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

 

A Crunchy Hike to Start the New Year

With the forest floor coated in white from the results of the messy storm we received earlier in the week, I decided to visit Woodcock Preserve for some winter birdwatching.

I ambled along the White Trail past the right fork for the Yellow Trail to the “T”-intersection of the White Trail, then proceeded clockwise and again ignored the right fork for the Yellow Trail.  I did, however, veer right once again when I encountered the intersection with the Red Trail.  Shortly after entering that trail, I saw my first bird.

Greeted by sentry (Barred Owl) shortly after beginning Red Trail

Greeted by sentry (Barred Owl) shortly after beginning Red Trail

I was very surprised this Barred Owl afforded me any photo op because the noise resulting from each of my footsteps on that glossy crust resembled what I imagine would be the sound created by walking on cornflake-filled aluminum pie tins.  Only louder!  (Accordingly and not surprisingly, this would be my only bird sighting for this outing!)

Water crossing along Red Trail

Water crossing along Red Trail

Bench at end of Red Trail (@ intersection with White Trail)

Bench at end of Red Trail (@ intersection with White Trail)

Upon making my way back to the main White Trail, I veered right and followed the White Trail over to the Blue Trail.

Sign at entrance to Blue Trail

Sign at entrance to Blue Trail

Upon seeing the seasonal restriction to this portion of the preserve, I decided now would be my best opportunity to view this trail.  I encourage you to take a winter hike to the far southern portion of this preserve and enjoy its remoteness; if you do, be sure to wear rubber boots as there are several seeps along this path.

Very large White Oak - measured nearly 14 feet in Diameter at Breast Height (DBH)!

Very large White Oak – circumference measured nearly 14 feet at chest height!  Accordingly, this tree is estimated to be more than 260 years old.

Pond along Blue Trail - note Winterberry along left shoreline

Pond along Blue Trail – note Common Winterberry along left shoreline

Winterberries along edge of pond along Blue Trail

Winterberries along edge of pond along Blue Trail

Closeup view of Winterberries

Closeup view of Winterberries

Dried floral arrangement emerging from pond ice (Ditch Stonecrop)

Dried floral arrangement emerging from pond ice (Ditch Stonecrop)

Close up view of dried floral arrangement

Close up view of dried floral arrangement

Characteristic pattern created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Characteristic pattern created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Characteristic pattern created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Characteristic pattern created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Characteristic oval cavity (top left) and large wood splinters created by Pileated Woodpecker

Characteristic oval cavity (top left) and large wood splinters created by Pileated Woodpecker

After making my way back to the White Trail, I again veered right (continuing my overall counterclockwise progression) and followed this main trail to the “T”-intersection once again and veered left (to briefly repeat a segment earlier during this hike) to the Yellow Trail, which forked to the right.

Nature's vineyard (where maple and hickory trees serve as trellises)

Nature’s vineyard (where maple and hickory trees serve as trellises) – most likely Riverbank Grape

Boardwalk along Yellow Trail (bench in distant background)

Boardwalk along Yellow Trail (bench in distant background)

After returning once again to the White Trail, I veered left to return to the trailhead parking lot along Tanner Road.

Happy New Year and happy trails!

Stop. Look. Listen.

Remember that advice shared with us by our parents as part of being taught what to do before crossing a street?

It comes in handy while out in nature.  Next time you’re on a hike, please do so:  Stop.  Look.  Listen.

Today, while continuing my wildflower inventory along Veterans Bike Path in the Town of Ballston, I did just that.  I had stepped off the bike path to more thoroughly study the many plants growing along a small shallow water area in the drainageway bordering the adjoining woodland, when a sound and motion overhead caught my attention.  As one of them flew across the trail to a large oak on the opposite side of the adjoining railroad tracks, my eyes quickly noticed this silhouette from where the first bird took flight –

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Given my reward for doing so, I encourage you to take a moment next time you are out for a hike to simply stop and take notice of what is surrounding you.  You might be surprised to see “whoo” is watching you!

Happy trails!