Monday, July 6, 2009

Opening Between the Creeks

This small spot is an area of fairly level soil sitting between two converging streams. There are some shallow depressions and troughs in the ground that suggest this may have been used as a landing for a logging operation some time in the past. I can envision tractors, loaders, and skidders turning and twisting on this spot to get logs into position to be moved out. The depressions hold water long enough to provide suitable conditions for some sedges and rushes to survive.

I’ve seen some odd looking dragonflies along the stream, but they never seem to land and are always moving too fast for me to get a good look. I keep thinking that some of them will make their way into this clearing to sit long enough for me to get a picture. So far none have. I do see the more common species, such as this female Widow Skimmer.

Northern Metalmarks are abundant in this clearing. Some of them are beginning to look a bit worn.

I cleared cedars out of this spot in 1993 and did some maintenance here in 2003. Plants have filled in nicely, but I’m now having trouble with Tulip Poplar. Tulip Poplar can grow very quickly and produce some very dense shade.

I’ll have to get in here soon to clean out these poplars. If these little trees are cut during the winter, they can be successfully killed by an application of glyphosate herbicide in the spring. Timing of herbicide application is critical because the sprouts grow quickly and there is a narrow window between when they are large enough to spray and when they are too large for the spray to be effective.

This Eastern Red Cedar has some sprawling branches that are shading a considerable area. Should I cut the lower branches and expand the size of the clearing or should I leave the branches in place?

Unless I’m dealing with a rare species with an urgent need for more sunlight, I’ll leave the branches in place. These old cedars have developed some interesting ecosystems on their branches. Fungi, lichens, mosses and a variety of associated insects often cover these trees. I’m not yet able to identify most of these, but I feel it’s important to keep them around.

This fallen cedar top needs to be cut up and removed. This is one that broke during the ice storm this winter and waited until early summer to fall. You can see another cedar leaning towards the right. It looks like I’ll be able to get a couple of good fence posts here. Posts are always needed for the never ending task of maintaining property line fence.

There are a lot of small oaks coming into this clearing. This is Shingle Oak, Quercus imbricaria.

An oak that I usually favor in these openings is the Blackjack Oak, Quercus marilandica. Blackjack Oak seems to be the favored species for Edwards’ Hairstreak butterflies at Blue Jay Barrens. An odd thing about this clearing is the absence of Mound Builder Ants. No ants means no hairstreaks, so at this location the oaks could very well be sacrificed for some other species.

Shrubby St. Johnswort, Hypericum prolificum. I love to see the large specimens of this plant all loaded down with blooms. Severe winters and browsing deer keep most of these plants from becoming very large. I hope this one can get some size to it.

Brush piles are located near every opening. I like to think of them as monuments to my efforts. Every pile is tightly packed to encourage decomposition. A typical pile will reduce its size by half in one year. I tried hard to make sure that I didn’t site a pile on top of any significant plant specimens. I’ll pile the cut trees to about 8 to 10 feet high to minimize the area covered by the pile and will move my work to a different opening rather than increase the basal area of the pile.

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