Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Trip to Ricketts Glen State Park

This Saturday, my mom, brother, and I traveled to the area around Ricketts Glen State Park. Our first stop was State Game Lands #57, which is located directly north of the state park. Upon arriving, we parked in a gravel lot situated next to this rocky stream. The stream was bordered with plants such as meadowsweet and silky dogwood.

The muddy parking lot was a perfect location for "puddling". Puddling is a behavior exhibited by many butterflies in order to collect minerals. Certain butterflies, like this Red-spotted Purple, are commonly found at puddles and muddy areas.

We found this White Admiral in the same parking lot. This White Admiral actually belongs to the same species as the previous butterfly. The two subspecies are different in appearance, but are almost identical in structure. The White Admiral is the more northern subspecies of the species.

From the parking lot, we walked along a grassy road that meanders along the creek. This partially wooded area was filled with dragonflies including this female American Emerald.

Chalk-fronted Corporals were another extremely common dragonfly along this road. Over the course of a few hours, we saw over one hundred of these skittish insects.

After a little while, the road became muddy, and we found ourselves in a sphagnum bog. The waterlogged Sphagnum moss provides an excellent place for certain unusual plants to grow. My mom spotted this round-leaved sundew, a carnivorous plant, growing along the edge of the trail. Sundew plants trap prey in the sticky "dew" on the leaves. The plant then secretes enzymes that dissolve the insect and allow the plant to receive essential nutrients.

The bog, which is very similar to habitats found farther north, is home to "northern" butterflies like this Common Ringlet.

Leatherleaf is another plant that is common in the bog on State Game Lands #57.

One of the most well-known bog plants is the cranberry. At the time we explored the bog, the flowers were just beginning to open.

The bog is filled with various grasses, sedges, and shrubs that grow on top of a thick layer of Sphagnum moss.

In the game lands between the bog and the road, we walked along a section of forest that was recently logged. The logging created perfect habitat for many bird species. While hiking through this area, we heard several Least Flycatchers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and White-throated Sparrows.

The logged area also opened up habitat for unusual dragonfly species. I photographed this Maine Snaketail after it caught a small insect, and then perched to eat.

After exploring the game lands, we headed into the state park. Our first stop was at "the Hayfields," a large expanse of grasses and highbush blueberries. From the top of the hill, we saw a large swath of purple flowers in the wetland below.

As we walked down to the wet area, we realized that the purple flowers were blue flag irises.

From the Hayfields we travelled to the main attraction of Ricketts Glen, the waterfalls. Along the wooded trail, we found numerous lichen-covered trees and moss-covered rocks.

The damp, rocky forest provided perfect habitat for plants such as this hobblebush.

The woods at Ricketts Glen are a wonderful place for wildflowers. We found several spring flowers that were going to seed. Trilliums were some of the more common wildflowers along with starflower, indian cucumber-root, and northern wood-sorrel.

After walking for a while, we finally reached the first waterfall. The sight of the falling water, green hobblebush, and textured bark of the hemlocks was a splendid sight!

The Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen travels down along one creek then climbs up along another providing great views of over twenty waterfalls.

While hiking along the stream, we found this mountain maple growing along the stream. Unlike many other species in the genus, mountain maple has flowers that grown on a cluster.

The most abundant wildflower along the waterfalls was northern wood-sorrel, which has flowers ranging from white to pink.

We had a great day of hiking and exploring!


Jeffro said...

Great photo essay! Loved all the photos, especially the odonates, as I'm just learning them. Love indian cucumber root! Ricketts Glen State Park is a gem. It has been several years since I've been there. I need to go back. Thanks for sharing and motivating me. Glad you all had a great day! Peace!

Julie Stone said...

Wow! I just discovered your blog and I'm very impressed. Great content, writing, and photos. You're a teenager? It gives me hope for the future that there are still young people out there who want to be naturalists.

Anonymous said...

Nice post! gs