Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Trees in Fruit

Kayaking Lake Craig (a fishing lake in our nearby state park) is one of the best of summer day activities.  Today, in particular, was special.  It was overcast and breezy and warm, apparently the perfect combination for every species of dragonfly and damselfly to come out and play, or work, as some were breeding and/or laying eggs just beneath the water surface.  Amberwings, White Tailed, Twelve Spots, Green Darners, Brown Spotted Yellowings, Bluets, Green Clearwings, and others that wouldn't stop long enough for us to see.  They zipped and buzzed around near the shore, entertaining us when they'd come close and sometimes land on our boats or paddles.  Some were dip dip dipping their ovipositors into the water to lay eggs, some seemed to be chasing others... Through binoculars we saw that they were skimming the water out as far as we could see.   

At the back end of the lake, near where Kelsey Creek comes in, there is an island covered in sedge, nettles, grasses, and the tall purple Monkey Flower.  Here we sat and watched more dragonflies and damselflies. Continuing up the creek, we were thrilled to hear the "witchity witchity" call of Common Yellowthroats as they called back and forth from one side of the creek to the other.  After much searching with binocs we found one in a small Riverbirch, his bright yellow throat and black mask obvious only once we found him, which took me some time. He doesn't move around much, and his olive back blends so well with the leafy canopy you can't see him from the back.  We also saw two Great Blue Herons, a Green Heron preening in a snag, two Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, and Indigo Buntings.  As we were floating quietly, taking it all in, an Eastern Kingbird flew out from a nearby bush and snapped up a dragonfly lunch just six feet above my head!  I heard it SNAP!  Whirligig Beetles twirled around us in the slow moving water.  

Trees of all kinds were in fruit around the lake.  We first found the Carolina Basswood dangling its green berries over the water from leafy bracts.  Then we paddled under the drooping branches of a Carolina Silverbell. The four-winged seed pods are quite distinctive, but we had no idea what they were!   Ironwood was easy, then came what turned out to be a huge Possumhaw Viburnum. The lower branches had fruit, but there were a few blooms on the upper branches to help us id it.  We thought it would be a Viburnum of some kind, but there are so many!  We broke branches of all to bring home for identifying and for me to draw. 

Several hours later thunder beyond the trees gave us a reason to turn and paddle back.  It's always hard to leave that beautiful place, but today we moved with record speed!

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