Posts Tagged 'Black Rock Forest'

Newts!

Notophthalmus viridescensOne of several Eastern Newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) in the high reservoir at Black Rock Forest recently. The red-spots are telling here, identifying the animal (another common name is Red-spotted Newt) and warning predators to lay off. This is the mature, aquatic stage of the animal’s life-cycle. They can live more than a dozen years. As juveniles, a.k.a. Red Efts, they are bright orange and live on land. Wet, soggy land.Notophthalmus viridescensThe vertically flattened tail is fin-like.

It’s hard to shoot life underwater without the proper filter, even in shallow water. But I did manage to catch these two:Notophthalmus viridescensThis is a pair in amplexus, a term of amphibian art.Notophthalmus viridescensAmplexus is from the Lain for “embrace.” They fertilize externally, but this grasping and caressing by the male is something akin to human foreplay.

I had no idea some people keep these as pets. I don’t think wild animals should be taken from their environment for such uses. One pet guide recommends not handling them much because the salts and oils on human skin can be bad for them. Indeed. How about just leaving them alone?

Hemlocks Past

Tsuga canadensisThe devastation caused by the aphid-like Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae) was on display on our visit to Black Rock Forest. It was grim: skeletal bones of dead trees towered above us, waiting to fall. The Adelgids, which are fairly benign in their native Japan, where their host trees evolved along with them, kill our Eastern Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) after just a few years of infestation. There wasn’t a healthy mature Hemlock to be seen; some still had a bit of green at the top, but most were dead.Tsuga canadensisAnd rotting: this was the heart of one of the fallen old giants. At least there’s the cycling of nutrients back into the ecosystem from this ruin.Tsuga canadensisThere’s close to a hundred years of growth here. BRF was, like all Hudson Highland woodlands, essentially clear-cut by the 19th century for building material, fuel supply, and mining operations, not to mention farm clearances, and tanning works, which particularly favored the tannins in Hemlock bark.

BRF was Harvard’s forest research station from the late 1920s to 1989, when a consortium of local institutions took over management. I hope they’re working on some Hemlock restoration strategies. There were certainly plenty of Hemlock saplings in evidence.

More Snakes in the Garden Please

Thamnophis sirtalisA young Common Garter (Thamnophis sirtalis) riding over the duff of Black Rock Forest.Thamnophis sirtalisThis one was about 7″.Thamnophis sirtalisAt a stream, I saw four mature Garters drift by on the other side; these were over 2′ long. My friends called my attention to the one on my side of the stream. Perhaps a wintering ball of snakes had just woken? Thamnophis sirtalisThe best shot of the day, unfortunately because the animal is dead. It was on the side of a mountain road, probably clipped by a wheel.

Mighty Acorns

QuercusRemarkable things, acorns. They’re packed with proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as vital minerals: this is why they make such great animal food. There are not many mast-eaters in Brooklyn Bridge Park, though, where I found these red-to-mahagony colored nuts breaking through the shells recently. QuercusAfter wintering under the big freeze — hibernating, basically — spring finds them cracking their outer shells and sprouting a probing, earth-anchoring root. These will pull the seed down into the soft duff and into the soil. These are Chestnut Oaks (Quercus prinus) and they really were these lovely colors. I don’t recall seeing this intense color before? The Horticulturist thinks this is a safety feature, like those red leaves that emerge first from tree budss, to protect against the sun’s harsh rays.QuercusHere’s another, from Black Rock Forest. This one has sprouted, but hadn’t managed to anchor in the ground yet, probably because it was on the hard-packed trail.

Springing

Anemone americanaWhen last we saw some blooming Round-lobed Hepatica, it was the white variety in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Over the weekend, we found a little cluster of the pink variation further north in Black Rock Forest.Veratrum virideWe initially took this pleated beauty for Skunk Cabbage, but further research by the Horticulturalist tells us this is actually False Hellebore (Veratrum viride). Like Skunk Cabbage, it’s a big leafy green that sprouts early, so the two are often confused. This would be a mistake should you be a forager: False Hellebore is quite toxic. Wikipedia gives a host of alternate names: American White Hellebore, Bear Corn, Big Hellebore, Corn Lily, Devils Bite, Duck Retten, Indian Hellebore, Itch-weed, Itchweed, Poor Annie, Blue Hellebore, and Tickleweed. Unlike Skunk Cabbage, the flowers come after the leaves.

Earth Day

In reality, of course, everyday is Earth Day.Asarum canadenseFrom the Black Rock Forest, here’s an emerging Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) flower. Sialia sialisAn Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis).Rana clamitans melanotaAnd some Green Frogs (Rana clamitans), before or after amplexus?


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