Exploring the Interior
December 16, 2015 at 7:28 am (ecology, geology, mammals, paleontology)
Tags: coyote, crinoid, forest, fossil, moss, Quercus rubra, red oak, St. James Farm
by Carl Strang
Now that the leaves are down from the trees and shrubs, I have been exploring the areas between the forest trails at St. James Farm Forest Preserve. Those areas are large enough that I cannot cover the forest adequately from the trails. I have found deer runs and old equestrian paths that will provide sufficient access for routine monitoring. Along the way I have found some interesting places. One foggy day I zig-zagged my way through part of the western forest.
This area has been cleared of invasive honeysuckles and other shrubs. Part of it is young second growth with a few clearings where perennial herbaceous plants are growing.
Elsewhere there are old trees, many of them red oaks.
Among the occasional boulders was this outwash-rounded fossiliferous one.
The chunk of local Silurian dolomite appears to have been a spot on the ocean floor, adjacent to a reef, where there was a crinoid colony.
A morainal depression held a huge fallen red oak.
The tree had lost the grip of most of its roots in the soil.
The last roots that were holding the tree up still show the relatively fresh color where they fractured.
The orientation of the trunk relative to those broken roots suggests that a very strong wind from the west was the culprit.
The oak didn’t go down alone. Broken stems reveal the trees it took out on either side. The force of the fall split the oak’s stem lengthwise.
Each day in this exploration has brought its own delights.
Here, a beautiful moss colony became established on an old burn scar.
One day when I was the preserve’s only human visitor, I saw one of St. James Farm’s coyotes. The fat belly and good coat indicate that this animal is a successful hunter.
So now the stage is set for routine coverage of St. James Farm’s ongoing natural history story.