Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Cleaning

April 10, 2010
Moreau Lake State Park

After a what seemed like a very long week at work, I was looking forward to some quality outdoor-time.
What better way to spend a sunny, slightly warm and breezy Saturday, than helping with the park’s Spring Cleanup Day ?
There was an excellent turnout of folks willing to help. We split into three groups and headed for various areas around the lake. I suggested that the far shore of Back Bay would be fruitful (i.e., full of trash), since the wind blows a lot of stuff that way, and I'd seen lots of cans, bait containers and whatnot over there, back in the fall.
So off we went, a-sorting out the recyclable stuff from the merely trashable stuff. To tell the truth, there wasn’t too much to pick up. My prediction was way off.

It's nice to be wrong, sometimes...

Along the way, reaching out for a can buried in the leaves, one of us met a sunning garter snake –

The shadbush, now being in full white-fire bloom, was attracting those plump fuzzy insects I'd been referring to as "Fly-Bees" - turns out, it is called a Bee Fly – who woulda guessed?

Sorry, they move fast, so all you get today are back and side views:

Later,we saw the tiniest little wormish creature along the shore. It had sort of silvery plates on its body. Every so often it would rear up what seemed to be its head (the larger end) – anyone know what this is? Insect larva? Crustacean? It’s very tiny (maybe a quarter-inch long) as you can tell by comparing it to the maple budlets and grains of sand.

Everywhere, the dullest twig is putting forth new life.
It’s a bit overwhelming, this sudden abundance of riches. Even though you know it is coming, it's still a surprise, somehow.

Even Thoreau, supreme wordsmith that he is, at one point reverts to the simplest of language when he describes these new April leaves:

they are emphatically a green green.

Our little group, led by Rebecca, the new park educator, went all the way around the end of the Bay, and filled up maybe 1 bag total. After we cut back across the New Trail to reach Broadway, it sort of morphed into a nature walk. We all stopped in at Hep Hill to see the tiny hepaticas blooming. It’s also a fine little overlook of Mud Pond. From there we could see common mergansers fighting splashy courtship battles, arcading back and forth like tin ducks in a shooting gallery.

As the group headed along the main trail back to the Nature Center, Jackie and I excused ourselves, to peel out onto a side trail, in search of another spring flower in its known haunts. In a shady spot where a little creek crosses the trail, we found our quarry -- Dutchman’s Breeches, just breeching.
Not knowing any historically-clad Dutchmen, when I see the gentle shapes, tender colors, and sheltered location of these flowers, I am instead reminded of a nursery. Of pacifiers and blankies and diapers. Dutchmen’s Diapers, perhaps?

The creekbed itself was dry, which is unusual for early April, but understandable considering how little snowfall there was this winter. In a week or two, if the April rains come, this spot will be rocking Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Trilliums and Toothwort galore.

Back at our meeting place, the other groups, led by Ben and Gary, were assembling. The trash haul was greater along other parts of the lake, and the Park truck was loaded with full bags.

Most of the trash you see on the trail nowadays is NOT going to go away by itself. The materials it is made of might last … well, forever.

So a big thank-you to everyone who came today to pick up, and more thank-yous to those folks who pick up something every time they are out there, all year round -- it makes a huge difference.
Both for we humans who visit this beautiful place, and for the critters who call this their home.

Speaking of critters, there was just time enough for one last sight – Ben made it a point to tell us that he’d seen suckers spawning, in shallow water on the other side of the lake. Even though I was pressed for time, Jackie and I boogeyed over there to see this event. I had never even seen a sucker before, and these creatures prefer the bottom of the lake to the top.
As the song goes, “Love is in the Air,” but these days I am finding that Love is in the Water, too.
We got over to that shoreline, and in the clear water, it looked like dark rocks were moving, about 10 feet offshore.

It was still pretty breezy, so the water surface was plenty ruffled up, which confused the heck out of the autofocus on my camera. Perhaps you can still tell that the subject is FISH...?

They were just yards away from us. I even peeled off boots and socks to wade out toward them, in an ill-conceived attempt to get closer. That water was just too cold ! And every pebble dug into my almost-numb soles.

The fish merely moved another ten feet away, tantalizing me by staying vague in the viewfinder. It was a dumb idea, and I now regret having disturbed them needlessly.
Back on dry land, I laboriously pulled wool sox back onto wet feet. The fish resumed their Very Important Activity.
Time for me to leave soon.
Time enough to watch just a little while longer.

You’d catch an underwater glimpse of a face – a fin – a tail – as wavelets and sunlight rippled over the surface. The spawning fish would arrange and re-arrange themselves in groups, pointing this way and that, skirling around in the sandy shallows. Sweeping the bottom of the lake with their tails, as we had cleaned along the shore.

1 comment:

  1. That opening photo is just breathtaking! I love how the shallow water close to the shore seems to echo the green of the woods, as the deeper water echoes the blue of the sky.

    Those fish spawning photos, with all the liquid distortions and golden ripples, are exquisite, too.