Backlight accentuates thousands of drying plants and seeds along the trail edges. Showy tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense) seeds "Velcro" themselves to passing cattail down, making striking silhouettes against the softly focused dewy sparkles of the marsh behind.
Milk parsley (Peucedanum palustre) seeds on beautiful, umbel-shaped armatures, join the weedy tangle, promising continued vitality for this rare northern European immigrant at Great Meadows.
In the fall, spiders are particularly obvious along edges of wetlands, fields, and trails and the lowered light angles of dawn, dusk, and the season in general highlight their gossamer weavings. This morning these dew-studded webs catch the light, creating infinite beauty along the dike trail.
As the marsh awakens, thousands of many-eyed lotus pods catch the light on their dew-dappled surfaces, evoking primal feelings as I gaze back at them.
And finally, a surprise greeting from another early riser as I encounter a young Cooper's Hawk scanning the marsh from its high perch on the observation deck railing.
Much of the morning's magic melts away by 8 am as the sun climbs higher above the marsh. Temperatures warm, surfaces dry, birds quiet, and eyes squint as autumn color becomes more vibrant across the marsh. With sunrises coming later each morning, it will be easier to revisit these early morning wonders in the weeks ahead.