Monday, October 19, 2015

A good reason to visit a ‘new’ preserve-Ram Point

By Beth Sullivan
As a Land Trust, Avalonia is held to standards and practices that ensure that we monitor our properties regularly to make sure they are being preserved and protected as intended in the deed at acquisition.
All Avalonia properties are open to the public. Some may have regulations about usage, and some may have restrictions about access into certain areas that may be fragile habitats or nesting sites.
Avalonia Preserve sign marks the island. Retrieving the tires will take a bigger boat.

Not the typical perimeter walk

As stewards it is our responsibility to get out to all preserves, walk and view the boundaries and make sure our neighbors respect our properties as well. Most of the time it is pretty easy to do the monitoring-trails loop through, and often the boundaries are viewed from the trail. Sometimes boundaries go right through a wetland, which is a bit tricky. Doing those when the ground is frozen is helpful. Sometimes the land lines run smack through dense thicket, briers and impassable vines. Those are downright impossible but often we can say that if we can’t get through, likely no one else can either!
A small pool, deep and clear, provides an interesting habitat.

As we reviewed our list of preserves that still needed monitoring this year, there was one, Ram Point, that no one had been to or documented. A review of the maps revealed that the only way to access the property was by water. Land access was through someone’s very exclusive private driveway, and I did not have contact info.
We were very lucky that we happened to choose the most perfect October day to set out for our monitoring! We were grateful to Mystic River Marina for letting us launch our kayaks from their docks. On a beautiful warm late afternoon, the tide was very low, and it was an easy paddle, even against the wind and the tide, to the very tip of Mason’s Island’s most southerly and westerly point along the Mystic River.
Diverse habitats. from rocky shoreline and salt marsh, to shrub land and taller trees, support a variety of birds.

At low tide there were shoals surrounding the point that were quite cobbled, not sandy. They were occupied by Gulls foraging for crabs and flying over and dropping their clams onto the rocky substrate then swooping down to gather the feast. There were a few shorebirds still picking in the wrack lines. Most of the four acre parcel was of low elevation, but there was just enough of a rocky knoll to support some beautiful old Oak trees as well as Sassafras and Cedars. The thickets were alive with birds. Blue Jays were raucously flitting through the tree tops, while masses of Yellow- Rumped Warblers worked the Bayberry and Groundsel thickets.
The rocky cobble along the shore and tide pools full crabs are perfect foraging for Gulls and other shore birds.
A small rocky knoll of higher elevation supports larger trees.

Diverse habitat

Getting out and walking the perimeter, I was struck by the diversity on such a small piece. On the west side were the rocky shores, the south shore was more solid rock, like a headland, and around to the east side there was a band of lovely salt marsh with peat edges at the shoreline. Closer examination showed how the salt marsh edge is literally crumbling away into the water as higher tides eat at it and undermine it.
On the east side, the salt marsh shows signs of undermining and crumbling as a result of rising tides.

There was a lovely central area of wetland-a salt marsh with Spartina grasses and marsh plants . The Salicornia, Sea Pickle to most kids, was now red with cooling fall weather. I had hoped to walk in farther, but the entire area was “guarded” by a battalion of Poison Ivy plants! The most variable and tolerant plants along our coast, they were vining and twining, and some were actual full sized shrubs. Gorgeous red leaves, even at this time of year, promised a painful punishment if I chose to walk through any further, so the remainder of the boundary was viewed from a distance!
Large bushes of poison ivy provide lovely fall color, but prevent further exploration.

The center of the preserve is a salt marsh.

It is not too late in the season for a paddle out and around Ram Point. The water is warm still for wading in. But at the very least, remember it for a summer visit next year.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan

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