Relish

And, here are a few Cranberry Cooking Tips.  Bon appetit!

Happy trails!

Autumn is nearly here!


Chokecherry fall colors

The autumnal equinox will arrive soon – but when?  The shorter days and cooler nights to follow will usher in a new season of vibrantly colored foliage throughout the area.  Read about the status of fall colors.  Read about the dozen best places in the Capital Region to view fall colors.  See other leaf-peeping opportunities throughout New York.  View a quick guide to the fall colors of tree leaves.

However, I invite you to view fall colors…from a different perspective (slide show or video).  Most of these plants can be viewed in your community, your neighborhood, even in your own backyard.

Here is a list of autumn activities to consider:

Happy trails!

Blackberry picking time is now!

While conducting my weekly wildflower inventory at Summer Hill Natural Area today, I spied these ripening blackberries.

Common Blackberry fruit

However, those pictured are not ripe yet – fully ripened blackberries are black in color, not red.  You’ll want to pick them – like any fruit – at peak ripeness for the best flavor.

If you find enough ripe blackberries to give them a taste test, I would suggest making a simple sauce to have over vanilla ice cream or pancakes or waffles.  If you are lucky enough to find a sufficient quantity to try a few culinary experiments, then consider these:

Bon appetit!