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.

A New Year Look

The depth of snow creates an ocean of white in Redstone quarry, only the steep cliff shows any signs of red. Small sparks of green spur out form the pines of a few coniferous trees. The rest is shades of brown and grey, melding over one another with yet more white clinging to barren branches. The Quarry has not changed much since my last meeting, simply more snow, more barren vegetation and more ice over the small pond of water. But now there is a sign of life that wasn’t there before-Tracks.

The only signs of life come from deep imprints in the snow around. I came while snow was freshly falling and had fallen a bit the night before so now clear prints could be seen which means i relied on size, straddle length, stride length, and track pattern to create guesses of what animal tracks I was looking at. I believe some of the tracks I saw belonged to gray squirrel, potentially a weasel (short tailed) or mink, potentially a rabbit, some dog and cat tracks.  Below are some pictures of these tracks!

I wonder what journey’s these animals are on, food, shelter or something else.

Upon closer look of the grays and browns of branches I identify Norway Maple, Sugar Maple, Striped Maple, Shagbark Hickory, Willow,Black Oak and I am sure there were many others that I did not have the time to find and Identify. Some of the twig profiles of the ones I found are as follows:

 

 

A sketch of my favorite twig(below) shows its different identifying aspects.

 

Snow Has Fallen to Cover the Red.

Upon my most recent visit snow blanketed the redstone quarry’s cliff and open sections. I can’t help but to think slightly of snow white (red and white mixing with the darkening sky) and of what is to come of the Redstone quarry in winter. I imagine the hibernation of the squirrels up in the trees, and the beginning of ice forming on the edges of the pond and over the tiny stream.  As I sit hearing the wind run through the trees I look down and think about all the years I am standing above. All the years embedded in the Redstone, the history of time separate from me by the soles of my shoes.  I begin to think of how young the growth is on top of it. The growth that filled in after the mining period of this location. How the water must of worked its way in. How the pond formed because that section of the Quarry was dug into just a bit deeper than the rest. I wonder what the future holds for the spot, what growth will come, what new life will inhabit the area, how long the redstone will be exposed till broken down by wind and water into soil.  I feel the years behind close and the possibility of the years ahead powerful. Remarkable where thinking about nature will take you.

Some Human History

The start of Redstone Quarry begins with sand deposits from the Iapetus ocean that was compressed into the rock we see today. Then humans came along..                                                                                                      It is of no surprise that mining has a long history in Vermont, so much so that this old Redstone Quarry is found almost in the middle of Burlington. This quarry where “Monkton” ( also know as Redstone) was mined had been established and quarried from for over 100 years. The very stone from this quarry was used in construction for many of the older buildings at UVM, including my own dorm. By the 1930’s it wasn’t much of a working quarry anymore and in 1958 University of Vermont bought the 3-acre area. As of now this area is used for research and for geology class taken at UVM.  I imagine the space is also used by the neighbors that are close by as a bit of nature right outside their door. It is also filled with different vegetation and provides different habitats for species, this was not the case before when it was a working quarry.

Back Home, Reflection on New and Old

Back Home– Description of Place -(Leopold style)

The snow has started to fall down, slowly swaying to land on wet darkened leaves. To the side water gushes down a stream, gurgling enjoying its full banks. The water rushes over the rock bed, like a silken scarf, bundling the land up for winter.  Looking up I see bare branches that let the grey sky slip through their grasps and fall down to my eyes.  I scan around and am filled with memories of this time year in this spot. I see a year with snow blanketing the earth and my dog jumping through it. I see another year with warmer temperatures and the trees still clinging to their multi-color leaves.  I realize the strength of this place and the changes.  A build up of water on one sides feeds the roaring water on the other, as it always has.  I know this means that Pittsburgh has gotten lots of rain recently, otherwise it the stream would have less force. I take one last glance of the bed of leaves filling the trails and know I’ll be back soon to see more changes.

 

New and Old– Comparison of Redstone Quarry and Frick Park- (Holland)

The difference between these two locations are not numerous. Frick park has a damp conditions same to Redstone Quarry and native and invasive species as well. For the invasive buckthorn at the Quarry, Frick has an invasive species of Bush Honeysuckle.  Both taking over the landscape.  While Redstone has thickets of bushy areas and then spots of open stone and then bunches of cattails, Frick is dominated by trees, deciduous trees with few areas of open grass and one small wetland spot.  Some difference between these locations is the temperature. Vermont right now is colder  and got colder sooner than Pittsburgh and thus the leaves are almost completely gone from the leaves where as here in Pittsburgh there are still a few trees with the majority of their leaves on.  One other difference that is easily seen is the type of species in the two locations. Redstone has more coniferous trees in its midst unlike Frick park with its few.  Still with this all in mind the two locations seem to have more comparisons than differences. They overlap in more ways than can be seen.

 

A Poem: More Water

As the sun sets behind the green backs of the ‘dacks,

I wander over a bed of wet amber leaves and approach rock.

Water fills in over every crack of diluted red rock beneath my feet.

Then I hear wind rattle through everything,

a promise of something.

The small stream and pond are full, happy.

Water oozing out over their sides, onto the trails

for my feet to splash in while my eyes get lost in.

The wind rushes in now with force

I feel a message prickling at my ears

a message not of words but feeling.

Its time to head back,

more water is promised.

 

 

Water and More Water

This last visit was one filled with water! Rain has been very prevalent that last couple of days and Redstone Quarry showed this on full display. Areas that last time were dry now had small puddles or even in one area there was almost a new small pond forming. A few areas along the trail were take over from overflown water in the wet areas next to it. Also my visit to actually pond provide to be interesting. Last time I mentioned the algae growth along the top of the water but this time when I came up the algae was more in patches along the surface not a complete mat. I think the high influx of water caused this but maybe something with the changing temperatures or somehow a decrease in nutrients.  As last time when i talked about the golden leaves on the ground, there are still branches holding on to there leaves but the trails today were completely covered in leaves and provided a type of carpet. Another change I notice was a a few tree branches had fallen down and some grasses as well as the numerous cattails were blown down/ bent over. I think the recent strong winds have caused this. Another nuance for the cattails was a lot of their green stems have changed to a light gold rose color. The area is also very quiet right now, I heard only a few birds here or there and I was lucky enough to see some geese fly over head. But among the other animals in this area many were not out and about, only a lone squirrel.