Have I mentioned that Five Rivers is one of my favorite capital region places? Well it is.
Early winter is a surprisingly predictable season. After an initial snowfall we usually get a week or two of mild temperatures, good for afternoon walks. The season already slings the sun low so there’s not as much worry about harsh noontime shadows, for those of us with cameras. I took the advantage of a long walk, there are plenty of trails for anyone who wants to get lost or found.
Winter shoos most of the wildlife away but if you’re patient and aware you can see plenty. Walking along the field, where in the spring bobolinks and tree swallows can be found, I heard odd peeping sounds. In a nearby pond mallards were doing a strange pee-pee dance. By that I mean they were making pee-peep sounds and cavorting in the water. Cavorting? Yes, cavorting. Thank you ducks, without you I wouldn’t have noticed the heron resting on a far bank. After some patient watching he or she went into action. Lunch was spotted, the sinuous neck went into action, supreme fishing skills were employed.
Imagine just after that, a fish in this dog-sized bird’s mouth, which I can’t show you because I didn’t get the focus quite right. Watching a heron hunt is a joy of life, a moment when everything make sense and kinetic beauty illuminates the universe’s meaning. Or something.
Other miracles of life presented themselves, like this gall on a goldenrod stem. It’s probably home to the larva of a Goldenrod Gall Fly, which should make you feel lucky to not be a goldenrod. A shorn trunk held a truly impressive display of bracket fungus.
It’s difficult for me to positively identify the species, so if anyone can help please make yourself known. This is the most impressive display of bracket fungus I’ve seen yet, and my only wish is that the light would have been better. There’s a scrimshaw-like folk art dedicated to carving them; score the underside, and when it dries the etching is permanent.
A Great Blue Heron wasn’t the only bird I saw, above is a male Northern Flicker. How do we know it’s a male? Well, like us (usually), only the male grows that stupendous moustache. I was extremely lucky to see him at all; for reasons unknown I paused on a section of trail, listening and waiting, and a few minutes later dozens of birds came into view, from robins to blue jays to chickadees to downy woodpeckers (or were they hairy, I still have trouble differentiating), to this guy. Flickers are a type of woodpecker but tend to stay near the ground, and I was lucky enough to see this one in full view, searching for lunch. That light stripe at the top is another bird flying by really fast. Okay, it’s just a twig in the foreground, but if I were taking better bird photos I would probably be selling them to magazines, right? (NatGeo, here’s my about page)
As I was leaving, I caught this gorgeous display of an oak tree also leaving, if you get my drift. Sorry, I don’t offer refunds for pun-induced groans. The wind picked up and gave me the perfect Five Rivers goodbye, for the winter at least. I suggest you check that one out large or bigger to get the full effect, not that it equals being there by a long shot.
Five Rivers is one of many treasures in Albany’s backyard. I spent four lazy hours wandering the trails on a Sunday; you can do better, especially if you have kids. You can check out the continuing slideshow, but nothing beats being there. Go, now. I have to give props to Friends of Five Rivers who are keeping the spirit alive even as shrinking state funds threaten the DEC-owned center.