Clouds And Sunshine: A Tale Of Two Autumn Walks At Community Park
Although it hasn’t felt like it, Fall began here in the Northern Hemisphere over two weeks ago. I took a couple of Autumn walks at the Community Park near my home in Hazle Township in this unusually mild weather we have been experiencing. The first hike, on the first day of Fall was on an overcast but mild afternoon.
Ominous looking storm clouds threatened rain as I walked along the shore of Lake Irena. It was a gloomy but mild day. The once lush green pickerelweed, and it’s bright bluish/purple flowers had shriveled up and turned brown.
There were a few wildflowers still in bloom near the lake which brightened this dark and gloomy day including frost asters, (although we haven’t had a frost yet, which is very unusual for our area),
rabbit tobacco flowers. This native plant was used for medicinal purposes by many Native American tribes and some believed it had spiritual powers.
There was also many varieties of goldenrod in bloom including this wrinkleleaf goldenrod. Usually these flowers ( or obnoxious weeds to some) attract many insects. But not these autumn walks, on this afternoon or my hike a few days later. I didn’t see a single insect near the lake.
I did see a few black-capped chickadees when I crossed the bridge and entered the woodlands on the north side of the lake.
Here I also saw more signs, that, despite the warm weather Fall was here. The cinnamon ferns were turning yellow,
and many of the leaves on the blueberry bushes were already changed into their bright red Fall colors.
There was a hint of yellow and red on many of the trees along the trail too.
I walked around the lake and then followed the trail into the surrounding woodlands. In addition to being unseasonably mild, it was also a very wet September. The wet weather produced one of the best mushroom seasons I have ever experienced. I gathered hundreds of pounds of wild edible mushrooms this year. On this hike I saw a lot of mushrooms, but unfortunately, only a few were edible, like these honey mushrooms (also known as stumpers and popinkies in these parts).
Some that were also edible, like this giant puffball was already to old to gather.
Others, like this amanita, I think it is a panther or a blusher and
these pretty jack-o-lantern mushrooms were poisonous.
On a small pond along the trail I did see some dragonflies darting above the water,
and noticed it was laying eggs,. I am sure the eggs will hatch and live under water, even when covered by the ice in Winter, in the nymph stage of their development.
After watching the dragonfly, I walked back to the lake, and I made it back to my Jeep before any rains fell.
A week later I returned to the park under sunny skies.
The lake sure looked different under the clear blue late September skies.
There was more color in the trees surrounding the lake.
On this hike there were quite a few of these dragonflies, I believe they are autumn meadowhawks, hovering and darting along the shores of the lake. Some were also laying eggs.
Walking over the bridge, and into the woods I noticed most of the cinnamon ferns were now yellow and brown.
The bracken fern were completely brown and shriveled now.
However, the endangered American climbing fern. or Hartford fern that grows on the trail along the lake was still thriving and green.
Once again I left the lake trail and hiked into the surrounding woodlands.
Here I again found some wild mushrooms growing, including some variety of bolete,
this pretty mushroom I can’t identify,
surprisingly, some brick tops mushrooms. These edible mushrooms usually appear later in October after the first frost.
I also found this discarded oak apple gall on the ground. This gall is produced by a wasp that causes an oak tree to create this growth. The wasp then lays it’s eggs in the gall were they develop into wasps.
Also scattered on the ground was a large crop of acorns.
As I started my return hike I found a couple of insects. This cool ground crab spider, and
I believe a pearl crescentspot butterfly.
As always I enjoyed my Autumn walks in Community Park. There is not as much wildlife, or wildflowers, as there are in the Spring and Summer, but nature always provide me with something interesting and beautiful to photograph and share. Here is a link to a gallery with more photos from my Autumn walk in Community Park. Community Park September, 22, 27 2021.
“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love—that makes life and nature harmonize.” George Elliot