Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Housatonic Flats, Great Barrington

Last week I stopped at Housatonic Flats on Rte 7 in Great Barrington to walk the trails. In May, the Tuesday Berkshire Hikers helped pull out barbed wire here. (See my blog about it.) It's amazing to see how it has changed! The vegetation is tall and lush. Unfortunately, I had no bug repellent, because the mosquitos were fierce. I was OK if I kept walking, but when I stopped to take a photo, they swarmed me!

The Joe-Pye-Weed is just coming into blossom.
I saw a few of these intensely-yellow Common Tansy.
The Purple Loosestrife is a seriously invasive species
which crowds out native plants in swamps and wet areas.
It is a beautiful color though, isn't it?
My flower book said that few native insects forage on the blossoms,
however this bee seemed to enjoy its nectar.
Only one flower was out so far on this tall Bull Thistle.
The trail has many views of the Housatonic River.
The Bouncing Bet along the wide mown path was tall and beautiful.
The Milkweed flowers are past
and the pods are just beginning to grow.
I saw lots of these tiny air-breathing land snails,  amber snails,
on the milkweed leaves.
I know this is nettle and didn't want to touch it on the path.
When I identified it at home I found out that it is called False Nettle.
So it is in the nettle family but is not the stinging variety.
But better safe than sorry!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Beaver Pond on the AT in Washington

Last week we hiked the Appalachian Trail from Pittsfield Road in Washington to Rte 20 in Lee, about 10 miles. It was a beautiful day, not too hot. The woods were cool and dark under bright sunshine. The beaver activity was what impressed me the most. It's said that, other than humans, beavers are the animal that has the most effect on the environment. They cut mature trees and shrubs and build dams that raise the water level six feet and more, sometimes flooding many acres of land. The deep water kills trees but also provides habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. Their industry amazes me!

By the various colors of the wood, from light (very recent activity)
to dark (older activity), the beavers must have been working on these trees for years.
Here is the dam which raised the water level many feet creating a pond.
Some trees die but many other plants thrive.
I'm not good at estimating area, but this beaver pond was large!
Here are the seeds, called keys, of the Striped Maple which enjoys the wetness.
This maple is named for its striped bark.
We also enjoyed the views at Finerty Pond.

Questing, New Marlborough

On July 3, I spent time enjoying the 2.6 miles of trails at the Trustees of Reservations Questing Reservation. It's a wonderful place with wide trails through woods and fields. A lollipop trail begins with a gentle climb from the parking area up to a loop trail through woods and fields. I spent about three hours walking slowly, enjoying and admiring the scenery, taking photos and having my lunch. A beautiful day!

The trails are mowed so there is less chance of getting ticks on you, although I check sporadically while hiking, always when I get back to the car, and also at home. I've picked three ticks off my clothing and exposed skin this year, but none were embedded. It does require vigilance.

The spacious trails and open understory provide views into the woods.
The stone walls are evidence of hand labor and centuries of farming.
The fields are filled with wildflowers, birds, butterflies and insects.
A Hummingbird Moth hovers by a milkweed flower, feeding on the nectar.
It's so fat you wouldn't think the wings could hold it up!
I was captivated by these two 6-foot-tall Turk's Cap Lilies in one corner of the field.
Each of them had at least twelve flowers.
How beautiful is that!
Yep, I was smitten.
Land form of the Eastern Newt, called a Red Eft.
I always smile when I see these guys wriggling across the trail.
With all the space in the forest,
this younger tree wanted the same space as the older one.
And was determined!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hollow Fields Preserve, Richmond

I went to Hollow Fields Preserve in Richmond last week to see the Bobolinks. There were dozens of pairs nesting in the fields of tall grass. I wasn't able to get a good photo but have provided a link. Their flight was distinctive. They flapped their wings very fast as they flew, sometimes just round and round over the field. Then they would glide down to perch on a tall stalk which sometimes held their weight and sometimes bent over. It was fun to observe their behavior.

This is a Berkshire Natural Resources Property that opened last year. The two-mile-loop trail provides wonderful views of fields, mountains and sky. What a beautiful spot!

Looking toward Yokun Ridge with Lenox Mountain
and to the left, Bousquet Mountain.
View of the picturesque farm next door where horses grazed.
The next day I went back in the early evening. Spectacular!
At the edge of the fields were some large bushes
of this invasive rose.
The wildflowers in the fields included this bright
Orange Hawkweed or Devil's Paintbrush