Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Great Avalonia Trail Trek 2021

A peaceful early autumn trail.
It’s September and finally the weather has turned, to encourage outdoor activities.  We have waited patiently for these less humid, blue sky, comfortably cool days when a hike or any other minor exertion doesn’t leave you sweating and out of breath!

I would expect most of us don’t really need any other reason to head onto a trail but this is also the time when we are planning the second annual Trail Trek to benefit Avalonia’s mission to preserve, protect and manage open space here in southeastern CT.  

No two trails are the same.
At this point in time, Avalonia cares for almost 4,500 acres and the number of towns in which these preserves are located, is continually growing.  If you are anywhere between the Thames River and the RI Border, or south to Little Narragansett Bay and Fisher’s Island Sound, and north to Griswold and the Pachaug Forest area, there is an Avalonia preserve near you ( https://avalonia.org/preserves/).

All of our preserves are open but not all are trailed. The Avalonia website is linked to the CT Trail Finder app and those preserves with trails are easy to find and well described.   Last year folks hiked, ran or did a bike loop connecting as many preserves as possible. You can bring your four footed friends along on most preserves ( there are a couple of exceptions) as long as they are on a leash and run along beside you. 

At Knox Farm, you can pull up in
your kayak and go for a hike.

 This year an added attraction will be a kayak component. Many preserves in Stonington and Groton have water access or are visible from the water.  Several years ago, I posted a blog with some directions and ideas. A Blue Trail. http://avaloniaetrails.blogspot.com/2016/08/avalonia-by-kayak.html   Now we have some freshwater access in Griswold and soon may even have access from the Wood/Pawcatuck River to our new Sheets Preserve in North Stonington.

At least one preserve will allow mountain biking for part of the event.


The TriTown Ridgeline Forest trails
are more challenging.
Last year Trail Trek helped complete our funding for the Tri-Town Ridgeline  Forest.  This preserve is Avalonia’s largest, most diverse and ecologically unique property. There are majestic trees, rocky ledges, clear streams, pre-colonial stone structures and even a true mountain!  It now has literally miles of well marked trails, some easy and some challenging, and all beautiful. They are perfect for hiking and trail running. Everyone had fun last year, and we exceeded our fund raising goals with great gratitude to all who donated. 

Those of you who have come to know me, through the blog or otherwise, know that I need no extra incentive or reason to be outdoors.  It is a passion, and some might say an obsession. A healthy one.  I don’t always need to be on a trail.   Boundary work gives me a good excuse to go off trail and check out more remote corners.   This is my favorite time of year for kayaking.  The water is warm and really clear, and the colors of autumn reflect so beautifully with the September-blue sky.  I hope I can launch my little boat during the trail trek week but surely will be out hiking.  This year “my team” will be the Stonington Stewards, dedicated to all the people who help me here in town, build bridges, pull invasives, mow trails populate the work parties, and who support all the projects we are involved in.

Please support Avalonia in all aspects of the good work that is being done.  More land preserved, more trails maintained,  more outreach and education.  It is all good.

Thanks,

Beth

A bike route may take you past untrailed
properties that you didn't know about!


Some trails open up to amazing views!




A bench welcomes tired trekkers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Invasive Species: the saga continues

 by Beth Sullivan

Multi-flora rose offers some protection
for nesters and berries for food, but can
take over a field in no time.
Over the last years I have written about invasive species, plant, animal and insect.  It is a challenge to actually define the term as there are many species that have been brought to our habitats that are not truly native or were not here before European contact.   Many species of animals have been domesticated such as cows, sheep, horses, pets. Most don’t become an invasive problem but could, like feral cats. Some species, like the Eastern Cottontail, have been introduced  purposefully and now have taken over a niche that was occupied by their native relative the New England Cottontail.  They have become naturalized, a nuisance, but not many people would refer to them as invasive.

Invasive insects have become a bigger problem. As products from foreign countries come to our shores, they contain plant material or insects and their eggs associated with the wood or packing material.  Once these insects are released into a new environment, they do not have native predators to control them.  Often, they find sources of abundant food and appropriate habitat.   Then they go to town, unimpeded and often leave a path of destruction. We have witnessed this most recently with gypsy moths, hemlock woolly adelgid, emerald ash borer, Asian long-horned beetles and now spotted lanternfly.  As climate warms, many of these pests are not affected by winter temperatures anymore, so they survive. In most cases there are few, if any, natural insect controls. I don’t think many of our native birds are fully adapted to eat invasive insects, but we know cuckoos eat gypsy moths and woodpeckers will go into wood for various beetle larvae.   As a result of invasive insects, we are losing our hemlocks, ash trees and many of our oak trees.

Porcelain berry, a beauty of a beast
that will cover and smother entire
trees and walls.

Invasive plants form another real threat.  People have been intrigued by plants and their uses, probably forever!  Moving plants around for food, medicine and decoration is an ongoing activity.  Centuries ago, people, and plants, didn’t move quite as far or as quickly as they can now.   Settlers introduced grasses for their livestock that have become integrated into farm fields. Food plants were introduced to give us all greater variety.  But most of these kinds of plants have “better manners”.  Most don’t spread widely or aggressively.  In the last century, ecologists have noted new plants becoming monocultures in some areas, taking over habitats, killing native species with various methods, and ultimately enticing native wildlife to make use of them and spread their seeds far and wide.   Some of these plants are beautiful,  and the uninformed are also responsible for their spread.  Some plants were deemed useful in landscaping and no one really knew how aggressively they would spread beyond their intended use.

Oriental bittersweet twist 
their way up and then 
strangle the supporting tree.
So, here we are, as stewards for Avalonia, hoping to maintain habitats that are appropriate for all kinds of wildlife and reflect, as closely as possible, native species in their natural habitats. Sadly, as we look closely and learn more, it is hard to see the native forest…for all the invasive trees and shrubs and vines in the way!  There are several places where I feel the landscape would be completely barren, if we were able to remove all the invasive plants.  On some preserves, we have worked tirelessly to remove invasive shrubs such as multiflora rose and autumn olive and bush honeysuckle. However the minute the area is opened to sun, new invasives take their place.  We got bittersweet, reed canary grass and porcelain berry. When those were tackled, swallowwort, bindweed and stilt grass have began their destructive march.

A habitat overrun by invasives may offer some minimal shelter for wildlife, but the food value is often very poor. In some cases, nothing eats an invasive plant. In the worst case, our native and endangered Monarchs are fooled into laying their eggs on black swallowwort but when the caterpillars emerge, they cannot eat that plant, and they die.

Stilt grass has taken over the banks
of the Pequotsepos Brook and will 
spread downstream.

Stilt grass is relatively new here. However, in the more southern/mid Atlantic states, the grass has spread so rapidly, and destructively, that it carpets entire forests and parks, preventing any native plants, flowers, or tree seedlings, from germinating.  The seeds originally came in packing material that protected Japanese ceramics.  It is now wreaking havoc in our area. 

Avalonia stewards are determined to learn the best way to control this grass, and other invasive species. We are conducting workshops, and compiling data/fact sheets for our stewards to use. These, we hope will soon be available on our website.   Right now, Japanese stilt grass is being tracked into preserves by hikers and bikers.  It has spread along the roadsides and vehicles carry seeds to parking lots and other preserves. Landscape equipment can carry and spread seed.  This is the time to identify it and begin to wage war.   As an annual grass, it relies on self-seeding, so removal now, before the seeds are set, is imperative. It is easy to pull.  If seeds are present, already, it should be bagged and not put into compost.   It can even be “weedwhacked”  down close to the ground at this time of year, to inhibit the seeds. The plants will die.  But sadly, seeds from previous years are already in the seed bank and can last up to five years.  Too bad we didn’t start, didn’t know, years ago!

There is a lot to learn. Identification is the first step.  Then learning about the best ways to manage or treat infestations will take time and thought.  We, as an organization are working on finding the right balance. 

This is a great resource:   Good luck in your own home areas.

Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group:

https://cipwg.uconn.edu


If you find swallowwort, at least remove the 
pods to prevent seeding. 

Autumn Olive berries make great jam, but there
are just too many of them!



Stilt grass is not too hard to identify,
once you know it.




Monday, August 9, 2021

Water

The landscape is created by the water.
Photo credit: David Young

by Beth Sullivan

The swamp is an indistinct edge between
land and water.

Not sure exactly why I have been thinking so much about water.   Probably a dozen different reasons.  One is a book I am reading about the 1930’s Dust Bowl era and drought and how everything, and everyone, simply dried up.  Physically and emotionally.  Maybe it is because as I am sitting and writing, my window is open and I can smell the rain as it is falling outside.  Though we had an unusually wet July  after even a week of typical summer heat and bright sun, my gardens wilted and I was grateful to have a hose and a reliable source of water to remedy the situation.   I cannot imagine the vast plains of our country dried and dusty. Dead.

Recent news headlines and photos report on the drastically low levels of water in the reservoirs out west.  Resources are simply not there.  Enough snow didn’t fall in the mountains or it melted earlier and faster and the slow steady replenishment has ceased.   The massive fires are just mind boggling and the airlifted loads of water transported and dumped on the flames seem so ineffectual It is so impossible to think of where that water is coming from and how much energy it takes to transport it to the fire site. 

The smallest drops conquer thirst.
Instinctively we understand our bodies are made up of a lot of water. We recognize, without thinking,  when we need to drink. Even the smallest infant has that instinct.  All levels of organisms from complex beings to the most microscopic single celled life forms, are reliant on water.  We know that our planet is mostly water. It is the Blue Planet.  Many of us turn to water in some form or another, for our rest, peace, tranquility. Vacations.  We head to the ocean for inspiration, we sit by rivers, wade in ponds, dabble in brooks, paddle in swamps and are mesmerized by waterfalls.  Water has the ability to sculpt rock and create landscapes.

The smallest of frogs was
nurtured by a vernal pool.

We really need to think even a bit deeper though, especially as the climate is changing. Think about water that is a bit less obvious but equally as essential.  Maybe even more.  As I walked in the woods earlier this week, the path ahead of me seemed to be alive with movement. On closer inspection, I counted dozens of really, really, small spring peepers!   It was obvious that these were this year’s young, newly transformed from small tadpoles. Where had they come from? There is no pond nearby. But this spring, thanks to continuous rains, the vernal wetland in the woods stayed waterfilled long enough to support a full hatch of peepers.  It also probably supported many other creatures that depend on the same lucky circumstances.

However, this one wet spring wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit of drought experienced over the last several summers. We are still seeing mighty Oaks, whose roots extend far and deep, succumb to the stresses of the last dry years.  That is related to ground water. Deep resources, springs, aquifers, and headwaters where the earth’s waters merge, purified and restored to hydrate the deepest roots and to replenish our reservoirs.

Streams refresh.
Part of Avalonia’s mission to preserve and protect the land we love, also includes the waters both above and below ground, which the land itself protects. Most of our recent acquisitions include significant wetlands or offer buffers to important waterways in our area.  We need to really give more thought to the water we are blessed with, follow it back from the tap to the reservoir to the stream to the aquifer or spring. What replenishes that?  Please visit some of our preserves with a different view. Think of the life-giving water that is present. Think of how the water creates the habitat. Think of all the organisms that depend on that water. We know about greenways. Think blue ways too.

 

 

 

Still water reflects.




We are drawn to water for its ability
to soothe.

All photos by Beth Sullivan, except where noted.  

Monday, July 26, 2021

End of July Already!

 

Mid-summer musings.

Thanks to volunteers,
this trail is open, 
but not for long in this weather.
It is the end of July already. To me that still means that summer is half over ( even though I don’t worry about school vacations anymore)  and we all know that August goes by faster than July.  It always seems like it is a good point to stop and assess where we are, what we have, or have not done, and what we hope to accomplish in the remaining weeks of summer.

It has been hot and wet!  Steamier than I can ever remember July being and with more days of rain than in other Julys on record. I am sure there are those that have been really disappointed in the weather, but I will have to admit, I have been grateful for every drop because the plantings we have done at the Hoffman Preserve are thriving and we have not needed to constantly worry about watering them.  That would have been truly challenging. 

Tall stakes and color-coded tape
help us locate
small seedlings at Hoffman,
Everything else is growing up too, so it has been hard to relocate some of those little seedlings.  Thanks to a youth group work party from the Mystic Congregational Church, each plant was given a tall bamboo stake and a colored flag to indicate its species.  Now that they are getting their leaves, it is a lot easier to distinguish a sumac from a viburnum but those stakes are a huge help!   The wet loving plants, tupelo ( Nyssa sylvatica) and dogwood ( Cornus species)   are loving the moist soils.




One of the lovely
coral mushrooms.
The humidity and rainfall have been a boon for those of us who love to search for unique mushrooms.  Some are prized edibles, but I would never suggest anyone go sampling any mushroom in any landscape unless they were well educated!  Photography is safer, and being able to document some of the colors and forms of these unique organisms is really an interesting activity. There are apps for smart phones that can help identify species but even the best apps have a hard time with some of those little brown ones!  A friend and I used the same app, on the same mushroom, and there were a couple of times when the IDs did not match up immediately, but very close. In many cases, to get a definitive ID, you need a spore print.   I am happy with my photos and iNaturalist app.

There is a trail in here
somewhere.

On most preserves, everything else is growing like crazy too.  Vines, briars and invasives all seem to be competing for space and in doing so, reach out into the trails!  Many of the woodland trails are pretty hardened. Broad and open. They are shady pleasures during the hot summer.  But some of the more open areas, meadows and thickets require attention. Our stewards are out and about trying to keep up with things, but the conditions are daunting!  Feel free to hike with clippers and snip the encroaching vegetations. And we give our thanks in advance.  The invasive species seem to be more robust and numerous than ever. Many of our volunteers will be doing some field research and identification studies to better learn how to manage these species which outcompete our natives and are not as valuable to our wildlife.

Over the last months, Avalonia has been growing as well.  We have added acres of new land, now protected open space. Please keep checking the website for updates. Many thanks to those who donated to make the acquisition of the Sheets Preserve in North Stonington, a reality.   Other new preserves are being studied to note wildlife, habitats, sensitive areas and points of interest.  A management plan will be made for each one which will outline the goals and activities for each property.  Boundaries will be walked and posted. Trails will be created, with safety measures or improvements as needed.  The trails will be marked and then the areas will be opened to the public.  All of this takes a lot of work and maintaining all of our properties is becoming a huge challenge, considering all of us are volunteers and most of us are not professionals in any area dealing with habitat management! 

Say hi to Toby when you see
him on the trails!
So, it  is with real excitement that I can introduce our newest “acquisition,” a dedicated Stewardship Coordinator: Tobias Glaza.  Toby is a Mystic native and resident, with a background in ecology and management with lots of field experience. He brings this experience and great ideas to our growing organization. Best of all, he will help us organize our volunteers  to utilize our time and skills more efficiently, to accomplish what needs to be done to provide proper stewardship for all our beautiful places.  You can read more about him here. 

Maybe growing our stewardship team will allow us to keep up with the growing vegetation!! 

Hike safely and enjoy what summer has to offer.



Many mushrooms look alike and
it takes an expert to distinguish them.

Beautiful but deadly Amanita.




A true beauty



Nothing appetizing about Dog Vomit Slime Mold.



Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Purple Martins 2021

 

The adults declare territory
and build nests.

This year started slow.   Our purple martin colony at Knox Preserve seemed to take a long time to get occupied and established, but, once it got going, it was amazing!   

It was late April when the first scouts arrived on the site, but it was into May before there were others coming in to make their happy chorus. The songs of happy purple martins are unmistakable.   Chattery and bubbly.      As the month of May progressed, the adults were busily constructing their nests.   Each year when I set them up, I put a nice layer of dry pine needles into each gourd. A little welcome mat. It’s always interesting to notice the difference in the follow up techniques though.  Most martins use moderately thick grass stems, some work up to straw blades, and then others carry in small twigs.   In some years, the birds will actually bring in mud to reinforce the nests. Some have speculated that it may help insulate the nest. So far this year, there was no mud used in our colony.  The nests are pretty neat. If I discover a really messy nest that fills up the entire gourd, I know it is a house sparrow and remove the material to discourage nesting. House sparrows are invasive and will fight and even kill martins (and blue birds and tree swallows) to get access to favored nesting sites.    This year it seemed that the martins got the upper hand and once I evicted a couple of sparrow pairs, the martins were quite effective at defending their territory.    By the first of June, most nest building was complete.  A sure sign that egg laying is imminent is a lovely layer of green cherry leaves that line the cup of the nest.   Some birds bring in just a few, others are quite enthusiastic in their layering. There is some thought that cherry leaves help deter or kill parasitic mites that can harm the young.

A perfect nest lined with green leaves
and filled with five eggs.

Once egg laying begins, the female will lay one egg a day, at sunrise, until her clutch is complete. Average is 5 eggs but this year we had one with 7!    Each week we checked the nests and counted eggs. There is a formula to use to calculate when eggs will hatch based on when they are laid. Most of the clutch hatches in one 24-hour period.   Once in a while a random female will ‘dump’ an egg into an established nest. Sometimes it works out quite fine. Sometimes they hatch much later, and the young bird is quite handicapped by its smaller size in the nest and feeding position and it will not survive.

 


This year promised to be the best in our 9-year history.    At the highest count we had the potential for about 87 young and eggs were still being laid!  As in other years, some of our birds started early nests, while other pairs were late starters.   There would be quite an age span as we started our monitoring over the next phase. 

So wonderful to
share this experience!
  I was able to bring my grandson out to check the nests with me one day. I let him peek first, into a nest I knew would have young birds.  His expression of awe and excitement was priceless!   From that point forward he insisted that he look in first, make the count of eggs and/or young and only then could I look in to confirm. Most of the time he was right!  Occasionally I had to sort out a jumbled pile of little birds in order to get a good count. 

Things were going well until that last few days of June when we had the terrible heat wave.  That was followed by the sudden drop in temperatures, into upper 50’s with rain for several days.   It is impossible to know what was worst: the heat, the cold or the rain.  In cold rain there are no insects flying and the parents couldn’t support their rapidly growing young ones. 

Today, July 5th, I was able to get out and check the colony. I was fearful of what I might find.    The first set of gourds seemed to be ok. A few birds seem weak or thin but were alive.   In the second set of gourds, I found such sadness.  Two full nests were lifeless, including the one with 7.   Those poor parents couldn’t keep up with the demand.  There were individual birds dead in other nests.  We lost a total of 13 young.  There were others that looked weak but hopefully will survive in the coming days of better weather.   We fared much better than some of the inland colonies where the temperature soared higher and mortalities were far higher as well. 

The gourds were set up at the end of April.

We can never really predict how a colony will do in a given year. The purple martins rely on human help for their housing, but only nature can truly provide the right conditions and food sources.  Erratic and extreme weather, combined with declining insect populations  is not a good scenario for survival for this and other species.

We still have the potential for a good year and good numbers in 2021, but we never know what conditions are in our near future.  And we certainly do not know what is in store in the next decades.


Hatching Day!










About 11 days old.


Monday, June 21, 2021

Sandy Point: Getting Back to Sharing the Shore

 

by Beth Sullivan

American Oystercatchers 
Photo credit: Rick Newton

There is so much going on right now. There is so much beauty at this moment in time. Such life and rejuvenation, birth and growth, freedom and the ability to breathe more openly and hopefully.   I am quite sure that this spring seems extra special because of the year we have all been through.   We have holed up, curled in and in many cases, kept our heads down.   It is time now to grow outward and explore and remind ourselves how lucky we all are.

Nature has provided solace and sustenance for so many of us over the last year and a half.   It is time now to look at where we have been and see how we can restore and support some of our natural areas. To give back a bit.   As stewards we have begun getting back onto the preserves and working as teams, to maintain and monitor.  Over the summer we will make the rounds and I will report on what is happening.

Sandy Point: One Island, Two States

The first update is about Sandy Point Island: Avalonia’s gem of a wildlife refuge in Little Narragansett
Bay, between Stonington and Napatree Point in Rhode Island.  The history of the island and Avalonia’s ownership can be found in earlier blogs and on our website.  Its primary purpose is as a nature preserve.  It is acres and miles of shifting sand and beach grasses and shrubs. The island itself has shifted dramatically over the decades, a fact which can be seen easily on a series of aerial maps and Google Earth.   But even with the movements of the land over time, the island has remained a historical nesting and refuge area for a wide variety of very special species.

If you find a tagged horseshoe crab,
take a photo and report it
Photo Credit: Beth Sullivan

The most ancient of these species is the horseshoe crab: Limulus polyphemus.  These relics of the dinosaur era return to the same areas of sand at the edges of the oceans around the world, somehow following some magnetic compass in their own bodies, to come ashore during the full and new moons of May and June at the high tides, to mate and lay their eggs.  For almost a decade, Avalonia volunteers made multiple trips each season, usually at night and by kayak, out to the island to count and tag the horseshoe crabs. This was part of Project Limulus, a study conducted by Sacred Heart University. The tagging part of the project is completed, different parts of the study continue, and the crabs continue to return to the sandy island each late spring into summer.  If you find a tagged horseshoe crab, take a photo of the information on the tag, and report it on the website link below.   

https://www.sacredheart.edu/academics/colleges--schools/college-of-arts--sciences/departments/biology/project-limulus/

 

Piping Plovers
Photo Credit: Rick Newton
The island is also an important nesting site for several threatened or endangered species of birds.  Piping plovers, American oystercatchers and least terns make their homes and raise their young on this strip of sandy island.   All these species make very simple scrape nests on the sand, amid the pebbles and shells on the beach. They are very vulnerable to all kinds of dangers. High storm tides can wash the nests away, there are predators that target the eggs and the young, including the gulls that also nest there, and crows.   Sadly, some of the worst disruption is human caused.    The island is much loved by many people for its beauty, beaches, and wildlife.   But people and wildlife do not always mix well.   Our simple presence near a nest can cause a parent to abandon the nest or eggs.  People can inadvertently step on, or land their boat on, a nest or eggs.    When the chicks hatch, they can run but they cannot fly so they must get to the water’s edge to feed by finding their way through whatever obstacles there may be on the shore. On busy summer weekends, that can be people, blankets, chairs, kids and coolers.  Dogs are not allowed on the island at all, even on leash, because their mere presence terrorizes the birds.

They have a narrow window of time, when they nest, incubate their eggs then have the young wandering around like toddlers; vulnerable to all sorts of dangers and hard to control!

Signage is provided for all visitors
Photo credit: Beth Sullivan
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has provided an amazing partnership with Avalonia to monitor the
wildlife, provide fencing to help remind visitors to avoid nesting sites, create educational signage and offer trained biologists to be on the island to teach visitors about the importance of the habitat.   For permits and passes which are required, please visit https://rhodeislandpermits.recaccess.com/

We are at the Solstice.  The longest days of the most lovely of seasons. We all want to enjoy our new freedom to get back out in nature with our friends. Please remember that wildlife on all our preserves, needs to be protected. At Sandy Point the protection is critical to the survival of 3 species. Please help us, and the wildlife, by observing the guidelines and looking out for and enjoying the other beings that use the island.

 

USFWS biologists monitor the nesting sites
and roped off areas.
Photo credit: Rick Newton


All creatures seem to be drawn to the 
gentle, shifting shoreline of Sandy Point.
Photo credit: Beth Sullivan


When young shorebirds need to run to the
water, they can encounter many obstacles.
Photo credit: Beth Sullivan





 

 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Caterpillars: Love 'em or hate 'em?

 

Tent caterpillars are easy to
spot in their nests.
Pretty much any kind of wildlife intrigues me. I am not afraid of much but have a healthy respect for things that bite or sting. I am grateful we do not have venomous snakes to worry about in my area.

But I have to say I am getting pretty upset with caterpillars this spring! We have seen groves of trees denuded in a short time. Some trees never even had the chance to unfurl their leaves. Some never blossomed.




When leaves emerged this spring,
they were already damaged!



The Winter Moth

This photo is from June -
not mid-winter

The first wave of problems was caused by the Winter Moth: A nondescript, smallish brown-gray moth that was noted in abundance last fall and into December, in pockets in southeastern Connecticut. They flew in clouds, caught in headlights, covered garage doors and patio windows. Then they disappeared, but not before laying millions of eggs on the bark and buds at the tips of branches of certain trees. They seemed to favor Oaks and fruit trees like Crab Apples and Cherries. Despite the bitter winter the eggs survived and as the spring enticed trees to begin their growth, the caterpillars hatched and ate into the developing buds. As leaves unfolded they were damaged and lacey. Their photosynthesis abilities were greatly diminished. The trees will suffer. The caterpillars were small, smooth and green, and while I felt helpless, I knew some birds were enjoying a spring feast. So there was a positive side to it…maybe. But if Oaks are too weak to produce acorns, other species will be impacted later. The trees that lost their blossoms will not produce fruit, so the birds dependent on the berries in the fall will be severely challenged. The birds being impacted are our own natives; the caterpillars doing the damage, are not.



Gypsy moth caterpillars
blend into the bark.


The Winter Moth caterpillar cycle is nearly finished now. They will drop to the ground to pupate. There are  foresters very interested to determine exactly how and where they complete this stage, as control may be possible. But, to add insult to injury, Gypsy Moth caterpillars have made a comeback in many areas, as well as Tent Caterpillars, easy to spot with their webby abodes. The poor trees that are trying to re-sprout leaves, are being eaten back yet again. There is only so much a tree can tolerate before it will be damaged beyond recovery. The Gypsy Moth caterpillars and Tent caterpillars are not as enticing to birds; they are too fuzzy to be palatable to most, except Cuckoos. We can wage war on them. Tent structures can be removed and destroyed. Gypsy Moth caterpillars often migrate up and down the tree trunks and can often be found clustering near the base prior to pupating. I have no problem destroying them!



Monarch Butterflies


Monarch butterflies are in
serious decline!

Little monarch caterpillars have 
big appetites!
But then we think of our Monarchs. The beautiful native that has enthralled people of all ages and cultures for centuries is under siege. Their home range for winter migration is threatened with climate change and forest destruction. The Milkweed they depend on here, for their caterpillar food, is being decimated by habitat change and widespread use of herbicides. There is a “lookalike” invasive plant, Swallowwort that attracts the butterfly to lay her eggs, but the caterpillars will not be able to survive. So dedicated nature people like me go out to dig, propagate and save milkweed to establish big patches in attractive places for the Monarchs to use. We rejoice to see the chewed up leaves!

Another caterpillar…a different response!

 

 

We preserve and protect Milkweed
so that the Monarch butterfly can survive!