Month: February 2019

20 Feb 2019

The “honeysuckle woods”

In 2017, the research team identified the “honeysuckle” woods on the property where the honeysuckle removal project will happen.  Three main treatments (basal spray, hand cut stems and mechanical removal) will be applied to different areas of the woods and the impact on vegetation and seedlings monitored.  A separate property in Indian Hill will remain untreated and serve as the control for the experiment. The main treatments will then be subdivided into additional treatments. In the basal spray treatment the honeysuckle skeletons will be left standing in some locations or removed the following spring.  There is some evidence that standing dead honeysuckle protects emerging tree seedling from deer browsing. The hand cut stems will either have herbicide applied to the stumps or this application will be delayed until fall when a foliar spray will be applied. Finally the mechanical cutting of the honeysuckle will be followed by spraying while other areas will see a delay and foliar spray applied in the fall.  Subsequent monitoring will help us determine which treatment is most effective at producing a thriving community of tree seedlings and native vegetation.

Image A shows hand cut stems sprayed with herbicide and image B shows the result of large scale mechanical removal of honeysuckle.  The research team is collecting data on what happens next after different honeysuckle removal strategies are employed.

Image A
Image B
11 Feb 2019

One year of monitoring later

We have just completed our first year of monitoring and established some baseline data.  In the understory, invasive shrubs and vines are growing throughout our woodlands. In areas of higher native diversity, the dominance of invasive species is lower.  In understories thick with honeysuckle there are very few seedlings and saplings. Our canopy data show a rise of red maples is happening across the property. Red maples have physiological properties that make them successful in both early and late successional stages of the forest.  Based our surveys, our oak hickory forest is being replaced by other hardwood species such as maple and beech. The large oaks and hickories close the canopy for light, and oak and hickory seedlings are not shade tolerant compared to the other species found in the woods. We will keep documenting this shift.

This diagram represents data from one of our most diverse communities (oak hickory).  Twenty six species were observed over the summer and fall seasons and the most frequent species (seen in 4/5 or 5/5 plots) are pictured.   The three invasive species observed in high frequency were chickweed, honeysuckle and winter creeper.

07 Feb 2019

A Mystery Waiting to Be Solved

Tracking_fox

Sometimes the stiff crunch of frozen leaves under our boots and the dull browns and grays can make winter seem a little underwhelming in the nature scene. We know from reading ‘Don’t Poke a Bear’ that most animals are active during winter. It’s funny to think about how many animals are eating, sleeping, and surviving all around us, most of the time without our knowledge. Winter is no exception. And with a little magic, we can get a better glimpse into their lives. And by magic, I mean a fresh coat of snow. Even their stealth and nocturnal habits are no match against Mother Nature. It’s like every movement is recorded into the blank pages of a book. For the Harry Potter fans out there, think of Marauder’s map. All of a sudden, footprints appear!

Tracking is an activity that can spruce up your winter time blues. One part of tracking is to identify footprints. Looking at the size, shape, gait, and number of digits will help you to decipher who was there. You can start tracking in your own backyard! Did you know that squirrels and rabbits hop with their back feet landing in front of their front feet (pic 1)? You may learn to appreciate how far squirrels can hop and that their tracks always seem to disappear next to a tree. Do you have a pet dog or cat? Look for claw marks with your dog, but not with your cat. Similar to your pets, our wild canine friends like fox and coyote also have four digits. Be sure to check on the surface of logs: foxes enjoy a little balancing act (pic 2). I love seeing the simple bird tracks from birds hopping around my feeders. Have you ever looked close enough to find wing prints in the snow? Some more obvious clues around a feeder may include tufts of hair, small feathers, or even blood! Some of my favorite tracks to find are tiny feet with a line running through it. Can’t you just picture the mouse dragging its tail while it hops through the snow? If you pay enough attention, you may even find the mouse’s tunnel or home.

On one tracking expedition, the temperatures had not gone over 25 degrees for a week, yet we saw evidence of: small song birds, great blue heron, coyote, fox, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, field mouse, vole, turkey, and white-tailed deer. In addition to footprints, we found chewed twigs and nuts, urine, scat, and blood. You can be a beginner tracking the squirrels and birds in your backyard, or an experienced tracker following a fox back to its den. Tracking tells a story of what happened, whether it was a deer wandering around looking for food or a red-tailed hawk diving down to scoop up an unlucky field mouse. Tracking is a mystery waiting to be solved and I encourage you to put on your layers, take a hike, and tell your own story.

~Tracy