May 15th, 2007

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

An evening walk

We went out when it cooled off (it was just over 90, and very humid) and spent a couple of hours wandering, taking pictures, wandering, taking pictures, wandering, sitting, wandering, taking pictures.   Started out to look at the flowering obedient plants (lovely deep rose/purple flowers) growing in the secondary drainage ditch, above the main pool system that ends in the big (when it rains) pool held by the #3 gabion.

Decades ago, someone dug a ditch from the highway to the east, a diagonal line down to the south fenceline.  It was supposed to carry highway and other runoff across without eroding the place.  Since it was placed with utter disregard for the natural drainage pattern (but so was the highway!) it didn't work quite right, and years of overgrazing and trampling by cattle created breaches in its sides.  Now there are two drainage systems in the east grass, .the natural one and the ditch, which interact in strange and wonderful ways.   Downstream, the ditch has become full of brush  and trees...a shady, thickety habitat for birds and bunnies.  Upstream, it's now (thanks to management changes) mostly covered, sides and bottom, with grass, sedges, and forbs.   In some areas, a rocky bottom is exposed.  In wet times, it now forms a series of little ephemeral rain-pools, with slow-moving clear water between them.  These form habitat for aquatic insects, small amphibians, crayfish, with a maximum depth of 6-8 inches.  There's finally enough vegetation upslope that the water is usually perfectly clear.  (Since this ditch has highway runoff, that doesn't mean free of pollution!) 

Yesterday evening, this little pool yielded many spreadwing damselfies (that I don't know), a couple of female Variegated Meadowhawks, some little aquatic beetles (little black things that dove and swam), and a fairly small crayfish.  Butterflies nectared at the flowers (onion family, mostly) around the pool.

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

New Gallery: Habitats

I've opened a new gallery, Habitats, in the Scrapbook area.  It's just starting to get loaded.  The idea is to show some typical habitats on the place, so readers will have an idea what I'm talking about when I saw I found a pink-striped, black-toed, purple-spotted whatsit at a location or in a habitat type.

Habitats include the big obvious basics (grassland, bareground, woods, brush) but the seasonal and ephemeral ones: the pools of water that may last only a few days or weeks, the winter forbs v. the summer forbs, etc.  And also the microhabitats within the larger ones...tallgrass, midgrass, and shortgrass in the grasslands, native v. nonnative grasses, flatter ground in the riparian woods compared to the slopes in the west woods, etc. 

So eventually there will be a lot of pictures, often showing the same place in different seasons and different rainfall conditions.  Sometimes the creek is a creek, sometimes it's a roaring flood, sometimes it's a dry ditch, apparently lifeless.  And there are changes.  When we bought the place, it had a lot of bare ground; now it doesn't, but the mix of plants changes with both natural succession and management choices. 

For instance, we mow maintenance paths so we can walk safely from place to place and see rattlesnakes before we step on them.  Maintenance paths thus self-select for grass that can stand repeated mowing during the growing season.   Other areas are mowed (less often) as a substitute for prescribed  burning (because of our location, where a burn could threaten homes and a construction company's fuel storage)...and to maintain variety in grass height, successional stage, nonnative weed control, etc. 

In the woods, we've been working on removing invasive non-native trees, shrubs, and vines.  These include chinaberry, ligustrum, waxleaf ligustrum, and Japanese honeysuckle.   That opens space for natives.  We've also interplanted native speces that "should" be here. 

But more on all that later.  Now I have to try to find the rest of the habitat pictures, which don't seem to be on this thumb drive.

  This shot, now in the habitats gallery, shows the creek at bankfull flood, carrying a lot of sediment, but receding from its highest, when it was over bank full.  The treetrunk across the stream is still a living tree, undermined by repeated floods.