Albany Pine Bush News

Dec
29
2011

Junior Docent 2011!

If there is one word to describe this summer’s Jr. Docent Volunteer program it would be “active”. From day one the volunteers were on the move, learning, exploring, teaching, applying and expanding their knowledge and skills. We were happy to include students from many local middle and high schools including Albany High School, Farnsworth Middle School, Guilderland High School, Niskayuna High School, Scotia-Glenville Middle School and Tech Valley High School.

Thanks to the generous support of Mr. Subb and CDTA, these nine area students were able to gain valuable job skills and contribute to their local community through the APBPC Jr. Docent Program.  Jr. Docents spent their summer learning about the preserve, leading interactive Discovery Tables for the public, working on education projects and shadowing science/conservation staff in the field.  In turn the Jr. Docents contributed over 150 hours to educating the approximately 3,100 visitors to the Discovery Center this summer!

If you are interested in becoming a Jr. Docent.  Please contact us at info@albanypinebush.org .

 

Blake @ 3:03 pm
Dec
23
2011

Aspen Tree Cutting

Aspen tree species, while native to the Albany Pine Bush, have become massively overabundant throughout the preserve in the absence of sufficiently frequent fire.  These species are clonal, meaning that they spread rapidly and grow quickly through root suckering, and are able to out compete other less common and more desirable pine barrens species like scrub oak, pitch pine, blueberries, and wild blue lupine.  Additionally, their dense closed canopies create a micro climate that is less attractive to important pine barrens wildlife species of concern, including the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.  Once mature aspen trees have taken over an area, they preclude fire from being able to be used for restoration because the fire will not burn under the damp closed canopy.  Aspen trees must therefore be eliminated in other ways before the habitat can be returned to a true pitch pine-scrub oak pine barrens ecosystem comprised of all of the rare plants and animals that make the Albany Pine Bush Preserve such a unique and special place.  After restoration is complete, aspen trees will continue to be present in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, although in much smaller numbers.

For many years the task of removing aspen trees has been accomplished throughout the interior of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve using a mechanical technique called girdling.  Please visit our website for more information on aspen girdling.  Girdling is not an appropriate methodology to use near roads or preserve property boundaries because this procedure results in standing dead aspen trees which will eventually rot in place and then fall down unpredictably.  In order to remove roadside and boundary aspen trees, this year we have hired professional contractors to cut these trees down.  This accomplishes our goal of restoring habitat back to pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in a more controlled way.

While the changes that you’ll see along the preserve roadsides might look abrupt, they are being made with the Albany Pine Bush Preserve’s ecological goals and ideals foremost in mind.  The late fall and early winter is a time of year when birds and other animals are least likely to be harmed by these activities as nesting and young rearing activities are complete, and in fact, bringing nutrient rich tree buds down to ground level will provide a temporary additional food source for many animals.  Additionally, the tangle of branches at ground level will provide a temporary habitat for a variety of animals both this winter and next summer before the branches and trunks rapidly decompose in place.

Restoration is an often messy and at times unsightly process, but one that is critical to the protection and advancement of the globally rare inland pine barrens ecosystem that we are so fortunate to have here in our own backyards.  We hope that you recognize that this is a necessary process and will grow to enjoy the beauty and majesty that the long term results of our restoration in this special place will bring.

If you’d like more information about our current management practices please contact Stewardship Director, Joel Hecht at jhecht@albanypinebush.org

Jesse @ 10:05 am

The trail system in the Blueberry Hill area of the Preserve has changed.  A new trail map of this area can be found at the Discovery front desk and at both the Blueberry Hill East and Blueberry Hill West trailhead kiosks.

Category: Recreation
Jesse @ 9:49 am

Dear Preserve Stewards,
This cold weather sure gets me in the mood for some snow! Which reminds me – before we get any serious weather, it would be a good idea for everyone to get out there one more time to check over the trail system to make sure that there are no serious issues (like big trees down). It’s a lot easier for the crew and I to deal with things now rather than waiting until there’s a ton of snow covering everything up! We have had some significant wind lately and you never know what might have come down. Over the past few weeks Dave and Tyler have been primarily focused on continuing along with the drill and fill aspen herbiciding project. We have hired contractors who are also working on drill and fill and between their crews and our crew we will have several hundred more aspen free acres for potential burning come spring! Very exciting! I have primarily been working on organizing and planning for the winter season, as well as dealing with seed (lupine has been brought to Saratoga for cleaning, and the rest of the seed is now being stored in the basement of the Discovery Center to avoid the ravenous chipmunks in the barn) and mowing. I have mowed two out of three sites for the year with the goal of stimulating lupine growth, flowering, and seed set. Last year we noticed a positive correlation between mowed sites and lupine performance, so it will be interesting to see if the correlation hold for this year as well. That’s it for now, I will be off next week for Christmas break and will talk to you all after the New Year! I hope that your Holiday Season is joyous and filled with much wonder and love.

~Jesse Hoffman, Preserve Steward

Jesse @ 9:48 am

Dear Preserve Stewards,

It hasn’t been too long since my last update, so there is not too too much to report, but here goes!  First and foremost, I had a lovely Thanksgiving break with my wife’s family near Detroit, MI, and I hope that you all were well fed and well rested too!  The week after Thanksgiving, seasonal employees Dave and Tyler attended a Chainsaw Training course all week (S-212, Wildland Fire Chain Saws) and I attended a CPR/First Aid/AED training course put on in-house by our very own Jackie Citriniti!  A very safety oriented week for all!  In addition to the training, I worked quite a bit on organization and winter clean-up of our field facility at 1219 Kings Road.  I dealt with an entire pick-up trucks worth of recyclable metal and between Dave and Tyler’s work previously, and my work last week, we are now all cleaned up and ready for winter to hit!  Finally, I met with Bob O’Brien, Invasive Species Control Field Director at Minnewaska State Park, to discuss invasives management in the Pine Bush going forward.  It was a great opportunity to strengthen connections made previously at the 2011 Invasive Species In-Service (conference I told you about last week), and as a result of our meeting, I am likely going to do a site visit to Minnewaska later this summer to watch cutting edge bio control of the invasive plant Spotted Knapweed in action.  That’s it for now, hope you all are well and are enjoying the wintery weather!

 

~Jesse Hoffman, Preserve Steward

Jesse @ 9:48 am
Dec
01
2011

Beetle Feet

Over the course of the summer of 2011, we conducted wetland surveys of various sites around the preserve that included dip-netting for aquatic macroinvertebrates.  Now that winter has arrived, we’ve been spending our days completing various indoors tasks including identifying those invertebrates. While staring through our dissecting microscope we came across a very cool beetle called a Predaceous Diving Beetle.  There are many species in this group, some growing as large as a baby turtle! But what I find most interesting about them though is their feet, especially those of the males. Mating underwater is a tricky buisness, especially when females have such slippery carapaces.  But, the males have figured it out! They have suction cup-like appendages on their front feet that help them to hold on to the females while the deed is done. We got a great close-up view of these suction cup-feet that we thought we’d share with all of you!

Photo: The modified foot of a male Predaceous Diving Beetle used to hold on to females during mating

~ Amanda Dillon, Field Ecologist and Environmental Educator

 

Category: Conservation
Dillon @ 9:56 am