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Emerson Woods Preserve Tour!


Emerson Woods Preserve

On December 4, 2011, Watershed Advocacy group Bergen SWAN (Save the Watershed Action Network) teamed with naturalist Nancy Slowik to host the first ever Emerson Woods nature walk.  Once targeted for intense development, the woods are now preserved and help protect the Oradell Reservoir from non-point source pollution.

Emerson Woods and Oradell Reservoir

Bergen SWAN played a major role in preserving Emerson Woods.  Bergen SWAN has fought for almost 24 years to help preserve the remaining forests surrounding upper Bergen County’s reservoirs.  The most recent settlement occurred in 2009 with United Water. United Water manages the Oradell, Lake Tappan and Woodcliff Lake Reservoirs in Bergen County.  After 5 years of negotiations with Bergen SWAN & the Hackensack Riverkeeper, United Water agreed to granting conservation easements on 3,100 watershed acres to the NJDEP in addition to setting aside $1 million to assist in acquiring and preserving additional land along the Hackensack River and its tributaries.  United Water has since become a close ally of Bergen SWAN by helping to sponsor events such as the 2010 “Planting in the Park” in Pascack Brook County Park and allowing Bergen SWAN to host the December 4th nature walk on United Water watershed land-land which is normally not open to the general public.

Nature Tour

Emerson Woods Nature Tour

The tour, led by naturalist Nancy Slowik, started in the United Water recreation parking lot near Lakeview Terrace in Emerson, NJ.  Once the group was organized, Bergen SWAN opened up the gate to the Oradell Reservoir providing a rare opportunity to walk along the shore of the reservoir.  Nancy directed the tour to the waterfowl present on the open water of the reservoir. Double-crested Cormorant were seen in addition to Hooded Mergansers.

Double Crested Cormorant

Heading away from the shore, the tour passed a stand of American Sycamore with their white peeling bark.

American Sycamore

Early settlers used to make buttons out of American Sycamore seedpods.  The “button” is found inside the seedpod. This practice created another name for the American Sycamore: the Buttonwood Tree. Nancy pointed out Poison Ivy growing on a dead Eastern Hemlock tree. Members of the tour were advised to never touch the hairy vine of Poison Ivy as you can still get a painful itchy rash even in winter.

Poison Ivy Rope on Dead Hemlock Tree

Palmolive dish washing liquid was recommended as an inexpensive cure for poison ivy. The tour then led participants up a gas line right of way for about ¼ a mile.

Along the way, White-Tail Deer were seen browsing in the woods west of the right of way.

White Tail Deer

As the group proceeded on, Nancy pointed out large rectangular holes found on a dead tree.

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

These holes were created by a Pileated Woodpecker, North America’s largest woodpecker.  Most likely the bird was hunting carpenter ants, one it’s favorite sources of food. While the group admired the holes, a Black-Capped Chickadee, Northern Flicker and Red-Bellied Woodpecker were heard calling.

Up ahead on the gas trail was a stand of Northern Red Oak (NJ’s state tree!) with its characteristic “ski slope” bark. Nancy informed the tour that when a Northern Red Oak gets cut it admits a foul odor.

Northern Red Oak

Shortly before turning west onto the Heck Ditch trail, the group happened upon a White Pine plantation.

White Pine Plantation

White pines make excellent habitat for Great Horned Owls and other birds of prey which frequent Emerson Woods.

Possible Hawk or Owl nest in White Pine

Cones of White Pine are sticky with the seeds found inside. Native Americans used to chew on White Pine needles to obtain Vitamin C.

As the group passed the Heck Ditch Nancy pointed out that the oily looking water surface of the ditch was caused by bacteria decomposing leaves.

Heck Ditch

Ground Pine

Ground Pine was found growing in large colonies on the other side of the Heck ditch trail. Ground Pine takes years to become established.

Scouring Rush near Cotton Wood Tree

After walking for about 15-20 minutes on the Heck Ditch trail, the tour headed south on the Equisetum trail which leads back to the United Water Recreating parking lot. Along the way, Nancy pointed out large growths of equisetum growing near massive Cottonwood trees. This collection of Equisetum is thought to consist of the largest stand in New Jersey.  Equisetum are members of an ancient order of plants and appeared well before the appearance of the first flowering plants.  Equisetum was known to early settlers as “Scouring Rush”-a name given for its ability to clean and scrub pots and pans.

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!

Giant Cottonwood

The group headed back to the parking lot as twilight descended. As we walked, we happened upon an abandoned Red-Eyed Vireo nest.  The red-eye vireo spends the winter living in South America.

The group proceeded to the parking area and the tour concluded.

Emerson Woods Preserve

A special thanks to Bergen SWAN and Nancy Slowik for offering the opportunity to explore Emerson Woods in great detail. For more information on Bergen SWAN click here.

The Emerson Woods Preserve are accessible from off of Main Street in Emerson or Lakeview Drive. Ample parking is available on Summer Street. Be sure to check out Bergen SWAN if you wish to participate in nature walks, community clean-ups and educational events in Emerson Woods.

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Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary!


Hallett Nature Sanctuary

Welcome to Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary! The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is located in the southeastern section of world famous Central Park near Central Park South and 5th Avenue.  The sanctuary is an estimated 4 acre rocky upland woodland slope that forms the northern boundary of the artificially created 59th street pond.

59th Street Pond

A tall fence surrounds the forest to the north and west. The western side features a man-made waterfall which falls over Manhattan schist.

Waterfall at Hallett Nature Sanctuary

The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is the smallest of Central Park’s three woodlands.  Formerly known as the Promontory, it was renamed the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in 1986 after George Hervey Hallett, Jr. Hallett was a well known NYC civic leader and nature lover.  The land which became the Hallett Nature Sanctuary was declared a bird sanctuary and formally closed to the general public in 1934.

The preserve served as a living experiment to see how 4 acres of woodland would ecologically function  in the United State’s most populated city.  The results of the experiment were less than encouraging.  All four layers of the forest (the canopy, sub-canopy, shrub and herbaceous layers) were found to be under onslaught from invasive plants including:

Wisteria has been shown to strangle and leave deep indentations on plants it grasps as shown in the picture listed below.

Effects of Invasive Wisteria on shrub after removal

Trail

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Trail

On occasion, the Central Park Conservancy holds tours of the 59th Street pond and the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. This is the only way the general public may access the sanctuary for the entrance (located near Wollman’s Rink in the extreme northern section of the preserve) is chain locked.

Chained locked entrance to Hallett Nature Sanctuary

A short log lined woodchip trail, which was created circa 2003 by local volunteers encircles the sanctuary on its western border.  The land is too rocky and steep for a trail to exist on the eastern side.  The woodchip trail helps water to absorb more easier into the ground preventing erosion on the steep sections of the sanctuary.  In the growing season (spring & summer) as you walk the trail and listen to the tour guide it is hard to believe that you are feet away from Central Park South.

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Forest

The highlight of the tour is discovering the source of the waterfall located on the western border that empties into the pond. Visitors walking by may think the waterfall is generated by a natural spring. The real source is man-made; a hose that turns the waterfall on and off.

Flora

Flora in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary includes the below among others:

Fauna

Many species of birds find a home in Hallett Nature Sanctuary including:

Notable mammals include:

There have been at least two visits by Coyotes in the past five years. Click here for a video of a coyote crossing ice on the pond in 2010. Other species include:

Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Raccoon

Raccoon

Box Turtle

Box Turtle

Turtle laying eggs near pond by Hallett sanctuary

It is worth taking a Central Park Conservancy led tour of this cool preserve in the middle of NYC. Click here for tour contact information.

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Ridgewood’s Grove Park


Grove Park Village of Ridgewood, NJ

Grove Park

Grove Park is a 32 acre deciduous forest and wetland owned by the village of Ridgewood, NJ and maintained by the Ridgewood Wildscape Association.

Grove Park

The forest was purchased with Green Acres funding. Grove Park has dense residential development to the west, the confluence of the artificial paths of the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook and Saddle River to the south, Grove Street to the north and the Saddle River Pathway and Saddle River to the east.

Saddle River Pathway next to Grove Park

In 1996, the Ridgewood Sports Council proposed to destroy a portion of Grove park for a sports field.  Residents from the nearby developments and the Ridgewood Council opposed this proposal as the woodland is environmentally sensitive and the remnant forest was preserved.

Trails

Grove Park Trail Map

The park contains several trails. I found (as listed in the picture above) the best combination is to do a loop trail by combining the .34 of a mile White blazed trail with .28 of the .36 of a mile Yellow blazed trail for a total of .62 of a mile. From the entrance on Grove Street, walk to the white trail which traverses the western portion of the park through a wetland area. I usually spot white-tail deer in this area running away with their white tails upheld high.

Deer Hooves in the mud

Take the white trail until it terminates on a White Oak near the yellow trail to the east of the woods.

White Trail Terminus on White Oak

Follow the yellow trail north back to the entrance on Grove street. Be careful, during my last visit there were several large blowdowns blocking the trail. I just ducked and went under some and crawled over others.

Blowdown on the Yellow Trail

The interesting thing about blowdowns is eventually all that dirt that surrounds the root structure will eventually come down and form a sort of pillow near the tree. These pillows, if left undisturbed, can last hundreds of years and are a way to determine if a forest is old growth. A forest that lacks these pillows was most likely farmed within the past hundred years or so.

Another way of reading the forested landscape is looking at bizarre tree formations. This American Beech tree in the picture below (found on the White Trail) was tipped by the wind and eventually was able to righten itself.

Wind-tipped American Beech (White Trail)

Grove Park provides much needed habitat for the fauna that inhabit this densely developed area of north jersey.  Just like with the deer prints, I found evidence of raccoon prints (which look like little  hands) in the mud.

Raccoon Prints

Plus I’ve have seen these other characters during my travels in this urban woodland:

Mallards on Vernal Pond

American Robin

Eastern Chipmunk

Red-belly woodpecker

Red Tail Hawk

Salamander

Grove Park features quite a diversity of flora. Flora I’ve found include:

False Hellebore

White Wood Aster

Trout Lily

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!

The entrance to this park is available from Grove Street or off of the nearby Saddle River pathway. Parking is available on Berkshire Road which is located to the west of the park and is a quick walk away from the entrance. Click here for directions.

Local Ecology/Environment Books!

1. Eastern Deciduous Forest, Second Edition: Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants to know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources.

Click here for more information!

2. Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State – With people as its focus, Protecting New Jersey’s Environment explores the science underpinning environmental issues and the public policy infighting that goes undocumented behind the scenes and beneath the controversies.

Click here for more information!

3. Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State:

Wild New Jersey invites readers along Wheeler’s whirlwind year-long tour of the most ecologically diverse state for its size in America.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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