Sunday, March 27, 2022

Some Spring Sightings at Herrontown Woods

There's been lots of activity at Herrontown Woods over the past few weeks as nature begins to stir.

At last week's Sunday morning workday at the Barden (Botanical ARt garDEN), some middleschoolers really enjoyed picking the seeds of wild senna that had stayed on the stalks through the winter. This Sunday, we'll cut last year's stalks to make way for new growth.

Herrontown Woods caretaker Andrew Thornton discovered a bloodroot flower blooming just off the trail. Bloodroots and the very rare hepatica are early bloomers. March 20 for the bloodroot, which leads with the flower before generating a leaf.

Anyone who looks skyward at the Barden may see willow blossoms--one of the "keepers" we found amidst all the invasive shrubs cleared to create the Barden. The blooms of willows and red maples are an important food source for early stirring bees.

On warm, wet nights, salamanders navigate through the leaves to reach vernal pools to lay eggs for the next generation. Vernal means spring, as in vernal equinox.
Vernal pools are also the place for wood frogs to mate and lay eggs. Thanks to Lisa Boulanger, who took these two beautiful photos three weeks ago.
We first noticed our black vulture had returned on March 15. A pair of them raise their young each year in the corncrib near the Veblen Cottage. We used to think they were bad omens, but have gained respect for them as parents and for their ecological role in the community. 
Someone's been busy over the winter building a village in a little out of the way spot in Herrontown Woods. It appears to have avenues, skyscrapers, and some bricks that may represent schools or a hospital. Maybe it's a fort, given its walls. 

Coincidentally, public library staff are talking about doing a reading of the children's book Roxaboxen at the Barden in a month or two.
The boulders along the ridge are rounded, composed of diabase, which in my experience is associated with rare plant species that thrive in the particular kind of soil generated from the weathering of these rocks. The boulders were not deposited here by glaciers, but instead formed from molten upwellings from below. 
In Herrontown Woods and Autumn Hill Reservation there are numerous little abandoned quarries where some of the larger boulders were split into chunks and hauled away. 

Springtime is a great time to figure out where we need more stepping stones along trails. Because the rocks along the ridge are chunky and rounded--of no use for steps through muddy sections of trails--we make frequent trips to rock piles generated nearby, just off the ridge, where a developer has dug a basement. These conveniently flat stones are from the sedimentary deposits that the molten upwellings pushed through to create the ridge. 

One plant that doesn't look like much but which I've always been curious about is what is this low-growing grass. I call it soft fescue, and wonder if it was common long ago, and later became the first lawns around houses. Many old lawns still contain this mounded grass. Here's a patch of it growing along Herrontown Road.
At Veblen House, the remnants of Elizabeth Veblen's garden still cycle through the seasons, with sweeps of snowbells giving way this week to the many daffodils she spread across the grounds.


1 comment:

  1. It's nice to read of the black vultures. We saw one a few years ago atop the chimney. It faced us and spread its wings wide, posing for several minutes. If only I'd had my telephoto lens with me!
    You have a fine set of pictures from 2017 in the link at "gained respect for them as parents" above.