Monday, August 28, 2017

A New Preserve at its Best

By Beth Sullivan
We have enjoyed a beautiful stretch of weather. About the best one could ask for as summer begins to wind down. While there is truly almost another month of formal summer, we can tell by sights and sounds that we are nearing the turn to Autumn.
This preserve was acquired months ago, and is at its peak right now.

By daytime we still hear Cicadas buzzing during the heat of the day. In the evening, the cricket chorusing sounds remarkably like a pond full of spring peepers. This is now the season of insects as those crickets and katydids take over the twilight.
On Saturday, a group of Avalonia friends gathered to explore the Samuel Lamb and Forsberg Preserve in Ledyard. It is one of Avalonia’s newest preserves, located on the corner of Shewville Rd. and Town Farm Rd. It was a generous donation by William Forsberg and his son, Daniel, in honor of William’s Grandfather, Samuel Lamb, a long-time resident and landowner in the area.
It is a small preserve, only about 6 acres, but it is true proof that some of the very best things do come in small packages. Years ago it was likely a pasture or farm field, and had grown up and become shrubby with less desirable plants and invasives. Upon donation, a plan was developed to manage it as a meadow to maintain plant species for wildlife, particularly pollinators. With only one season of mowing and an intense effort to cut out and remove the invasives, this year the meadow is already a haven for all manner of creatures.
Birds, insects, small mammals, and people all enjoy the preserve.

Dragonflies hunted, soared, and landed.

Amazingly diverse

The preserve is amazingly diverse for such a small parcel. From a higher, drier, field habitat, the land slopes to a wet meadow and the vegetation changes accordingly. In the dry meadow are a variety grasses and Goldenrods with a number of other wildflowers throughout. There were two kinds of milkweeds and we searched for Monarch caterpillars but didn’t find any. The adult Monarch butterflies, however, were present in good numbers, confirming that this is, indeed, a great comeback year for the species. As we walked toward the wetter end of the meadow, the Joe Pye Weeds and Iron Weed plants towered over our heads. We stood eyeball to eyeball with numerous butterflies that were nectaring on them. There were also hundreds of bees, hornets, wasps and flies that created a soft buzz and a sense of constant motion at the flower tops. There were wetland ferns: Sensitive, Marsh and Royal, as well as rushes, sedges and mosses that require wetter soils. At the edge of the field, the wetland shrubs began to dominate: Spicebush, Winterberry, Alder, Viburnums Dogwoods and Blueberries. Every shrub held the promise of an abundance of berries that will ripen in the next weeks and months to provide food for a great number of birds through fall and even into winter. A few yards deeper into the woods, ran a clear stream that makes its way into Old Mystic and ultimately the Mystic River.
The Goldenrod hosted numerous species of bees, wasps, and others, all intent on nectar.

The Monarchs favored the Joe-Pye Weed.

It is an easy walk

A mowed trail cuts a swath down the length of the preserve and a small loop curves toward the stream and wetland. A family with a stroller and some little ones who became enamored of the popping “Touch-Me-Not “ Jewelweeds, made their way with relative ease. And one hiker boasted of being almost 90, and managed with care.
One caution: as in most meadows, where all plants grow abundantly and lushly, so does the poison ivy, so be careful not to stray off the trail without being aware of this.
It will stay this way for several more weeks; the Goldenrod has yet to peak. With it will come even more butterflies. There is a lot to see in this little piece of Ledyard. While it will hold interest in all seasons, it is in the high summer time that preserve really shines. Take a little hike. It will not disappoint.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan

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