A Canal Towpath/Trail Walk

Late this morning I decided to battle cabin fever (its been raining for days) and investigate a local wetland and historic, canal waterway. The canal and towpath date back to the middle of the 19th century. Thanks to an active, volunteer conservation group, they are now an important wildlife sanctuary and recreation resource.


Chenango Canal and towpath/trail

Two “alien” or non-native plants are in full bloom now, both of which were growing at the edge of the canal.

Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis), a native of Europe and Asia, has escaped from gardens and become naturalized. It prefers moist soils, but isn’t too site-sensitive and groups of plants are blooming everywhere – roadsides, field edges, vacant lots, etc. This tall wildflower looks like Phlox, but unlike that common garden plant, has just four petals and an alternate leaf arrangement. I like its colorful floral display and the fact that the small, tubular flowers attract butterflies and other insects.


Dame’s Rocket in a damp, uncultivated area next to active farmland


Dame’s Rocket


Crescent butterfly on Dame’s Rocket


White Admiral butterfly on Dame’s Rocket

Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus), of European origin, is another species that has successfully escaped from cultivation. It is a wet site plant and extensive stands are locally common in marshes, on floodplains and along stream banks. In some areas Yellow Iris has received the status of “invasive”. The plants occur in large clumps, 2 to 3 feet tall, and are vigorous and sturdy. I often see large, expanding colonies along stream banks that seem immune to severe flooding and fluctuating water levels.


Yellow Iris


Yellow iris

I visited the canal hoping to see waterfowl, perhaps a family of Wood Ducks. A feather was the best I could do, but I had some great turtle sightings that offset the disappointment!


Waterfowl feather lodged against a cattail stalk

Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are active now. I saw a road-killed female on my way to the canal and thought of a recent warning in the local newspaper: “slow down for turtles when driving near wetlands”.


Snapping Turtle swimming in the fertile, slow-moving water of the canal

Of the nearly 20 species of turtles native to New York State, the Snapping Turtle and smaller Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) are the most common. Painted Turtles are often seen sunning on logs and rocks in the shallow, sluggish waters of swamps, marshes and ponds.


Eastern Painted Turtle at rest

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

7 thoughts on “A Canal Towpath/Trail Walk

  1. What a gorgeous walk along your wetlands. The background information was very informative, I really learned quite a bit. I did not know there was a White Admiral butterfly. I am much more familiar with the Admiral butterfly. Thank you for sharing your walk and the wonderful photos.

    • My pleasure Charlie. Glad you enjoyed it and, as always, thanks for following. Hope to post again from that site – it’s full of surprises and mini-stories.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful photos. I enjoy your blog immensely for both the information, as well as for the photos.

    • That’s great! Thanks Judith. I’m very pleased to get positive feedback on the information part of it because I’ve experimented with a photo-only post and don’t find it to be nearly as satisfying as the brief story format; on reflection, I retired from teaching…. but I didn’t.

  3. As always Nick I love reading your posts and loooking at your pictures. It always amazes me how you find such wonderful things to photograph. Love the snapper!

  4. I’m looking through your posts and I could ‘like’ them all. Your photos are just stunning. Now I’m hooked and must follow!

    • Thanks PK – made my day! I have a modest Nikon DSLR system and my workhorse lens is a 70-300 zoom. I try to compensate for the lack of reach with persistent time afield and cropping as needed. Regardless of the plan, there’s always a little luck in the mix too. Hope to hold your interest and also looking forward to visiting your posts.

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