Category Archives: Muskrat

Exploring Pompton Aquatic Park! (Passaic County Parks)


Pompton Aquatic Park Passaic County Park System

Welcome! Today’s virtual hike will take us on a journey through a preserved floodplain forest of the Pompton River, a major tributary of the Passaic River.

Our hike will be in Pompton Aquatic Park (part of the Passaic County Park System). The park runs through sections of Wayne, Pompton Lakes and Pequannock. The park is about an estimated 78 acres (with 28 acres located in Wayne and Pompton Lakes and 46 acres located in Pequannock).

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Hiking Ramapo Mountain State Forest!


Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Welcome to Ramapo Mountain State Forest! Today we are going to be hiking near a portion of Ramapo Lake, see outstanding views and explore old ruins!

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Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center!


Morris County Park Commission Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

Morris County Park Commission Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

Welcome to Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center!

Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (GSOEC) consists of a 44 acre portion of the Great Swamp managed since 1963 by the Morris County Parks Department. The GSOEC hosts guided nature walks, school, scout and public educational programs.

Herp Study in Progress

Herp Study in Progress

The GSOEC hosts periodic studies of the flora and fauna to determine the overall health of the Great Swamp.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

The estimated 7,768 acre Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge  (GSNWR) abuts the GSOEC to the west. The GSNWR is one of 553 refuges administered by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lands comprising a National Wildlife Refuge are managed for the protection of wildlife and its habitat.

History of the Great Swamp

The origin of the Great Swamp begins with the melting and subsequent retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier around 25,000 years ago.  Debris from the glacier blocked the passage of an ancient river creating an enormous lake known as Lake Passaic. Lake Passaic is thought to have been 30 miles long and 10 miles wide.  Over time, an outlet was formed near Little Falls NJ draining the lake via the Passaic River. This drainage is still occurring today. Today the Great Swamp forms a remnant component of the once great Lake Passaic.

GSOEC Forest

GSOEC Forest

In the late 1950’s the area now known as the Great Swamp was identified by the NYNJ Port Authority as an ideal location for a new jetport.  The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation mobilized volunteers to protect the Great Swamp. The result was the establishment of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation later became the North Jersey Conservation Foundation and then finally known as  New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Trails:

Trail

 

GSOEC features five short loop trails. Two of the four trails (Orange & Red) are interpretive and follow 16 markers listed in a self guided trail booklet available at the education center.

Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center Trail Map

The trail map above was taken from the Morris County Parks webpage.

The total length of the trails is 1.4 miles.

Virtual Tour:

Ready to take a virtual tour of the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center? Let’s Go!

Kiosk

 

Stop by the kiosk near the parking lot to pick up a trail map. From the kiosk, head to the education center to view the exhibits on the flora and fauna of the Great Swamp.

Outdoor Education Nature Center with Kiosk

Outdoor Education Nature Center with Kiosk

Mammals of The Great Swamp

Mammals of The Great Swamp

Endangered in New Jersey

Endangered in New Jersey

After checking out the exhibits inside, it’s time to start our hike.

Orange Trail Trailhead

Orange Trail Trailhead

Let’s begin our virtual hike by taking the Orange Blazed trail located to the south of the education center. The Orange Trail at .61 Miles is the longest trail present in the GSOEC. It contains Markers 1-10 from the self guided trail.

Marker 1 Red Maple

Marker 1

The first marker, regarding the Red Maple tree, appears shortly after the beginning of the orange trail. Red Maple is the most common tree in the Great Swamp as well as the eastern deciduous forest.

Red Maple Leaves

Red Maple Leaves

Red Maple’s flowers are red in the spring and the leaves turn a brilliant red in the fall. Though the Sugar Maple may come to mind when it comes to maple syrup, Red Maple can be tapped for syrup as well. Red Maple should be tapped before budding occurs as the buds change the chemical makeup of the syrup.

Marker 2 Large Depression

Marker 2

Continuing on the orange trail, marker #2 comes into view on the right where a large depression may be found.

Large Depression

Large Depression

The large depression is known as a vernal pond. Vernal ponds do not support fish and may be dry or filled with water. Due to the lack of predators (i.e. fish) the vernal pond provides a safe haven for amphibians such as Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers and Blue-Spotted Salamanders among other species to breed and lay eggs.  Continuing past the vernal pond, two fenced areas appear shortly after on the left.

Marker 3 with Deer Enclosure in background

Marker 3 with Deer Enclosure in background

Marker # 3 explains that these sections of the GSOEC were fenced in 2009 to study how plant communities recover from the damage caused by an overpopulation of white tail deer.

Marker 4 EcoTone

Marker 4 EcoTone

Marker #4 describes an Ecotone. An Ecotone is anywhere two habitats meet and create an edge. The Ecotone present here was created by the Power line right of way. The positive aspects of this man-made Ecotone is  the creation of suitable nesting habitat for the local turtle population in addition to providing a valuable hunting ground for birds of prey. On the flipside, the disturbed ground caused by the creation of the power lines have provided ideal habitat for invasive plants  as Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose, Garlic Mustard, Wineberry & Japanese Barberry.

Marker 5 The Pond

Marker 5 The Pond

Continuing in a southwest direction, the dirt path changes to a boardwalk as the trail traverses the wetland area.

Orange Trail Boardwalk

Orange Trail Boardwalk

A short boardwalk appears to the right of the main boardwalk which leads to the Pond which is marker #5.

The Pond

The Pond

Ponds are usually less than 18 feet deep. Eventually as plant matter and other organic material decays, the pond will begin to become a marsh, progress to a forested wetland and finally upland habitat after many years.

Turtles on the Pond

Turtles on the Pond

The Pond at GSOEC is manmade and provides habitat for Eastern Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles, Wood Ducks, Mallards, Belted Kingfisher and River Otters among others. Flora of the Pond includes Yellow Flowered Spatterdock & Duckweed.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Continuing on the trail leads to Marker #6 which describes Poison Ivy which is seen here growing as a hairy vine.  Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people.   In addition to a hairy vine Poison Ivy can be found as a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground.

Several rhymes exist warning of the dangers of Poison Ivy:

“Leaves of three, let them be”

“Hairy rope, don’t be a dope”

“Hairy vine, no friend of mine”

Common plants often misidentified as Poison Ivy include Virginia Creeper and Box Elder Maple among other species.

Despite the negative publicity this native plant receives, Poison Ivy has tremendous value for wildlife.  Native birds such as Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Dark Eyed Junco and Northern Flicker eat Poison Ivy’s white berries. Mammals such as White-Tail Deer and Eastern Cottontail consume Poison Ivy’s leaves.

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

At this point of the hike you may notice abundant Mountain Laurel. Marker # 7 appears here.

Marker 7 The Browse Line

Marker 7 The Browse Line

Its purpose is to briefly touch upon “the browse line”. The over abundant white- tail deer have stripped all leaves of vegetation from six feet down. If the current trend continues, there may not be a forest here in the future.

From this area, the trail head of the .23 of a mile Blue trail loop appears.

Blue Trail Trailhead

Blue Trail Trailhead

Let’s take a brief break from the interpretive trail to explore this short trail.

Blue Blaze Swamp Chestnut Oak

Blue Blaze Swamp Chestnut Oak

The Blue Trail Loop goes through an upland area consisting of mostly Mountain Laurel and Swamp Chestnut Oak.

Dried Vernal Pond Blue Trail

Dried Vernal Pond Blue Trail

The trail encircles a small vernal pond (the vernal pond, seen here is dry during our virtual tour).

Blue Trail trailend

Blue Trail end

Completing the Blue Trail Loop, head back to the Orange Trail and to Marker # 8 which describes the function of a rotting log in the forest.

Rotting Log

Rotting Log

Standing dead trees or snags play an important role in the eastern deciduous forest. Woodpeckers including Pileated, Downy and Red-Bellied among others excavate holes in the dead trees searching for tasty insects. These excavated holes in turn create habitat for birds including Black-Capped Chickadee. Fungus will usually invade the dead wood further softening it. Eventually, the tree will fall to the forest floor where it will continue to decay creating a rich organic soil which will support future species of trees.

Marker 9 Phragmites Marsh

Marker 9 Phragmites Marsh

Proceed  east  to Marker # 9 The Phragmites Marsh. Phragmites (aka Giant Reed) is a giant species of grass which can grow from 10-20 feet.  Phragmites thrives in disturbed areas. Phragmites found in the Great Swamp are native to the eastern deciduous forest. Phragmites are considered invasive because of its aggressive growth and tendency to overwhelm all other vegetation.

Marker 10 Wigwam Replica

Marker 10

Outdoor Study Area

Outdoor Study Area

From here the trail leaves the boardwalk and heads south to marker # 10 which passes an outdoor study area and leads to a Wigwam replica.

Wigwam

Wigwam

The Lenape Native Americans (the original people) created Wigwams as shelter from saplings, tree bark and Cattail Mats among others. This replica would have been big enough for two people. Marker #10 is the last marker for the orange trail.

Orange Trail Trailend

Orange Trail end

After heading back from the Wigwam, turn right on the Orange Trail and follow the trail a brief distance to its terminus.

Prayer of the Woods

Prayer of the Woods

The “Prayer of the Woods” sign is found right before the start of the Red Trail. After reading the Prayer and taking in its message, turn right to start hiking the .39 mile Red Trail to continue the interpretive trail.

Red Trail Trailhead

Red Trail Trailhead

The first marker on the Red Trail is #11 which identifies trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest.

Marker 11 Deciduous Forest

Marker 11 Deciduous Forest

Trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest include the below among others:

Musclewood

Musclewood

Black Oak Self Guiding Trail

Black Oak

Pin Oak

Pin Oak

Tupelo

Tupelo

Sassafras

Sassafras

The term “deciduous” indicates that the trees comprising this type of forest lose their leaves each fall and grow new leaves in the spring.

Marker 12 Transmission Lines and Marsh

Marker 12 Transmission Lines and Marsh

Continuing on the red trail leads Marker #12 “Transmission Lines and Marsh”.

Red Trail Power Cut

Red Trail Power Cut

Here, vegetation is periodically removed or trimmed back so as to not interfere with the power lines. This wet marsh provides habitat to Wood Ducks, Mallards, Muskrats and Red-Wing Blackbirds among others.

Red Trail to Education Center

Red Trail to Education Center

From here turn left at the sign leading to the education center to go to Marker # 13.

Marker 13 Stream

The Red Trail approaches Marker #13 as it crosses a stream.

Red Trail Stream Crossing

Red Trail Stream Crossing

Sediments and rocks on the stream bottom provides habitat for a variety of Crayfish and Macro-invertebrates. Marco-invertebrates lack backbones and can be seen without the aid of a microscope.  Certain macro-invertebrates such as Caddisflies are pollutant intolerant. Presence of pollutant intolerant macro-invertebrates are one way to indicate the health of a stream. Macro- invertebrates eat many different things depending on the species-there are predators, scavengers, and herbivores among them. In turn, macro-invertebrates are a source of food for various turtles, fish and frogs.

#14 The Wet Meadow

Marker #14 The Wet Meadow

Continuing on the red trail leads to Marker #14 which discusses“The Wet Meadow”. The Wet Meadow is a man-made habitat created by a power-line cut and is home to field mice, star-nosed moles and various hawks & owls among others.

Marker #15 American Beech

Marker #15 American Beech

Marker #15 leads to an American Beech Tree. The smooth gray bark of the American Beech Tree usually invites individuals to carve their names and other messages into the trunks. Carving in a tree trunk is similar to a cut on your finger. However, unlike your injured finger, a tree cannot put a band-aid on its wound. The carved bark is an open door for disease.

Beech Drops

Beech Drops

Beechdrops, seen here in this picture, lack both leaves and chlorophyll and is a parasitic plant of the American Beech Tree.

#16 The Swamp

Marker  #16 The Swamp

Marker #16 The Swamp

The final marker on the red trail briefly discusses the importance of the Great Swamp. The land comprising the Great Swamp is a mix of meadows, upland woods, marsh and brush covered swamps. Only 40% of the Great Swamp is wet either part of the year or all year long whereas 60% of the Great Swamp  consists of upland forest & meadows.

Red Trail End

Red Trail End

We are now at the end of the Red Trail.

Green Trail Blaze

Green Trail Blaze

At the end of the red trail head north to catch the beginning of the short .20 of a mile Green Trail near the parking area. The Green trail traverses in a short loop in an upland portion of the GSOEC.

Mushrooms Green Trail

Gilled Mushrooms Green Trail

Check out these Gilled Mushrooms growing next to the tree stump! 

Wildlife Blind

Wildlife Blind

After the Green Trail is complete, it’s time to visit the Observation Blind located off the parking lot which views the Pond looking west.

Turtles on the Pond from Wildlife Blind

Turtles on the Pond from Wildlife Blind

This concludes our virtual hike! I hope you enjoyed it and it inspired you to take a trip to see the GSOEC for yourself!

Cinnamon Fern

The GSOEC is located at 247 Southern BLVD Chatham, NJ.

 

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out the latest bird sightings at Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center Here!

 

Little Ferry’s Losen Slote Creek Park!


Losen Slote Creek Park

Losen Slote Creek Park

Welcome to the 28 acre Losen Slote Creek Park! The Park is located in Little Ferry, NJ and contains 26 acres of woodland and meadows. 2 acres are dedicated to recreation.

Losen Slote Creek Park Boundaries

The park, named for the creek which flows through it, was created in 1990 by an agreement with the Borough of Little Ferry and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA). The NJSEA has a 99 year lease agreement with Little Ferry for public access. Losen Slote Creek Park has the Little Ferry Department of Public Works to the north, the Bergen County Utilities Authority Nature Preserve to the east, Losen Slote on its western border and the Richard P Kane Natural Area to the south.

Losen Slote Creek Park

Losen Slote Creek Park

Habitat found in the preserve includes forested freshwater wetlands, meadows and a portion of the Losen Slote Creek, a major tributary of the lower Hackensack River watershed. The name “Losen Slote” is of Dutch origin and translates to “curvy creek”. As such, the name of the park translates to “Curvy Creek Creek Park”. 🙂

Losen Slote

Losen Slote

Losen Slote is not influenced by tidal waters because of a tide gate that is present near Losen Slote’s confluence with the Hackensack River. The tide gate was installed by the Bergen County Mosquito Authority around 1921. Losen Slote has been labeled by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as “FW2-NT/SE2”. This classification indicates that these waters do not contain trout (NT=No Trout) and are a mixture of fresh and salt water.

May 6, 2012 NJSEA & Bergen County Audubon Society Tour

Birders in Losen Slote Creek Park

Birders in Losen Slote Creek Park

The NJ Sports and Exposition Authority  (NJSEA) & the Bergen County Audubon Society led a 1.5 mile 2 hour tour of Losen Slote Creek Park on May 6, 2012 to look for migrating birds and other wildlife.

The trail map of Losen Slote along with the color blazed trail map is shown below:

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Jim Wright of the Meadowlands Commission

Jim Wright

Jim Wright formerly of the previously named NJSEA  informed the group of the different habitats found in the park before the tour began.

I was happy to attend because it provided a chance to explore & undertake a deeper understanding of the flora & fauna that can be found in Bergen County’s sole remaining lowland forest.

Wet Meadow Habitat

Losen Slote Creek Park Wet Meadow Habitat

After the group assembled in the parking lot, we stopped near the entrance to the forest by a wet meadow where Solitary Sandpipers and Greater Yellowlegs were poking around. Most attendees commented that they had never seen so many Solitary Sandpipers gathered in one spot before.

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail

After entering the forest, the group almost immediately spotted a Baltimore Oriole and at least 2 Scarlet Tanagers high in the trees (and too high for me to get a picture). I did get a picture of a Gray Catbird who was singing a territory song.

Gray Catbird

Soon after I took the picture of the catbird, a splash was heard in a nearby ditch as a Muskrat made a quick getaway which I caught on camera as a blur.

Blurry Muskrat

Blurry Muskrat

As we traveled further into the woods, a good amount of native flora was present:

Don Torino of the Bergen County Audubon Society with Canada Mayapple in Bloom

Don Torino of the Bergen County Audubon Society with Canada Mayapple in Bloom

Arrowwood

Arrowwood

Black Cherry In Bloom

Black Cherry In Bloom

Sweet Pepperbush

Sweet Pepperbush

Canada Mayflower In Bloom

Canada Mayflower In Bloom

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon Fern

Gray Birch became the dominant species as the group came into the meadows portion of the preserve.

Gray Birch

Gray Birch

Reaching the creek turtles were spotted basking on a rock and a surprised Great Blue Heron flew away before I could get its picture.

Turtles on a rock in the Losen Slote

Turtles on a rock in the Losen Slote

As we got into the meadows there were plenty of butterflies (especially the Red Admiral) flying around.

Losen Slote Creek Park Field Habitat

Losen Slote Creek Park Field Habitat

A Brown Thrasher was waiting for the group in the meadows and put on quite a show.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Heading in, Raccoon tracks were found in the mud on parts of the trail.

Raccoon Track

The group did notice some Mile-A-Minute, an invasive plant which had sections eaten by insects which  were released in the park to control Mile-A-Minute from taking over.

Mile-a-Minute Insect Holes

Mile-a-Minute Insect Holes

Reaching near the end of the trail, the group turned back to the forest and to the parking lot where the tour concluded.

Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.

NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!

Click here for more information!

Losen Slote

Losen Slote

Many thanks to the NJMC & Bergen County Audubon Society for hosting an excellent walk! Check out the Meadowlands Blog or the Bergen County Audubon Society’s webpage for information regarding future events!

Click here for directions to Losen Slote Creek Park!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Click Here to Check out the Latest Bird Sightings at Losen Slote Creek Park! (Courtesy of eBird)

Books on the Meadowlands!

1. The Nature of the Meadowlands – The Nature of the Meadowlands illuminates the region’s natural and unnatural history, from its darkest days of a half-century ago to its amazing environmental revival.

Click here for more information!

2. The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City – Author Robert Sullivan proves himself to be this fragile yet amazingly resilient region’s perfect expolorer, historian, archaeologist, and comic bard.

Click here for more information!

3. Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story – Slowly but surely, with help from activist groups, government organizations, and ordinary people, the resilient creatures of the Meadowlands are making a comeback, and the wetlands are recovering.

Click here for more information!

4. Fields of Sun and Grass: An Artist’s Journal of the New Jersey Meadowlands – The book has three central parts, respectively called “Yesterday,” “Today,” and “Tomorrow.” Each covers a different time period in the ecological life of the Meadowlands.

Click here for more information!

James A. McFaul Environmental Center!


James A. McFaul Environmental Center

James A McFaul Environmental Center

The James A McFaul Environmental Center is an 81 acre nature preserve located in Wyckoff, NJ.

James McFaul Environmental Center

James McFaul Environmental Center

The environmental center was originally a pig farm and was acquired by Bergen County in 1962 with assistance from Green Acres.  It was named the James A. McFaul Environmental Center in 1990 to honor a Bergen County parks director who did much to acquire this beautiful nature preserve.

Pond

Pond

The 2.5 acre pond was created in 1966 by impounding a Goffle Brook tributary.

Goffle Brook Tributary

Goffle Brook Tributary

A boardwalk extends out over wetlands and provides views of the pond.

Environmental Boardwalk

Environmental Boardwalk

The educational center, which looks out into the pond, includes freshwater aquariums, educational signage and live native animal displays.

Life in a Pond Educational Display

Life in a Pond Educational Display

There are outdoor animal shelters which features Porcupine, White-Tailed DeerGolden Eagle, Red Fox, Eastern Screech Owls and Red-Tailed Hawk exhibits among others.

Porcupine

Porcupine

Outdoor Turtle Display

Outdoor Turtle Display

In addition to live animal displays, the James A. McFaul Environmental Center provides much needed habitat to a multitude of birds and other native wildlife such as:

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Brown-Headed Cowbird

Brown-Headed Cowbird

Canadian Geese

Canadian Geese

White Tail Deer

White Tail Deer

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

Muskrat

Muskrat

Near the entrance to the environmental center, there are Rhododendron and seasonal Daffodil gardens to be enjoyed.

Gardens

Gardens

Nature Trail

McFaul Environmental Center Map

Trail map posted above was taken from the Bergen County Parks Department web page.

Welcome

Welcome to the Nature Center!

Trail

The preserve features a 2/3 of a mile interpretive nature trail which loops around a seasonal swamp and upland.

Nature Trail deciduous wooded wetlands

Deciduous Wooded Wetlands

As you wind along the path, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as White-Tailed Deer, Eastern Chipmunks and Red-Tailed Hawks. Frequent signage appears on the trail to help the hiker to identify the surrounding flora and fauna.

Lowland Habitat Interpretive Signage

Lowland Habitat Interpretive Signage

Tree Cavity Interpretive Signage

Tree Cavity Interpretive Signage

Flora includes the below among others:

James A. McFaul Environmental Center

Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.

NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!

Click here for more information!

Want to check out the James A. McFaul Environmental Center for yourself? Click here for directions (or put this address in your GPS: 150 Crescent Ave. Wyckoff, NJ 07481)!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!