A walk in the woods, part three

On Wednesday, I went with Diane E., chair of the Grand Island Conservation Advisory Board, and Kathleen M., stewardship director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, to look at two wooded lots in Grand Island. These wooded lots are owned by the town, which placed a conservation easement on them. A conservation easement, which is entered into voluntarily by private or public property owners, is a way of protecting things that need to be protected, such as migration routes of birds species or various plant and animal species. For more information about conservation easements, take a look at: nature conservancy website.

The walk was very interesting and educational. i found out that the Land Conservancy monitors sites all over Western New York, and that it is Kathleen’s job to visit each one and make a report on the condition of each site. She is looking for a variety of things, such as the condition of the trees and other vegetation, signs of animal life, and signs of human incursion. She has a map for each site that she visits. To me, it looks like a map for a treasure hunt. We had to follow the map and find each “photo station.” These are places that are marked, where new photographs are taken at each visit. If you take pictures of the same location over and over again, you can see how the area has changed over time. At each site, there were approximately ten photo stations.

Kathleen was equipped with a GPS and a compass to make locating the photo stations easier. At the first wooded lot that we visited, the vegetation was very lush. It seemed to confuse the GPS, rendering it virtually nonfunctional. Technology is not always your friend! Fortunately, the compass worked without a problem.

Both of the sites were full of native wildflowers. Above is the flower of the May apple. This apple, Diane explained to me, is not very good as an apple for eating. She said that one of her friends was able to make jelly from the May apple. Plant species that I saw included Solomon seal, trillium, buttercup, wild leek, sedge (a grass), jack in the pulpit, royal fern, Canada mayflower (also known as wild lily of the valley), wild iris, wild geranium, and trout lily. We also observed some invasive species, including barberry, garlic mustard, and periwinkle.

At both sites, I saw a variety of vernal pools. These small bodies of water are also known as ephemeral pools. They are temporary bodies of water that are breeding grounds for various species. Here in Grand Island, the vernal pools are breeding grounds for salamanders. They are not breeding grounds for fish because the vernal pools are completely dry by summertime.

Another thing that I observed (and happily photographed) was the interesting mushrooms that I saw at both sites. Although I enjoy eating mushrooms, I chose to skip the taste test because I don’t have to skills to differentiate nutritious, delicious mushrooms from deadly toadstools. I suppose that I’ll have to stick to eating mushrooms that I buy at the supermarket!!

There were some extremely large and old trees in the forests. Some were healthy trees, while others were dead or dying. Tree species that we observed included hophorn, maple, hickory, oak (mostly red, but we did find some white oak), and beech. Honeysuckle is an invasive tree species, the tree version of a weed.

The tree that I sat in is huge!

We also encountered some less than friendly species of plants and animals. The first site, especially, was swarming with mosquitoes. They were everywhere, making that distinctive whining noise. To me, it sounds almost unnatural, like a horror movie sound effect. At both sites, there were ticks. So we had to be careful.

Not all animals and insects are evil, scary creatures. We observed a few animals and we also observed signs of animals. These include tadpoles in Gun Creek, a swallowtail butterfly, woodchuck, and deer. There were many birds. Diane is able to recognize birds by their songs. She heard songs from: pilliated woodpecker, great crested flycatcher, Baltimore oriole, chickadee, wood duck, red eye vireo, and catbirds.

The picture above depicts a plant nemesis. Remember the old adage, “Leaves of three, leave it be”? See the plant above and the sets of three leaves. Yep. You’ve got it. Poison ivy. Look, but don’t touch. If you accidentally touch the poison ivy, here is a website that you can go to where you can find ways of handling the website. Click the next word: word.

This is a closeup of one of the very large mushrooms that I saw in both sites.

Signs of human activities in the woods include this tree stand. These are used mainly by hunters during deer season.

This is one of the more beautiful of the native species that I found in the woods. It is called the wild iris. It was delightful to find it in bloom.

This would be a sign of human incursion on protected land. Kathleen explained that this example of trees that had been cut down by humans is not something that is desirable in a forever-wild wooded area. 

Diane, holding book, discusses the condition of forever-wild town land with Kathleen.

The yellow square that was attached to the tree is a sign that indicates that location of a photo station. We did, however note, that some of the photo stations are unmarked. At some point, the identification markings will be returned to the photo stations.

This is an example of an older tree stand.

We saw many wildflowers. This pretty little blossom is just an example of wildflowers in bloom. 

We plan on revisiting these two sites sometime in the autumn.

4 thoughts on “A walk in the woods, part three”

  1. KatyTrailCreations

    I grew up with a forest as my playground. Loved seeing your beautiful photos! Made me very nostalgic. Visiting on the Road Trip.

  2. When you return in fall, it will be interesting to see the contrasting flora. The spring was beautiful. So much to see on woodland walk.

  3. Shonna Slayton

    I learned several new things from your walk in the woods: conservation easement, photo stations, and tree stands. Quite interesting! The two of you reminded me of a series I've been watching on Neflix: Rosemary and Thyme, a show about gardener/detectives who always stumble across a dead body while fixing up old English gardens 🙂

    @ShonnaSlayton from
    Shonna Slayton YA Writer – Blogged the 1940’s from A to Z and now on the road trip

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