Angry Mallards


Mallards & Friends on a Winter Day in Central Park NYC

The above is a video I took on a long gone winter’s day in Central Park. Most of the water in the pond was ice leaving just this one spot ice free.

Plants of New Jersey # 13 Black Birch


 

Black Birch (Betula lenta)

Welcome! Today we are going to discuss the Black Birch (Betula lenta).  Black Birch belongs to the Betulaceae family of plants. The wetland indicator status is FACU.  This means that while the tree is usually found in uplands it may be found in freshwater wetlands on occasion. Black Birch can grow from 50-80 feet and sometimes even larger.

Black Birch

The tree is also known as Sweet Birch for two reasons. Reason One: If you scrape a branch you will get a strong whiff of wintergreen. Before wintergreen was produced synthetically it was derived from the Black Birch. Reason Two: Black Birch also produces sugary sap when tapped (take that Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)! Ha!). Birch Beer was even made from its fermented sap! Is there anything this tree can’t do?

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Young Black Birch

Black Birch under 40 years old can look similar to a young Black Cherry Tree (Prunus serotina) which leads to another name for this Birch tree – Cherry Birch. One way to tell the difference between the trees is the smell. While Black Birch will smell like wintergreen, Black Cherry will smell like burnt almonds if you break a branch.

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Mature Black Birch

Mature Black Birch is a bit easier to identify than its younger variation. As the tree ages (generally between 40-50 years) the bark breaks by forming furrows as evident in the picture above.

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Many Black Birch roots can be found in strange formations. The roots of the Black Birch in the picture above likely formed over a dead tree that has long ago returned to the earth.

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Black Birch Catkins

In the spring, Black Birch has a merry way of coming back to life in the form of yellow catkins waving in the wind. The tree is host to the Mourning Cloak Butterfly, an early sign of spring.

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Walking Maine’s Marginal Way!


Marginal Way Walkway Entrance 2

Marginal Way Walkway Entrance

Welcome! Today we are up in Ogunquit, Maine to explore the fantastic Marginal Way!

The paved path is maintained by the Marginal Way Preservation Fund.

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Oarweed Cove

We start our journey near Oarweed Cove (seen above). The paved path is about a mile and a quarter and makes for very easy walking! And, if we happen to get tired or want to simply stop to enjoy the view, there are plenty of benches scattered about the path.

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Marginal Way Footpath Map

We will use the map above (taken from the Marginal Way Preservation Fund website) to help guide our way as we head north on the path. The name “Marginal Way” came about due to the path’s being developed close to the edge of the cliffs.

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Marginal Way Footbridge

We’ve come to a cool footbridge on the Marginal Way as we continue to head north. Beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean are to our right.

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As we walk, we notice some of the vegetation growing. Here we see Eastern Red Cedar, a tough plant able to withstand the salt spray coming from the Atlantic Ocean.

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There are issues with invasive plants such as Asiatic Bittersweet along the pathway. An ongoing project to remove these plants and replace with native species is being held by the Marginal Way Preservation Fund along with Ogunquit.

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Seaside Goldenrod Marginal Way

Here we see some Seaside Goldenrod (a native plant) as we meander along this peaceful path.

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Marginal Way Lighthouse

We’ve come to the Marginal Way Lighthouse, a cool feature along this walk. This is a popular spot to take photographs so go ahead and snap away!

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We see lots of cool rock formations as we walk the Marginal Way. There are two types of rocks comprising the rocky coast here consisting of metamorphic and igneous rocks. Igneous rocks originally derived from magma where metamorphic was developed from an existing rock such as sedimentary, igneous or even another older metamorphic rock through extreme heat. You can read more about the differences between metamorphic and igneous rocks here.

 

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We’ve arrived near the southern portion of Ogunquit Beach and the end of the Marginal Way. The Ogunquit River empties into the Atlantic Ocean close to the path.

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Common Eiders

As we approach the end of the Marginal Way we see some Common Eiders.

Other birds that may be seen along the Marginal Way include:

You can check out the latest bird sightings here!

We have reached the end of the Marginal Way.

Thank you for tagging along today!

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Plants of New Jersey # 12 – Chestnut Oak


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Typical Chestnut Oak Habitat

Welcome! Today we are going to discuss the Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana). The tree is part of the Fagaceae family of plants and belongs to the White Oak sub-family. Another name for this tree is ‘Rock Oak’ due to its ability to survive where others species cannot. The tree was once used in the tanning industry as it contains more tannins than any other native Oak. The wetland indicator status for Chestnut Oak is UPL which means this tree almost always occurs in non-wetlands. Swamp Chestnut Oak (Quercus michauxii), which leaf is similar to the Chestnut Oak is found in freshwater wetlands but it is not the same tree.

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Chestnut Oak & Mountain Laurel

Common shrubs found with Chestnut Oak include Highbush /Lowbush Blueberry and Mountain Laurel. Chestnut Oak grows anywhere from 60-80 feet and is found (sometimes in pure stands) on rocky hillsides or where there is dry infertile soil.  This is why you can find Chestnut Oak not only in the Highlands of North Jersey but also in the Oak/Pine dominated forests in the New Jersey Pinelands. Chestnut Oak is native to the eastern forests of the US.

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American Chestnut Leaf on the Left; Chestnut Oak Leaf on the Right

The leaves are similar to the American Chestnut shown in the photo above. The trees are a tough species and are able to handle drought and wind on exposed ridges of the Highlands in New Jersey. Their thick bark helps make the tree resistant to fire which is helpful in the Pinelands, an ecological community that is dependent on natural causes of fire to thrive.

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Coppice Chestnut Oak

Chestnut Oaks grow readily from stumps if it is cut down. They form a coppice (multi-trunk) tree once it grows back.

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Young Chestnut Oak

The bark on young trees is smooth and becomes deeply furrowed as the tree matures.

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Plants of New Jersey # 11 – Canada Mayflower


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Canada Mayflower Leaf

Welcome! Today we are going to discuss Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense). The plant is a member of the Lily family. Canada Mayflower is a shade tolerant widespread plant of Beech and Oak forests. It’s wetland indicator status is FAC which means that the plant is equally likely to be found in freshwater wetlands or uplands.

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Canada Mayflower forming a dense colony on the forest floor in early spring

Canada Mayflower spreads by rhizomes and can carpet the forest floor as seen in the picture above. It is a low growing plant typically growing less than six inches.

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Canada Mayflower in bloom

Canada Mayflower blooms between May and June and produces speckled berries which turn red between June and August.

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Canada Mayflower with Berries

Some of the wildlife that consume the berries include:

That said, the plant is not a major wildlife plant. Plants with only one leaf are immature and will not bloom until the second year.

Thank you for tagging along today!

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Check out Plants of NJ to learn more!