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Tag Archive | Eastern Cottontail

Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center!


Morris County Park Commission Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (with Common Reed)

Welcome to Morris County’s 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

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

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

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:

GSOEC features four 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. Click here for a trail map!

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!

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

Mammals of The Great Swamp

Endangered in New Jersey

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

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

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’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

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

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 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 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

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

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

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.

Painted 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

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

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

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

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

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

The trail encircles a small vernal pond (the vernal pond, seen here at the end of September 2012 was dry).

Blue Trail trailend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marker 11 Deciduous Forest

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

Musclewood

Black Oak

Pin Oak

Tupelo

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

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

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

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

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.

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 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.

Beechdrops

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

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

You are now at the end of the Red Trail.

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

Check out these mushrooms found growing in September 2012!

Asian Long Horn Beetle Detector

In the parking area near the end of the Green Trail you may notice a black box hanging from a tree. The Black boxes are used to detect for the presence of the Asian Long-Horn Beetle, an invasive species from Asia.

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

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

Click here for directions!

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!

 

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Wayne’s Dave Waks Memorial Park (formerly Barbour Pond)!


Dave Waks Memorial Park

Dave Wak’s Memorial Park

Dave Waks Memorial Park (formerly known as Barbour Pond Park) is located in the township of Wayne, NJ. It was renamed Dave Waks Memorial Park as a tribute to a former mayor of Wayne who passed away in 2007. At 103 acres, it is Wayne’s largest developed park. There’s a playground, 3 lighted softball fields, 1 lighted baseball field, three lighted soccer fields, a model airplane flying area and a half mile paved walking path around the fields. The centerpiece of the park is Barbour Pond which features a 1.96 mile hiking trail which encircles the pond.

Barbour Pond

Barbour Pond was created by impounding part of the 8.9 mile Preakness (Singnac) Brook via the Barbour Pond dam. The brook is a tributary of the Passaic River. It’s watershed is located almost entirely in Wayne. The headwaters, located in the nearby High Mountain Nature Preserve, are considered to be trout production and are classified as C1. C1is one of the highest classifications given to a stream in the state of NJ.  Preakness Brook enters Barbour Pond from Valley Road , where it ventures through (along with a tributary stream) a recently protected 17 acre woodland. Preakness Brook from Barbour Pond to its confluence with the Passaic River is non trout production and is considered impaired. Impairments include fecal coliform bacteria and habitat decline which are indicated by an increase in pollution-tolerant macro invertebrate species. Non-point source pollution is thought to be the culprit.  In 2005, William Paterson University was granted $408,586 to collect and access water quality data along the length of the stream. The purpose of the study was to reduce fecal coliform, restore macro invertebrate health and protect the C1 headwaters segment.

Preakness Brook

For more information on the streams that flow in your backyard check out the Pocketguide to Eastern Streams. This wonderful field guide covers common plants and animals found in a stream ecosystem. Click here for more information!

Ok, back to the trail! Access to the Barbour Pond trail may be obtained off the half mile paved walking path, off of Valley Road near Barbour Pond dam, or near the model airplane area. Entrance areas are marked by a wooden pole.

Entrance to the Barbour Pond trail from the paved walking path

The trail is mostly level and pleasant. There is a serene crossing over Preakness Brook and many beautiful views of Barbour Pond.

Mallards & Canadian Geese on Barbour Pond

Barbour Pond and the surrounding woodland provide much needed habitat for many animals and especially birds. I’ve spotted the below during my ventures:

Black-Capped Chickadee

Mourning Dove

Downy Woodpecker

Three Killdeer Birds right outside Barbour Pond

Ring-Necked Ducks on Barbour Pond

Bufflehead & Ring Neck Ducks

Male Yellow Warbler

Male Yellow Warbler

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail

The trail contains varied flora. Flora includes:

  • Red Maple
  • Black Birch & Yellow Birch
  • American Beech
  • Red Cedar
  • Christmas Fern

    Red Cedar

    Christmas Fern

    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!

    While exploring around the pond I found some interesting graffiti found on one of the wood post and several trees.

  • Protect Nature

    Directions:

    Take US 80 west to exit 55B, for Union Boulevard north, Totowa. Within a short drive turn left on Crews Road. At the stop sign, go straight which connect the driver to Totowa Road. Turn right at the light after passing the Dey Mansion in Preakness Valley Park. Then take the next right for Valley Road. Pass through the intersection with Hamburg Turnpike. Take the first left turn (Barbour Pond Drive) and go .3 of a mile to the end of the road for the entrance of the park.

    Dave Waks Memorial Park (formely Barbour Pond Park)

    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!

Scarsdale’s Greenburgh Nature Center!


Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center!

Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center! The Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) is a 33 acre nature preserve located in Scarsdale, NY.

Greenburgh Nature Center

GNC features 27 acres of woodland, a pond, nature trails, gardens, outdoor and indoor animal exhibits and a greenhouse.

Manor House

The manor, constructed in 1918, contains nature & animal exhibits. The property was previously owned by the Hall family and was purchased for $725,000 using funding from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and a bond issue from the Town of Greenburgh in 1973 to prevent development of single family housing which was proposed for the property.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Inside the manor, for a fee, (free for GNC Members), visitors can tour various educational exhibits on the environment and visit the indoor animal exhibits.

Taking Nature’s Course

Nearly 140 reptiles and mammals are present in the indoor animal exhibit from all over the world displayed in ecologically realistic settings. Native animals include the Eastern Screech Owl and American Bullfrogs among others.

Live Animal Museum

Special nature themes of interest are also displayed from time to time.  As of June 2012 there is an exhibit featuring information on the wonders of dirt.

Beautiful Dirt!

There is also information on the nearby Bronx River where a tributary from the GNC flows into. An aquarium populated with fish found in the Bronx River is also displayed.

Do You Know These Bronx River Facts?

The preserve features several outdoor exhibits such as a barnyard habitat and an Aviary among other attractions.

Goat and Turkeys in Barnyard Exhibit

Birds of Prey Aviary

The Green Roof Exhibit was created in 2008 through generous sponsorship funds from Con Edison and provides an example on new views towards sustainability. Vegetation keeps buildings cooler and helps absorb storm water runoff.

Click here for a complete map of outdoor exhibits.

The Great Lawn

The nearly 2 acre great lawn  was created around 1918 when the estate was first built.

The lawn features Beehives and an organic garden.

Honeybees

Organic Garden

Geology

The Greenburgh Nature Center’s Manor House was built from stones quarried from the surrounding property in 1918.

Portion of Wall from GNC Manor

The rocks found in the GNC consist of Fordham Gneiss. Rocks of Fordham Gneiss have been altered by high heat and extreme pressure around 1.1 billion years.  The alteration caused the sedimentary rock to recrystallize forming black-and-white banded, metamorphic rock.

Blurry Eastern Chipmunk on Fordham Gneiss

The Orchard area of the preserve features sandstone in addition to the predominant Fordham Gneiss and is the only part of the center property that features this geologic deviation.

Trails

The preserve features four trails. The trails were originally developed by the previous owners of the land for quarrying and logging purposes.  A trail map is available online here.

Forest Trail

The Forest Trail is the main trail which begins and ends at the Manor house in a loop fashion for about a third of a mile in length.

Forest Trail Path

The main focal point of the Forest Trail is Woodfrog Pond.

Forest Trail Pond

The Woodfrog Pond area is the main source of water for GNC fauna and features freshwater wetlands at its northern and southern borders. Woodfrog Pond originated as a vernal pond which was created from past glacial activity. In 1980,  GNC dredged the pond and constructed a small dam to retain water. The water which forms the pond originates from an underground spring and from rainfall. An outflow from the pond drains to the Bronx River which in turn drains into the East River.

Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond is unsuitable for fish due to its warm shallow water. Amphibians such as Spring Peepers, Green Frogs, Bullfrogs and a variety of salamanders breed and lay their eggs in the pond (and yes, Wood Frogs make an appearance here too in March to lay eggs).

Turtles on log in Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond was restored in the fall of 2008. The pond and surrounding area had become degraded due to erosion and high usage. The restoration helped to increase the biodiversity of the pond itself as well as the surrounding wetlands. The Greenburgh Nature Center received a grant from the NYC environmental fund for $9,700 to partially dredge and fortify the pond as well as replant the surrounding area with native trees and shrubs.

North Forty Trail

The north forty trail meanders around the northern section of the preserve and eventually connects with the Forest Trail. The North Forty Trail passes near wetlands and traverses pass the  Scarsdale Country Club in an easterly direction to connect with the Forest Trail near Woodfrog Pond. The North Forty Trail is also accessible from the Oak and Orchard Trail from the west.

Scarsdale Country Club

Sylvia Stein Nature Trail

The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is a short trail which traverses through the center of the woodlands heading in a north – south direction. The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is accessible from c the Forest Trail. Ms. Stein was active with mycological groups and led field trips for both mycological groups and the Torrey Botanical Society.

Oak and Orchard Trail

The Oak and Orchard Trail leads from the North Forty Trail and heads southwest past the great lawn to the 3 acre orchard which is also a Box Turtle nesting site.

Box Turtle Nesting and Hatching Site

Flora found at the Greenburgh Nature Center includes:

Fauna includes the below along with many others:

American Robin

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Chipmunk

Gray Catbird

The preserve is small at just 33 acres but it contains many diverse habitats and is worth a visit. Click here for more information.

The Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, off Central Park Avenue, Scarsdale, New York.  There is free parking available.

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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