Walk with Naturalists – April 11, 2015

April 11, 2015.

Clark Preserve / Eastern Trail.

Saturday was beautiful day with clouds and a blue sky. The temperature was in the forties and the trail was still mostly snow-covered. The group consisted of four leaders and seven guests; some of whom were from out of state and had seen our announcements in the paper. Tom McClain, a KLT volunteer, took the picture which follows:

After initial introductions we hit the trail and started our discussions with description of the forest type found in the KLT Clark Preserve (mixed hardwood/conifer forest).

After initial introductions we hit the trail and started our discussions with description of the forest type found in the KLT Clark Preserve (mixed hardwood/conifer forest). Examples of various conifers were collected and described: Eastern White Pine (on the left in the picture below), Hemlock (middle of picture) and Balsam Fir (on the right).

The walk continued past an area that would become a vernal pool after snow and ice melt. The attributes of vernal pools were discussed; ephemeral, no fish and the presence of obligate species (indicators): Fairy Shrimp, Wood Frogs, Spotted Salamander, Blue Spotted Salamander, Jefferson Salamander, Marbled Salamander and Spadefoot Toad.

Once out on the Eastern Trail (which forms the eastern boundary of Clark Preserve) headed north, we stopped to observe several species of moss; hair club moss, tree club moss, sphagnum moss and Ulota crispa (Tree Cushion Moss – see picture below)

Cushion Moss

In areas where the snow had melted we were able to see Sheep Laurel, Partridge Berry (see photo) and Wintergreen – plants that basically remain green throughout the winter. We also identified highbush blueberry that was just beginning to bud.

Partridge Berry

Moving up the trail we came upon an area of the KLT Clark Preserve that borders on the Eastern Trail and resembles the early stages of a bog; sphagnum moss, grasses and wet peaty soil. Bogs are generally acidic and have black spruce growing on the margins.

We next spent some time talking about woody fungi that are present the year around compared to mushrooms that are seasonal. We looked at bracket fungi, birch polypore, turkey tail fungi (see picture) and violet tooth fungi.

Birch Polypore

Turkey Tail

We also observed and talked about lichens which are mutualistic plants consisting of a fungus and a green algae (sometimes a blue-green algae). Common Greenshield was the most prominent example we saw.

We also looked at a common liverwort that grows on hardwood – Frullania sp.(see photo)

Frullania sp.

Looking northward on the Eastern Trail we saw a flock of (17) wild turkeys crossing the trail and disappearing into the woods. We later studied the tracks made by them in the snow.

We walked as far as the Kennebunk River bridge. The river is the northern boundary of the Clark Preserve. As we turned around to retrace our steps, we observed a Ruffed Grouse crossing the trail. We next stopped along the trail to look at a pile of wood chips left by a Pileated Woodpecker as it worked the insect infested wood of an Eastern White Pine.

On the return portion of the walk we stopped and looked at an example of Black Knot on a Black Cherry twig. This is a disease which manifests itself as a noticeable black rough mass on small branches. It can be a serious problem on plum trees but generally does not kill cherry trees. The remainder of the walk to the parking lot was a review of some of the earlier tree identifications.

It was a nice day with a great group!