Spring Break has Brought Me Some Spring

For my spring break I went back home to Pittsburgh, PA. and spring was starting to bounce out. While the air slowly warmed up through out the week I was there (maxing at 62 degrees Fahrenheit) the sun stayed persistently out except for some clouds and showers here and there. In total the air had the crispness of the first days of spring, a change from Burly. The natural area I decided to spend some time in would have been Frick Park the place across from my house but seeing that I already elaborated on it in earlier posts I picked a different location. McConnells Mill State Park, about a 40 min drive outside Pittsburgh, is the spot I decided to go hiking one day. I had been to the park a few times before and know the awesome nature it contains. First, I looked into the history of the area a bit more. The park encompasses the Slippery Rock Creek and the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. The Gorge was created by the gradual melting of glacial lakes in the area which also created other numerous valleys and large boulders found throughout the park. Another part of history is the formation of the specific type of rocks in the park. McConnells Mill use to be a coastal shoreline before glacial lakes had formed. This allowed layers of mud, peat and sand to build up and eventually turn into rock. Later in history these rocks were forced upward due to mountain formations. Once exposed to the elements the different rocks eroded differently resulting in the varied landscape. In much more recent history there is a historic mill along the creek that harnessed the power of the water to churn up grains. While it has been out of use for many decades it influenced the area in the past and the mill house is still standing on the landscape. Now with the brief history of the area laid out its time to get to the animal and plant life there.

Wildlife- While on my hike I heard a huge array of bird songs which I am not versed to name but I did notice multiple Robins along the leaf litter. Although I did not see any I know hawks have been spotted in the area before. Because of the recent warmth in Pittsburgh there was no snow for tracking and sadly not much mud either so it was hard to compile a list of animals. From previous excursions in the area, knowledge of wildlife typical outside of city limits and some research I found that wild grouse, turkey, deer, groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, trout, and bass are very typical. I’m sure other small rodents inhabit the area, as well as other amphibians and invertebrates but no list has been compiled of them and I did not witness any during my time there.

Vegetation- Because of the transition of seasons many of the plant species that exist in the understood are hard to identify or even see. I was able to spot multiple different species of moss and lichens along the rocks of the stream, but it was hard to identify much else besides trees. For the tree species, they were much easier to detect because of a previous lab where we learned to identify trees in winter, using bark, and the twig/bud profile. The list of tress I spotted include, sugar maple, red maple, beeches, northern red oak, white oak, black oak, sassafras, and basswood. When I did some research to uncover other species with in the park Iyh7 found that the following are apart of the list: cucumber magnolia, tuliptrees, red elm, black oak, chestnut oak, shagbark, pignut, bitternut, eastern hemlock, black gum, and I’m sure others.

Overall Comparison: When I think back to Redstone Quarry a lot of difference from McConnells Mill come to mind. The first is the type of natural area the two are. While both have water, rock and forest features each feature is significantly different. The water at Redstone is slow, pond and marshes but in McConnells the creek is wide and fast (rapids level 3 and 4), so fast that no swimming is allowed. Another difference is the forest composition. At Redstone there are few trees with more shrubs and expanses of exposed rock where the other has an expansive forest with lots of canopy coverage and hardwoods. Lastly the rocks are different but yet similar in some ways. While at Redstone the main rock feature is the cliff and at McConnells there are multiple large boulders and a gorge both have a similarity in past formations. Both areas had a coastal history to their bedrock and a glacial effect. Its interesting to see two areas with a not so different beginning history have such a different present day landscape.

March Has Flowed In

Upon the deluged of precipitation we have experienced the water ways in Redstone Quarry are saturated and lethargic, brimming with water spilling out. Similarly to the landscape in November when Burlington with hit was lots of precipitation, water is pouring out all over in the Quarry and filling in low areas. When comparing this to my first visit, there is a cold wetness that did not exist at the start. My first visit vegetation was in full bloom and water was confined to smaller specific areas. The change of the year has brought bare branches and more water. The exposed rocks that proliferated my eye on my first visit are now covered in snow or water. The rock cliff is one thing that hasn’t changed only now it is covered with some white snow and a small water feature in two different spots. The cattails on this visit are more noticeable with the lack of vegetation from the surrounding trees. Also the animal communities have shifted. the majority of birds are gone so only squirrels and small rodents are let to occupy my thoughts about animal interactions. Redstone Quarry has come a long way in a few months of change but the essence and the layout is the same.
When I come to the task of figuring out what community to classify Redstone Quarry the first thought that comes to mind is some type of wetland community. The majority of the area is covered with water with little pools and a small pond cutting through the exposed rocks. In the far corner the water is filled with cattails leading me to the marshes and sedge classification and within that the cattail marsh. I believe that while the entire quarry is not classified in this community a good portion is. The cattails are extremely dominant in two spots of the area probably due to the suspected mineral soils and the shallowness of the water in those spots. When I move on to try and classify the rest of the natural area I hit a wall. The majority of the area without water is exposed rock. There is some forested area right near by the Quarry but there is not that same denseness in the Quarry. The location is very open and exposed with bunches of trees here and there. When I look to the large looming cliff I realize that part of the community is this cliff and comes with it a classification. This cliff or redstone outcrop is a temperate Cliff because of its low elevation and the vegetation that grows on it. Because of the lack of vegetation on it at the moment it is hard to discern if it is a acidic or calcareous cliff. But since redstone is a form of sandstone which produces acidic soil my bet is on the community being temperate acidic cliff. It’s eye opening to see these different communities overlap and interact to produce this natural area. I also come to think about what they area may have looked like if this quarry wasn’t a quarry. If the stone had be left and not extracted, I wonder if the dominant wetland community would even exist.