A naturalist's perspective on the wildlife of Fish Creek in Upstate New York
Monday, April 23, 2012
Morea Lake State Park
I made a trip to Moreau Lake State Park this weekend, to see what changes spring has wrought in that lovely little corner of the world. Well, not so little, actually; I was reading an excellent article by Jack Freeman and Bob Goodwin, ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) enthusiasts http://www.adk.org/ad_mag/moreau_park_hike.aspx and found out that Moreau Lake State Park (MLSP) is comprised of 4,200 acres! In 1998, the Open Space Institute purchased 3,200 acres of undeveloped land in Saratoga and Warren Counties, on either side of the Hudson River, from the Niagara Mohawk Corporation, and added it to the park’s previously existing 900 acres. The result is gorgeous, unspoiled, hiking trails that add breathtaking views, and have heightened the beauty and appeal of the park to many more nature enthusiasts.
Although the limits of the park are just south of majestic Adirondack Park (AP) in the Adirondack Mountains, which is made up of 6.1 million acres of publicly protected lands, the ADK publication committee was so impressed with the beautiful lands comprising MLSP, that they saw fit to include it in their new edition of the Adirondack Southern Region Trail Guide.
I found the lake and the environs quiet on Saturday, perhaps it was the forecast of heavy rains, but in the morning, though the skies were overcast, it was not enough to discourage exploring. While hiking around the lake, I was struck by the ubiquitous stands of Phragmites (Phragmites australis). The success of this plant is, in large part, due to the fact that it releases a chemical called Gallic acid, and when it is exposed to ultra-violet light, a second harmful toxin is produced: Mesoxalic acid. These two substances are destructive to other susceptible wetland plants, and as a result, it crowds out other, more beneficial, and productive, plants, such as cattails.
It spreads by horizontal runners, and can expand its ground by up to 16 feet per year. Its roots go very deep and strong, and as such it is very difficult to control. The most effective method found has been through controlled burning, but because of the depth and strength of these roots, the burns need to take place over two, to three, consecutive seasons, for one burn is not enough.
There were some other more hopeful signs of spring: apple blossoms on a wild apple tree, gill-over –the- ground, which was in abundance, and views of the lake, and the hills beyond, showed pale greens in evidence everywhere. I am sure these changes, and more, especially since the rain these past few days, will grow exponentially as we proceed into the season, and that is something to look forward to!
My interest in wild plants began 25 years ago when I fell in love with wild flowers. I loved to draw these delicate beauties, and naturally, I eventually became curious as to their names. As I began to study field guides, and learn more about these sources of delight, I began to realize that many of them were not as humble as they seemed; in fact,most were quite unique, and significant in their own way, and my thirst for learning more about them was born.
Since then, I have continued in my love for nature, and have become somewhat of an amateur naturalist. In particular, I have studied the flora and fauna of Fish Creek, an outlet of Saratoga Lake, for 15 years, and have written and illustrated over two dozen journals about this beautiful waterway.
I have written, illustrated, and photograped what I found there, and it has only served to ignite my curiosity about the natural world, all the more.
About ten years ago I began to become interested in wild medicinal plants. This blog is my effort to share with others some of the exciting things that I am learning about.