Saturday, September 27, 2014

Last Saturday of the Summer on Nippenicket

I'd wanted to go paddling the past several weekends, but wind dissuaded me.  I don't mind a little wind in the course of getting places, but I wanted a relaxing paddle, camera in hand, stopping to drift from time to time.  I was also leery of the pond level: it has been so dry for so long.  I can't imagine risking a jetski in such skinny water--you'd be at high risk of damaging something.  (Not that that wouldn't be without compensations for the rest of us.)  As it is, when I paddled into the pond last Saturday, I came across shoal water where by rights no shoal water should be.  (On one low spit I counted 92 Canada geese and few mallards.)

I did not go far, nor stay out even two hours, but I did get to explore a tiny island I'd never dared land on before: when the pond is higher, the island looks like muddy swamp with emergent vegetation, where every step would sink you at least ankle-deep.  But now it was plain that most of the bottom thereabouts was sand or cobbles, so I eagerly set out to explore the little place end to end, and all the way around.

Island ahead.  Nifty clouds above.  (Why do the clouds do that?)

Musketaquid, my skin-on-frame kayak.

First surprise ashore, among the grounded white waterlily leaves, was this tiny flower with no apparent leaves.  That was a puzzle: how would it absorb light?  My Newcomb's Wildflower Guide keyed it out as a familiar bladderwort--normally a floating plant, but now stranded by dropping water-level with its tiny leaves probably half-buried in the mud.  (Bladderwort has it's own surprises: it is actively insectivorous, capturing swimming critters in tiny traps.)

I thought this an odd place to find so majestic a forest tree as white ash.  
But, just like we don't choose relatives, a tree doesn't choose its landing place.

 Most of the island's trees are tupelo.  I haven't seen a tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), aka sweetgum,
in years, so it was nice to get reacquainted.

 This vine is new to me.  Probably climbing hempweed, Mikania scandens.

Whole lotta turnin' goin' on: 
I'd thought the color I was seeing in the neighborhood was the result of drought, but here we have
 tupelo, royal fern, red maple, and water willow all in fall color, but with plenty of water.

One more surprise: I was Not Alone.  Look a bit like racoon tracks,
but not big enough, I think.  Whatever it was had to swim to get there.

A last look before leaving the island.


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