Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ecolympics Outdoors: Urban Nature Walk

I'm determined to start learning more about species in my environment, endangered or not, for this year's Ecolympics (and beyond) and I made significant progress with two excellent, short hikes this weekend.

The first was yesterday at 9 am at the Arnold Arboretum with Arboretum guide Rhoda. As Rhoda told us, it was a good time of year for the hike as it was before the trees are budding so we could see the natural shape of the trees. The Arboretum hosts more than 5000 taxa (including species, subspecies and cultivars). Rhoda mentioned that her hikes lead her around to her favorite trees so that she could say hello to them. What amazed me is that it just took a fact or two, or a few tidbits of a story of origin to change an anonymous tree into an individual. I think on subsequent trips I'm going to be finding -- and greeting -- my own favorites there.

Today, as part of Ecolympics Outdoors, we had Urban Pantheist Jef Taylor lead a small group of us up the Muddy River, which runs adjacent to the Riverway. Things got off to an amusing start
as Jef began explaining to us about the trees that were planted along the Mass Pike. He showed that the trees had virtually no soil to work with and could/had to withstand a lot of soot. Momentarily stumped on which kind of tree we were looking at, the solution came in the form of the sidewalk fossil found next to it (pictured above) -- a norway maple. Who knew we were going to do urban archaeology too?

I was penless (this is the season where I'm always forgetting something in the pockets of my other jackets) so I couldn't take notes. But on top of the bird watching (blue jays, grackles, house sparrows and more) and tree stories (soon I'm going to have new favorites to greet along my bike route), there were tales of Canada geese, the protection of migratory bird species, identification of duck species and habits, the origins of the Emerald Necklace, the Boston side of the Muddy River vs. the Brookline side, mushroom identification, red tail hawk viewing (pictured at left) and more.

Jef was abundantly curious, a fount of information, and a keen guide who didn't want us to miss anything. He also told us he was a self-educated urban ecologist, a program that he began just over ten years ago with an effort to learn all the species in his own backyard.

For the Ecolympics, two of the events I signed up for are Species ID and Endangered Species Watch. Thanks to Jef's inspiring example, I'm going to approach these events with a new enthusiasm.

A couple more photos are included below.

Willow buds.

Mushroom closeup.

Mushroom gills... a new layer is added every year, so this mushroom is at least 3 years old.

Jef, Evan and Anya at the site of a freshly cut tree. Note the tree was hollow, the work of creatures like carpenter ants. We'd seen another one on the walk that was still living and was now a home for raccoons.

1 comment:

  1. What a nice write-up! Thanks again for inviting me to participate in the Ecolympics. I'll try to make myself available for more walks, be sure to sign up for the mailing list, so you can find out and spread the word!