I walked into Fox Park on 3/3/17.  Note how I could walk right in; the snow has settled and melted into a single layer that had been frozen the night before.   The sun was shining, but an impressively chilled wind was blustering around.  That morning at 6am, the temperature hit somewhere around 40 degrees, which was followed by a hour-and-a-half blizzard starting at around 9am, followed by blue skies similar to what I experienced at 6am but about 15 degrees colder.  ???

I tried to document the interesting tree formations, issues, and patterns today, as I realized after more natural history class time I was taking these trees for granted and focusing on the more "immediately exciting stuff".

First off, I was noticing these Beech leaves everywhere.  They seem to be the only leave around that is so stubborn about staying glued to the tree almost indefinitely- until of course the lext version pops out to replace it.

It was noted in class these leaves stay attached to the tree all year, the idea being maybe these trees can get a quicker head start on photosynthesis come spring.

Coppicing? General bizarreness?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I was finding all sorts of tree species with this tightly knit organization, which implied they are  possibly sharing a mega-root system.

 

The following tree photos all exhibit this super weird "window" into each tree's heartwood.  Fox park is riddled with this phenomenon...  ...And I have absolutely no idea why.

By the time I got to actual spot to do some serious sitting, I already had these questions percolating.  it seems like most trees I encountered dealt with a sort of trauma at the base, and are trying to recover.

 Take a moment to observe the "Bull" pine, or "Wolf" pine.  That is my spot- isn't in gnarly?   First off, it is HUGE.  Those birch trees in the foreground aren't exactly little.   I met a few dog walkers soon after I arrived under its crazy branches, one of whom said there is a chance this was a shade tree for farm animals eons ago.  We wondered if the branches grew into this oddly un-shady shape when the farming situation came to a halt, and other shade and competition for the sun forced the needles farther into the sky.

Below are some close ups of the uber-gnarlies this tree has.  Note the little holes about 3-4mm across.  these look like bug activity.  (no shredded bark from even the most careful woodpecker, and seem totally unorganized.   That said, the quarter-sized cone shaped holes look like red-bellied activity, but was quickly abandoned.  It seems this tree has  some tough bark, and the bugs are just too hard to get at.

Looking out from my spot, I see the fungus/Scale beetle issue on the nearest Beech tree.  I also found this basketball-sized hive, high up in a tree.  Obviously, it is the epitome of fine construction techniques, because it is basketball sized, after a whole slew of crazy weather events.

These two conifer trees had me confused for a while.  The one on the right is a more spares when it comes to needles, and the bark/stem pattern  is more "expansive" and "flat".   I dub this a hemlock, because my first gut instinct is to forage underneath for the highly flammable branches, which often have those thin, bendy fingers that ignite immediately and violently.   The tree on the right however, did not evoke this gut response.   That said, I think it is also a hemlock, just much younger - I think.

 

Bird activity:

 On the right, we have my favorite, all time greatest "big woodpecker" hole example tunk.  Top left: Probably a Hairy woodpecker.  Note the lack of a bezel around the hole.  Also, I doubt the local Piliated would be able to fit its beak that far into a tree, this hole is just too small.  Note also the Hairy does have a rather long beak.  I have heard and seen a hairy woodpecker in this area.  Top right:  Ehh, this one may be a collaborative effort.  I see the inner circle STARTS at the size the hairy woodpecker left off.  I say red bellied at that point.  I have heard the bubbly-squawk-like sound of this woodpecker here on occasion.  Also- note what happened!  The tell-tale funnel shape that starts about 3/4 inch seems to have given someone else some ideas.... Bottom:  Crazy Piliated woodie, who, as far as I can tell, has literally killed at least 1 tree nearby, by obsessively boring huge channels through the trunk (and almost out the other side in some cases!!!   The upper right hole looks like the pileated could have given that one a go, just to give it a test drive, before going back to work on the bottom hole.

Finally, I found an example of all 4 major league woodies in one sit spot visit!  Here is the resident diminutive downy, going berserk on a dusty branch.  Look at that head go!  My shutter way fast, but evidently not fast enough to stop a speeding downy head.

Until next time!!