The weather is definitely getting cooler. Or at least, it was quite cool this morning -- almost chilly, really -- when I went for a walk around my usual loop in the Naugatuck State Forest. As always, there were plenty of exciting things to see.
I've been keeping my eyes out for this plant ever since I first learned it last year, yet somehow I managed to completely overlook this patch right next to my normal path until today, when the flowers are already mostly faded. This is one of our native orchids, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens):
I love the patterns on those leaves, and the tiny white flowers are quite pretty as well. But really, I think all orchids are wonderful. Just so you can get an idea of this plant in its full glory, here's a close-up picture of these flowers when we found them last year (July 31, 2010) in West Rock Ridge State Park (photo courtesy of Paul):
I learned a couple of new plants today as well, and they both happen to be hawkweeds. Here's Canada Hawkweed (Hieracium canadense):
And Panicled Hawkweed (Hieracium paniculatum), whose flowers seem almost to be floating on those thin stems:
The waterways were bursting with life today. I startled this small Green Frog from its rock into a shallow stream, where it watched me carefully with its feet just touching the sandy bottom (what a beautiful shade of green you have on your face, little frog):
A pair of aptly-named Ebony Jewelwings (a species of damselfly) were fluttering above another stream -- this creature was even brighter in real life, if you can believe it:
And on the stream's surface, big water striders (family Gerridae) skimmed about:
It's quite an amazing ability these insects have. The water looks like pliant plastic under their limbs, or like a trampoline ready to spring. From a distance, the striders were visible mostly by the interesting paw-print shadows they cast in the stream:
I saw some birds today that I'd never seen in this part of the woods before, which makes me wonder if the fall migration is imminent.... The seasons continue to change, but summer isn't quite done yet!