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

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.

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