Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cathedral Pines Preserve, Cornwall, Connecticut

Sunday I participated in one of the many Housatonic Heritage Walks taking place that day. Naturalist, Ron Hummel, led an interesting hike in the Cathedral Pines Preserve in Cornwall, Connecticut. The 42-acre parcel of tall, old white pines was saved from logging in 1883 when it was purchased by John E. Calhoun, an early preservationist. In 1967, his family gave it to the Nature Conservancy who manages it today.

The pines are estimated to have begun their lives in the second half of the 1700s. Now many of them are 150 feet tall and over 200 years old. They grow straight up to a high canopy that gives the forest an otherworldly feel.  In 1982 the preserve was declared a National Natural Landmark. Sadly in 1989, tornadoes devastated the pines and only a few acres remain. A trail leads up the hill past many downed trunks to the "Cathedral". Here are some interesting historical photos and information on the Cornwall Historical Society website.

I rarely see white pines this straight and tall!
Young hemlocks are growing up
under the pines.
The trees downed by the tornadoes 25 years ago
 are covered with moss.
Sad to see all these formerly magnificent trees lying on the forest floor.
Ron Hummel pointed out signs of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid,
 the white fuzz on the underside of the tips of hemlock twigs.
A tiny Asian insect the size of an aphid is seriously threatening
Eastern Hemlock trees in the eastern US.
We also walked on another preserve nearby.
Ron Hummel showed us an oak gall
made by the oak wasp.
In Ballyhack Preserve, we saw an area of small pines on the forest floor
 which in another 200 years will be old growth!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Visit to Portland, Oregon

Last week I visited my son and daughter-in-law in Portland, Oregon. We hiked, walked the city neighborhoods, ate wonderful food, watched the Vaux's Swifts roost and visited Powell's Bookstore, a huge independent new & used bookstore. Portland is a wonderful city!

On the flight into Portland, we passed over Mt. St. Helens.
It seem to me that all plants grow more lushly in Portland.
roses caught my eye.

We climbed to Angel's Rest for amazing views of the Columbia River gorge.
We walked among the tall trees up to the rocky outcropping,
about 5 miles roundtrip.
Thousands of Vaux's Swifts roost inside this chimney every night for three weeks  as they are gathering to migrate south to Central and South America. First the birds gather in the air over the chimney. Then in concert, they begin circling in a funnel-shaped formation as they follow each other into the chimney. Once they began circling, it took about 20 minutes
to get them all inside the chimney.

For three weeks, hundreds of adults, kids & dogs gather on a hillside
each evening to watch the spectacle. It's a fun party!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Phenology on the Appalachian Trail, Sheffield

I have joined a phenology study along the Appalachian Trail under the direction of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. As the Nature's Notebook website explains, "Phenology refers to key seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year—such as flowering, emergence of insects and migration of birds—especially their timing and relationship with weather and climate."

I will be observing and monitoring the changes in three tree species: red oak, white oak, and sugar maple. So every week I will visit the site and check the same trees, two of each species, and note the fall, winter, spring, and summer changes. Some of those changes are: change in leaf color, loss of leaves, bud development, emergence of the leaves in the spring, etc.

Silvia Cassano of the ATC picked out the trees
 and tagged them so I always check the same tree.
She recorded them so I can download
my observations to their website.
Each tree has a tag and each tag
has a number so I don't get confused!
The Nature Conservancy is monitoring sights such as mine all up and down the Appalachian Trail corridor. The data will be used by, for example, scientists in various research projects, land managers, and policy makers. This will be a long-term study. It's fun to be a part, albeit a small part, of this project.