Monday, May 14, 2018

We have waited so long for this

By Beth Sullivan
Finally! While the Connecticut College students were busy doing their projects and writing the blog for the last several weeks, winter finally breathed its last and spring jumped in with both feet, making up for lost time. It is amazing to me, that despite the long extended cold, things seemed to catch up and happen on time, as they always have.

Spring has arrived

My Quince bushes were a little delayed in flowering, but my Hummingbird returned to the yard, looking for the feeder, right on target: April 27. The cold weather seemed to keep down the insect populations early in the season, and I truly hoped the insect-eating birds would take their time and maybe take a bit of an extended rest stop farther south. It seems they did. At least my Phoebe was a week later than usual in announcing her presence. But everything is on schedule now. We are beset with gnats and flies, and the sweet little bird spends hours at the edge of the woods, making quick upward and outward flights to grab her meals.
I hope I am not jinxing anything by reporting that many flowering trees seem to have come through the winter and early blooming time, without showing the devastation from the winter moths, as they have in previous years. Barring a severe freeze, this could be a bumper year for beautiful blossoms and later abundant fruits. Of course we also have to hope all the species of native bees have survived the winter to do the pollinating. We can also hope that last year’s severe die-off of Gypsy moth caterpillars will result in fewer areas of devastation this year. There is still time to search out egg masses and scrape them away. I found a number inside my birdhouses as I cleaned them for their feathered occupants.
This is just such a spectacular time of year, creating a welcome sensory overload for those of us who are truly passionate about watching every little natural change. Every day brings something new: the arrival of a new bird, the opening of a favorite woodland wildflower. Sometimes things happen over hours, like the unfurling of a fern fiddlehead, or the chorus of spring frogs starting slow then reaching a beautiful peak at sunset and for a few hours beyond. Every night is different as voices change over the weeks. The Wood Frogs seem to be finished, the Spring Peepers continue but less vigorously and have now been joined by Gray Tree Frogs.
The wetlands seem to be where spring life really begins, and over the weeks they have changed from brittle brown to lush green and yellow: Skunk Cabbage, False Hellebore, Sphagnum Moss and Marsh Marigolds. Standing pools are alive with water striders, swarms of small flies, and masses of amphibian eggs are that just days from hatching. The single heart-shaped leaves of thousands of Canada Mayflowers create a carpet of green occasionally dotted with the white or lavender-blue of violets. The very precious Dog tooth Violet makes a brief appearance in the moist wet woodland soils.
The Hummingbirds arrived right on time, finding a full feeder.

A Phoebe relies on warm weather hatches of flying insects to survive. Photograph by Dennis Main. 

Lush green with yellow and violet create a wetland mosaic.

Canada Mayflowers will carpet the woodland floor by the thousands. 

So much to see, so much to share

 The season is fleeting. The trees and shrubs will leaf out, closing our views and shading the forest floors. Wetlands will dry out and the chorus of frogs will change to the more solitary vocals of the larger species.
Please take some time for yourself to seek out a new preserve, or an old favorite, and make note of this wonderful season. We can be so grateful that Avalonia has, over the years, preserved 4000 acres of springtime beauty, just for us to enjoy. The website lists all the trails and Hike and Seek gives you a challenge to open your eyes and look for some very special features. Enjoy.
The Trout Lilly or Dog Tooth Violet is a fleeting gem.

Brooks and pools in the Woodlot Sanctuary teem with life.

You can almost see the fiddlehead ferns uncurling in front of your very eyes.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Semester wrap up

A note from Beth: This has been a super year with the students of the Goodwin Niering Center for the Environment. Their projects were diverse and energetic. We got some great deliverables, from an amazing Barberry harvest to 1000 likes on Facebook. I always learn so much from these students and their energy and enthusiasm gives me hope for the future. I hope you enjoyed hearing from them as well.

 by Alan Lau
As the spring semester comes to an end, all of the sophomores at GNCE have enjoyed the time spent collaborating with the Avalonia team.
One day Emma Brooks and Julia Neumann ‘20 went on a boundary walk of the Moore Woodlands in Mystic with longtime volunteer Joellen Anderson. They were very lucky to also have Margot Greener, who is a part of the family that originally donated the property, accompany them. Boundary walks are important to make sure that the property isn't being encroached upon and that the wishes of the original landowners are being upheld. Each property should be walked at least once a year (which is a huge undertaking). Joellen had handheld GPS units with the layout of the preserve loaded up so they could follow the boundary all the way around. One way surveyors indicate boundaries is by creating drill holes in stationary rocks as permanent markers. As the day went on, they did their best to pick up some trash as they went but mostly just tried to keep up with Joellen's fiery pace. She made sure to educate them with lessons in history, ecology, local lore, and land conservancy. It was an absolutely beautiful day and a great reason to get outside and help Avalonia.
While we have some students working outside on the land, one student, Haruko Tateyama, has been researching the history of that land. Haruko has been working on a history project that could potentially be used for newsletters and archived on the website. As of now, she has conducted research on Pine Swamp and Avery Preserve both in Ledyard. She also interviewed Ms. Nancy Avery in the course of her research for the Avery Preserve. Furthermore, she will be working on condensing earlier documentation done by past GNCE scholars on Perry Natural Area and Pequotsepos Brook Preserve. All of these properties have great trails and are open for exploration-check the website for more information.
Bailey Aust and Sarah Stephanset up outreach tables at the Stonington Farmers’ Market and at the Mystic Aquarium Earth Day event. They did a great job informing people about Avalonia and even recruited some new members.
Yiyan Ma is working on getting some elementary students out onto a preserve to enjoy the trails and introduce them to Hike and Seek.
Last but not least, the two masterminds that have been running social media for Avalonia this past couple of months are none other than our Marcus Vinicius Pinto Pereira Jr. and Jennifer Rojas, both class of 20’. They have been working on social media outreach for Avalonia, specifically on Facebook. Their objective has been to analyze weekly posts and see which kinds of posts generate more attraction from the pages’ followers. Their goal was to get 1000 likes on Facebook and they achieved that on May 2. They will continue to post until their semester is done. Hopefully Maureen Dewire, Chair of the Communications Committee who has been mentoring them, will be left with information on which types of posts are the most productive. This will benefit Avalonia greatly in the long run because outreach is one of the most important aspects when dealing with non-profit organizations like Avalonia which relies on its volunteers and members.
In conclusion, it has been a wonderful semester for all of us sophomores. Time has flown by so quickly; it feels like I met Beth for the first time yesterday, but it has been several months. As we move forward in our personal lives, we often have a tendency to take the smallest things for granted. Therefore, on behalf of all the sophomores of the GNCE class of 2020 I would like to thank all of the amazing teachers like Beth Sullivan, Jennifer Pagach, and all the mentors who have guided us on this wonderful journey.
Blogger Alan Lau did a great job filling in for me.

At the Aquarium Earth Day events, Bailey, Sarah, Anna, and Avatar presented their projects.

Bailey and Sarah answer questions about Avalonia.

Connecticut College students doing boundary survey at Moore Preserve. Photograph by Joellen Anderson.

Emma and Julia learned Avalonia history from Anne who provided cookies and juice at all the work parties. Photograph by Rick Newton.

History researcher Maruko Tateyama

Haruko has written about the history of the Pine Swamp preserve. If only these old trees could talk.

Photographs by Avalonia volunteers.