Saturday, November 16, 2013

Autumn's Last Hurrah

Last Saturday (November 9), Kali and I circumabulated Lake Galena, a flood control and water supply reservoir in Peace Valley County Park about 15 miles north of our house.  The walk around the lake covers 6 miles, so it's a commitment of a walk, and the scenery is not inordinately interesting, so we don't do the walk very often.  But, we had to pick up a prescription for one of our cats at a specialty pharmacy near the lake, so we took advantage of the nice day to get some exercise.

Throwing sticks for a happy retreiver

Lake Galena was formed by damming the North Branch of Neshaminy Creek in the 1970's.  The lake is is very narrow, about 2 miles long, and covers about 365 acres.  The county park encompasses over 1,500 acres. 

Lake Galena was so named because of rocks in the area. Galena is another name for lead sulfide, an important ore of lead.  Lead was discovered in the area around 1860 when two people digging a post hole came across a large rock. When split open, it glistened and the diggers brought it to a blacksmith who smelted it and determined that it was indeed lead. A mine was established, which raised land prices, but enthusiasm for mining quickly waned. Towards the end of the 19th century, the metal ores were examined for both gold and silver content and were found to contain about 10-15 ounces of silver per ton of ore.  A small gold speck was also found, which was deemed rare enough a find to put it on display in the Philadelphia Mint. 

Lake Galena has been eutrophic from the time it was originally impounded.  As the lake's watershed  became urbanized, farm field pollution was replaced by runoff from suburbia, with the same net effect on the lake. In addition, fecal coliform concentrations have always exceeded Pennsylvania water quality standards due to both human and animal wastes, preventing any use for contact recreation and rendering useless the bathing beaches originally included in the lake design. 
The legions of Canada geese don't help, either

Canada geese circling for a water landing

There is a lot of interest  in improving water quality since the lake serves as a significant source of drinking water in the area. Water is purified in a treatment plant about 2 miles downstream.  In order to ensure that enough water remains in the reservoir,  water is actually pumped from the cleaner Delaware River (about 15 miles away) into the headwaters of the North Branch of the Neshaminy Creek, which then flows to Lake Galena. When the pumping station was built in the 1980's (to supply drinking water and to provide a consistent source of cooling water for a nuclear power plant) it was very controversial and many people fought it, using the slogan "Dump The Pump." In the end it seems that any negative consequences of the pump were inconsequential.
The trail around the lake crosses the earthen-fill dam
Wooly bear caterpillar
The asphalt trail across the dam sported scores of wooly bear caterpillars, the larvae of a tiger moth (probably Isia isabella).  Folk wisdom suggests that it is possible to forecast the severity of the upcoming winter by comparing the dark and orange strips on the caterpillars, but anecdotal observation by Kali and me revealed that such prognostication is ridiculous because the variation in striping is very high.  The caterpillars were probably enjoying some of the last warmth of the autumn and looking for a place to safely overwinter.  Unfortunately, many had fallen victim to careless recreationists.

Long view (eastward) down the lake

Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
Many of the trees around the lake had lost their leaves, but the woodlands were ablaze in places with the yellow candles of Norway maples, an invasive species that holds its leaves longer than most of the other trees in the area.  They're easy to pick out in late autumn.
For the last week, I've had a lone hen turkey coming to my bird feeder accompanied by a single poult.  Based on its size, the poult probably hatched in August (rather than the more typical late May-early June).  I hope it makes it through the winter; I've been putting out extra seed for mother and offspring - and rooting for them both!
On Tuesday, November 19, I'm going in for some surgery, so I won't be posting (or commenting) for a while for those of my followers who check me out regularly.  I'll provide more details when I'm up to snuff again.


Mark P said...

Good luck with the surgery. We'll be waiting.

packrat said...

Really interesting post, Scott, and the photos are beautiful. Love the caterpillar. Hope all goes well for you on the 19th.

Scott said...

Mark: Thanks for the good wishes. I'll update you as soon as I can type again!

Scott said...

Packrat: The fall foliage around the lake would have made better images a week or so earlier, but we were walking in other places then. Thanks for your good wishes, too!

robin andrea said...

Sure is pretty there, Scott, even though the lake has its fecal drawbacks. Looked like a great day for a long hike.

Good luck with the surgery. Healing vibes coming all the way from California to you!

Scott said...

I'm feeling those vibes, Robin Andrea. Thank you!