Friday, September 16, 2011

Another day in the CAS Croft Preserve....

I have been spending quite a bit of time in our Croft Preserve in Goshen this past summer since I'm in the process of updating our conservation and management plan for the preserve and we're also gearing up to do some habitat management work. Of course, we would like to do things right and we base our conservation and management decisions on thorough survey data and careful assessments of habitat quality. Especially in a place that supports some of the nicest forest habitat imaginable in Connecticut: 700 acres of relatively untouched woodland surrounded by thousands of additional acres of forest, there are hardly any invasive plants in the preserve, the forest is not overrun with unsustainable numbers of White-tailed Deer (instead we have Moose, Black Bear, Bobcat and lots of American Porcupines) and tucked away in these hundreds of acres of forest are additional microhabitats that support their own diversity of species. Connecticut Audubon Society currently manages about 12% of the preserve's habitat to promote early successional habitat types, such as shrubland and young forest, while the remainder is maintained as mature woodland. These managed areas now provide great habitat for other species that have become quite uncommon in the state, such as Ruffed Grouse.
A view of the 16-acre beaver marsh at the CAS Croft Preserve
This isolated wetland is a major breeding ground for Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks The shallow, boggy areas where cold-water streams enter the marsh are home to several unusual dragonfly species. This is a female Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum)

Green-striped Darners (Aeshna verticalis) are fairly common in the preserve's bogs and marshes

Ongoing survey and monitoring work in the preserve has given me a wealth of information on how wildlife uses the various habitat types within the preserve, how populations of conservation priority species are faring in their preferred habitats and - most importantly - if our habitat management and conservation strategies are working to improve the living conditions and numbers of our target species.

View of the rugged terrain in most of the woodland. Note the Rock Polypody Ferns (Polypodium vulgare) growing on the boulder in the foreground.

This past Wednesday I spent much of the day getting shredded as I desperately attempted to wade through acres of chest-deep blackberry bushes in the 5-6 year old managed areas that still needed to be mapped with GPS. Even though that part of the job never gets more enjoyable or less painful, just walking around I am always in awe by the overall beauty of the preserve and its seemingly endless biodiversity. During every visit to the Croft Preserve I encounter something that instantly makes me forget the painful thorns and water-filled hiking boots that come with the territory. This day was no exception, and mere minutes before I reached my car to leave the preserve I was treated to a brief glimpse of a Connecticut Warbler. It flushed out of the tall grass in the overgrown forest road I was hiking on and sat on a nearby branch for a few seconds, as it flitted about in an agitated manner. I happened to have my camera around my neck and managed to get a few record shots in before the bird took off into the underbrush. Unfortunately, I had a wide-angle lens on my camera, since I was photographing some of the different habitats and the first signs of fall in the area, so the pictures had to be cropped extensively to show the bird. Nevertheless, I wanted to share with you this image of a rarely seen bird in CT. And I'll throw in some of the other pictures I took that day for good measure, so you can see for yourself that our Croft Preserve is quite a place!

Signs that the area looked quite differently a century or so ago can be seen throughout the preserve

The stone wall adjacent to these giant boulders surrounds a spring to form an artificial basin that undoubtedly was used as a drinking trough for cattle in historic times...

...and the spring still runs!

Signs of fall are becoming increasingly visible

A dazzling variety of colorful mushrooms can be seen throughout the preserve

Record shot of a first winter Connecticut Warbler found on 9/14/2011. I found another Connecticut Warbler in one of our management areas in Croft Preserve on 10/9/2008.

Twan Leenders
Conservation Biologist

Photos © Twan Leenders

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