June 4, 2012

Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve Hike

Mountain laurel flowers
I recently went on a lovely hike in the nearby Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve.  The timing was just right, as the mountain laurel was plentiful and in full bloom.

Green frog
It’s been a  wet spring, and the trail skirted a number of vernal pools, teeming with tadpoles.  Vernal pools, which will dry up in the heat of summer, are ideal for tadpoles as there are no predator fish present.  Ideally, the young frogs develop and find their way to the nearby stream before the pool evaporates.  This frog was keeping watch over one of the pools.
Skunk cabbage leaves
There were patches of lush skunk cabbage all about.  I was too late for the blooms but enjoyed them none the less.  I’m very fond of this plant--I have a weakness for anything with large, distinctive leaves--and previously featured it in my art quilt Skunk Cabbage and Possum:
"Skunk Cabbage and Possum"
Another, larger vernal pool brought the discovery of an immature snapping turtle:
Snapping turtle
Distinctive features are the wedge shaped head, the whip-like tail, and the ridged shell.  This one was about the size of a salad plate.

Snapping turtle
I found a patch of milkweed and spent some time turning over leaves looking for monarch butterfly eggs.  Milkweed and associated plants are the only hosts for the larvae.  I didn't spot any eggs; hopefully it’s just too early in the season, and not a further sign of the monarch’s decline.
Milkweed leaves
The plants themselves were hale and hearty and full of buds:
Milkweed buds
One of my sharp eyed hiking companions spotted this  American Toad, camouflaged in the underbrush:
American Toad
One of the things I admire about toads is their attitude.  They know they taste bad, and are not overly skittish.  (If you've ever watched an inexperienced cat or dog mouth a toad, you know what I mean.  They usually don’t try it twice.)  This one posed obligingly while we captured the lovely patterning on its back:
American toad patterning
It then grinned for a portrait:
American toad portrait
This may be the year of the toad here in the northeast.  I've seen more in my yard and out and about than I have for a long time.  Perhaps the mild winter and wet spring is just what they needed for a population surge.


Julie Riker said...

I love the way you incorporate nature into your fiber art Sue. You also seem to know a lot of great local places to hike - I am always looking for new plein air painting locations and this sounds like a possibility. Thanks!

Sue Reno said...

Thanks Julie! My husband and I are enthusiatic supporters of the Conservancy and often hike their preserves. The terrain here was intriguingly different from the southern Lancaster County locales that are our usual haunts. I love your plein air work--feel free to contact me if I can help with further info.