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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time Capsule from July 4

For many, many, MANY more pictures from this hike, see the Picasa web album.

After Grace and I got back from the work hike on the morning of July 4, we took Dylan on another hike. Unfortunately I've not had the time to document it until now. But perhaps February is an appropriate time for a July retrospective: I know that looking back on the light and colors of summer makes me smile.

Dylan was very excited to get back to the Link Trail. It's times like this when I feel like I could stop counting my blessings at one, and still consider myself lucky.

I started to present him with his choices for places to hike, and at first I didn't get beyond "We could go back to the bridge over the creek where you threw sticks in, or we could go to the quarry..." He interjected that he wanted to go back to the quarry, but I said "Slow down, you haven't heard all the choices yet!" I continued, telling him that there are some parts of the Link Trail he hadn't seen, that go along a pretty stream. Immediately he changed his mind, saying he wanted to go to the part where he hadn't been!

We drove to Bingley and parked in the little area at the end of Emhoff Road. While looking at wildflowers right next to the parking area, I got excited at seeing a small toad. Unfortunately I lost it before I could show it to Dylan. We went north a few hundred feet so that we could write in the trail register, and then headed south. As we descended the small gravel switchback trail to Bingley Road I explained to Dylan the concept of a switchback, and how we were walking gradually downward and across the slope rather than trying to go straight down. Then, after climbing the staircase, I explained to him that the fence with the door is there to let people through but keep four-wheelers out.

Before we got far, I got excited about photo ops and Dylan got excited about construction equipment. His most excited exclamation of the day was "WOW, FRONT LOADER!!!" Having a quarry and a few private businesses with construction equipment along the trail is a huge bonus for hiking with a small boy.

Snail on plant

This snail was the first photo-op of the hike. This photo represents the state of my macro photography skills. The tail end of the snail, along with parts of the plant it's climbing, are in focus, but its antennae are little more than a blur. Yes, this gives a sense of intimacy and focus on the rear shell patterns, but I would like to be able to choose to have more of the critter in focus, and for that I need to spend more timer jiggering with F-stops and exposures and ISO settings.

Deptford pink

This species has been a favorite companion ever since around 1992, when I began my wildflower hikes. It's an elusively narcissistic little bugger: it doesn't deign to show its face at my parties very often, but on those occasions when I catch a blast of saturated pink from the side of the trail, I always stop and smile. How could I do otherwise?


Here's what I wrote after my first, erroneous attempt to identify this flower.

Wow. I just had one of those frustrating experiences where I thought I knew something and then I spent the better part of an hour having Google and Wikipedia teach me otherwise. This looks like what my mother used to call "baby's breath" but, as it turns out, that's about as definite as saying "That's a Queen Anne's lace". There are over 70 species of what people call Queen Anne's lace, and as it turns out there are about 100 species in the genus Gypsophilia. If anyone could tell me what species this is, I'd appreciate it.
As it turns out, I made the mistake I always make: confusing baby's breath with forget-me-not. This looks like a Myosotis laxa, or tufted forget-me-not. It also looks like Myosotis nemorosa, or possibly like several others on the Wikipedia page for the genus.


I can never resist a good shot of one of these fascinating creatures. For more on the ancient order Opiliones, see the Wikipidea entry.

What my father used to call a "water-skipper"

Sigh. I thought the term "baby's breath" was vague, but that's nothing compared to this insect's genus. Gerridae contains "around 500 known species, commonly placed in around 60 genera". Good luck figuring out which species this is. I know enough from the hours I've spent on that I'd need
much more detailed pictures than this in order to get even close to identifying them.

We saw a fairly well-traveled trail coming in from the left that looked like private property to me, so I took the opportunity to tell Dylan about the importance of respecting private property and staying off it. Then we saw a big trail that led down the slope to the right. It was clearly a public fishing access, so we headed down to check it out. It turned out to be an ideal place to take a kid, and to take pictures. I tried to explain to Dylan how the steps beneath the culvert slow down the stream flow so that it hits the downstream pool as gently as possible and so minimimizes erosion. I don't know how well I did.

Unidentified arthropod on rock

Identified anthropoids on rocks


This is probably a common buttercup, or Ranunculus acris, but it could be one of a few Ranunculus. It's impossible to say for sure because I didn't get a shot of the stem or leaves.

We crossed the slippery, tippy rocks while holding Dylan's hand, and I got some great shots of flowers and arachnids and water-skippers. Grace got some shots of me and Dylan on the culvert, and we made our way back across the stream and up to the trail.

Fragrant bedstraw, or Galium triflorum

My first guess was wild madder because I remember that one from my old wildflower walks. But after looking it up in my Peterson's I think this is fragrant bedstraw. Note that the lower leaves are in whorls of six and that the stems appear to be hairless.

Tiny spider on leaf

Grace spinning Dylan

I'm grateful to Grace for being such a cheerful companion to Dylan, because it gives me some leeway for lagging behind and snapping away with the camera. She kept him busy while I got many shots for the Link Trail wildflower guide that I'm hoping to start compiling soon. And of course there were the lucky finds of bees and spiders and such on some of those flowers. When I caught up with them, Grace was swinging him around like a giggling whirligig - a whirligiggle?

Wild basil, or Satureja vulgaris

I spent an hour or two identifying this plant. For most of that time I was in the blue/violet section of my Peterson's Guide to Wildflowers. It's not the first time I've made this mistake. A lot of flowers I think of as primarily blue, Peterson obviously thought of as primarily red. Also, judging from some of the botanical plates I found online, this particular species seems to have a blue variety and a pink variety.

So I was on the verge of pulling my hair out, thinking this was in the genus Mentha but not being able to find anything closer than pennyroyal. But the two were structurally different in enough ways that it seemed impossible that they could be the same plant.

I actually started to wonder if it was a speedwell but the blossoms looked much more like a mint than a speedwell. Finally I noticed on page 352 the note "See also pink and lavender species on p. 252." Once I started looking in the red/pink flowers, it was only a matter of time before I discovered the wild basil. I gave myself a mental forehead-smack just now as I noticed the following words at the front page of the "Violet to Blue Flowers" chapter.
We repeat the warning here that it is not always easy to separate some lavender or reddish-purple flowers (treated in a pink-red section, which starts on page 212) from some violet ones, shown here in the following pages. If in doubt, look in both places.
I won't forget again.

Hop clover, or Trifolium agrarium

When I looked at the nodding head on the left I thought "hops". Imagine my delight when I found the following entry on page 150 of my Peterson's Guide to Wildflowers:
...When flower heads (1/2-3/4 in.) wither, florets fold down, become brownish, suggesting dried hops.

Black-eyed susan, or Rudbeckia hirta

Heal-all, or Prunella vulgaris

If you have a Peterson's Guide to Wildflowers take a look at pages 350-351 (which unfortunately aren't available in the Google Books preview). I think that the general appearance of the flower head, combined with the near-toothless leaves, allows us to unambiguously identify it as heal-all.

Rough-fruited cinquefoil entertaining a guest

I've always gotten a smile from this very common species, and that was before I took these macro shots. That last shot is the best photo I've ever taken. I jumped up and down and squealed when I saw it on the screen. See a larger version of the shot here.

Yarrow, or Achillea millefolium.

Wood strawberry, or Fragaria vesca

Leaf miner tracks

Purple-flowering raspberry

This is a Purple-flowering Raspberry, or Rubus odoratus. Note the insect on the flower in the second picture. Don't see it? That's OK, I didn't know it was there when I was taking the shot! See the closeup in the third picture. That's one of my favorite things about nature photography: the surprises waiting for me when I look at the shots on a computer screen.

After about two hours browsing Bug Guide I believe that I've unambiguously identified the critter: Tarnished Plant Bug (Lygus lineolaris). If my image submission gets moved by one of the experts, I'll know I was wrong.

Cow vetch

I believe that this is cow vetch, or Vicia cracca.

Midges(?) swarming against a rock(???)

On the way back I saw one of those things that makes you stop and wonder just what you're looking at. The sun picked out a seed pod or somesuch suspended in midair between a tree and a rock, so I went to check out the spider web. As I approached the boulder a cloud of insects scattered away from it, some colliding with me and some zipping past me. But much of the cloud remained, swarming around the shaded face of the rock. They appeared to be battering themselves against it, although the motion was too frenetic to be quite sure what I was seeing. All that I know is that I've never seen anything like it. Take a look at the shots and tell me if you know what I saw.

Closeup of cinders from the old railroad bed

I asked Al Larmann about the material found on old railroad beds, and he said that gravel or other small stones were used, and that this was called ballast. I replied...
Thanks Al. I think you've led me to the answer. The Wikipedia page says that...
A good ballast should be strong, hard-wearing, stable, drainable, easy to clean, workable, resistant to deformation, easily available, and reasonably cheap to purchase.[2] Early railway engineers did not understand the importance of quality track ballast; they would use cheap and easily-available materials such as ashes, chalk, clay,[3] earth, and even cinders from locomotive fireboxes.[4] It was soon clear that good-quality ballast made of rock was necessary if there was to be a good foundation and adequate drainage.[3]
So am I correct in thinking that this material that covers parts of the Link Trail is cinders? It does seem like something that came from a furnace, because it seems far too light and porous to be unprocessed stone.
Al's reply goes into some interesting history of the railroad.
I concur--The original Cazenovia and Canastota RR was built about 1870. Although their surveying skills were good--given the manner in which they were able to find a way around the Perryville area falls and cut into the hills as you approached Cazenovia, I am sure that the basic ballast used was cinder based.I do not recall where I saw the comment, but there was some industry locally that generated a large quantity of cinders. The engines were small in size and limited in power output. I do remember that the original bridge in Cazenovia spanning the creek was tested by placing the steam engine upon it--it passed, an empirical solution.

Daisy fleabane

I believe that this is daisy fleabane, or Erigeron annuus.

Tiny flies on oxeye daisy, or Leucanthemum vulgare

Yellow avens (Geum aleppicum) with aphid (nymph?) on blossom

The top picture shows the whole yellow avens plant. The second shows a cute little aphid on the blossom, and the third shows the distinctive fruit. Look closely - here's another example of spiderwebs being everywhere!

Bee pollinating oxeye daisy, or Leucanthemum vulgare

One last parting shot of Deptford pink


Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Hugh- This is outstanding! I have used one of your pix, and just the opening paragraph on I hope you get lots of visitors to come see the rest. Aren't flowers amazing?

Hugh Yeman said...

Oh, thank you so much! I'm so happy to hear of someone enjoying my photos - it makes it all worth it!

Yes, ever since I started taking wildflower walks with my Peterson's Guide to Wildflowers I've noticed that flower identification brings an inner peace. To identify a flower, I have to stop and look at it closely. This act brings me outside myself - outside my own self-absorption and worries - and lets me touch the beauty that's everywhere.

Susan said...

Hugh!! these are gorgeous - I love the bed straw, and I the buttercup makes me feel like it's the first time I'm seeing a buttercup! your images are so fresh and full of wonder - absolutely poetic!!

Hugh Yeman said...

Susan: Thank you! I'm so glad to hear that people are enjoying the photos.