Friday, December 11, 2009

Back Woods Happenings and Such

I am remiss in yet lauding the activities of our two new repeat volunteers. College students Shayna and Catlin joined us in October. Since that time, they have made a serious impact on invasive species with their weekly volunteer activities. The gals took the lead in clearing air potato by hand out of the bottoms west of the Buttonbush Pond. From there, they have been tackling the Caesar weed (Urena lobata) that sprang up en masse in the plow line cut to control the brush fire last spring. I can not thank these women enough for their dedicated efforts in the Back Woods.

We welcome back our volunteer George. Down for the winter, George brings his trail maintenance experience from working on access trails to the AT at his summer home. He is currently helping me break down all the cherries we are thinning out of the forest. George also volunteers for us on a weekly basis, we are very happy to have him back.

DSCN0716 Bones from above…last week while pulling air potato vines from the tree canopy, one of the volunteers was rewarded with bone dropped on her head. The bone looks like a large bird tibia. First thought was maybe it was from a bird that died in the tree top and the carcass never made it to the ground because of all the vines. A closer look at the bone shows it to be thoroughly gnawed on all over (nom, nom, nom as our Butterfly Guru would say.) It is possible a squirrel brought the bone up into the canopy to gnaw on for tooth maintenance or calcium.

DSCN0753 The western sandhill is home to at least 1 large adult and a couple juvenile gopher tortoises. The big guy ( I call him Fred) has nice burrow with a huge apron of sand right near the trail. This location is great for the education staff to show students the characteristics of a burrow fairly up close. This location also puts the tortoise at a little greater risk from visitors who are not familiar with the sensitive nature of the burrows or the threatened status of the tortoises. Recently, it appears a regular visitor likes to inspect the burrow up close and with a canine companion. We have now posted a sign asking visitors to maintain their distance. In the near future, we will have kiosks with rules for the Back Woods posted. One of those will be pets must be leashed and picked up after. Until that time, I guess we’ll have to rely on our resident pooper scoopers like this rainbow scarab (along with at least one other variety of dung beetle) made quick work of a pile o’ dog doo left in the sandhill.

DSCN0729 Awww! I am a serious sucker for ‘possums. Fortunately for me, they frequently find themselves trapped in the bottom of a trash can on the MOSI grounds. The staff must have me on speed dial for this situation because, I always get the call to help resolve the problem. My solution: Trek the can, possum in tow, to a spot off trail in the Back Woods. Most of the time the possum is in such a defensive stupor they won’t even make a run for it when I lay the can over. This little lady however skipped right out of the can the moment I laid it down and quite calmly sauntered off into the brush. Take a close look at the pickin’s in that trash can. What respectable Opossum could pass that up? Find one in your can at home? Just lay the can over and leave it be for awhile and the possum will find its way out on its own. Secure your can lids to prevent the problem in the future. :-)

Possibly to become a weekly tradition is a post featuring the the endless supply of air potatoes and more unusual or interesting trash collected during our work in the Back Woods. I humbly bring you this week’s Taters and Trash.

DSCN0795 DSCN0797Out of a pile of air potatoes picked up up while clearing Caesar weed, this one was definitely worth highlighting. With a little imagination it definitely looks cartoonish even reminiscent of a Bill Plympton caricature. The trash seems to be everywhere you look some days. A closer inspection finds all kinds of household garbage and construction debris as well as automotive junk. The plastic horse head, slightly surreal without its stick, is our find of the week. DSCN0799


Kristen said...

I never want to find that horsehead in my office... just sayin'.

TheLongleaf said...

But air potatoes with Mr Potato Head appendages are ok, right?