Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Local Hike

It was such a nice day today (around 82° F with low humidity) that I decided to take an afternoon hike with my family to a place called Duck Pond on the Monhonk Preserve (I have a membership).

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It's a pretty, man-made (although a long time ago so it's hard to tell it's not natural) pond nestled on the shoulder of the northeastern Shawangunk Ridge.

It's a short easy hike and nice for kids since you can sit on some log benches next to the pond and see some wildlife.  No ducks, but last time we were there we saw a large, ancient-looking snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina).  Not around this time but we did see a lot of small fish (we fed with crumbs) and a northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon) with beautiful patterning.  The snake swam completely across the lake and looked to be about 4 feet in length.

Lots of common white tail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) around (among others).  They were having aerial sex (my kids thought they were fighting each other).

There are also some huge snails (Bellamya chinensis) amongst the algae at the edge of the pond.  Thousands of them, actually.  The snails are an interesting story, they're introduced "Chinese mystery snails" originally brought to the San Francisco prior to 1900 by Chinese immigrants as a delicacy.  They then became popular as aquarium snails and were first seen in the northeast around 1940.  Here's a paper on them.

Also saw some creepy-looking doll's eye (Actaea pachypoda) plants.  I've written about them before.  Later on, the berries will turn white and they're highly poisonous.

I also carry a copy of Trees of New York Field Guide by Stan Tekiela (Adventure Publications, 2006) in by backback and try to learn a new tree every time I'm hiking.  I found one that had compound, toothed, opposite leaves with a fruit divided into three segments.  I think it's American bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) even though the fruit was still small and hard, not bladder-like (hence the name) like it gets in late summer/fall.

The nearby trails (carriage roads, really) wind through forests and meadows with nice views of the Wallkill/Hudson Valley to the east.

There are also nice views of the iconic Mohonk Tower atop the northern Shawangunk Ridge.

A nice day in the woods with my family (even though my son complained a bit about walking, ticks, mosquitos, other kids near the pond, his sister, hurting legs, the sun, etc.  Then at the end, he seemed to have enjoyed himself - I just have to tune out the bitching and moaning).

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