Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Sunday: 22 April 2007

Bioblitz Day 1  -  @ 04:34:54
Quite a number of photographs going up at the National Wildlife Week Flickr Pool. Look through them while I'm writing this post.

Back again!

I'm going to write this in bits and pieces during the morning. Here's the site I chose to begin Day 1 with, the lowest point on our property, Goulding Creek. It's in need of survey throughout the year, and particularly now since it was the area most affected by the Great Flood of 2007. That link is a second posting of the aftermath and refers to the initial post of March 2, when the flood was raging.

The point isn't to belabor the flood, but to remind everyone that it suggested great changes in this area. Large amounts of sand were cast up on parts of the banks, and considerable erosion washed away a great many organisms. The creek bottom was scoured clean of silt and debris that had been collecting for years. And so it seems reasonably to begin the bioblitz with this survey.

Here's a map of the area:

I centered myself on a point where an old roadcut intersects Goulding Creek. Goodness knows how long it's been since that roadcut, which meanders uphill to a point just south of the house, was made, but its effects and existence are still evident. I surveyed along the east and west banks about 20 feet on either side, examining the bank itself which is the start of the floodplain that I did not examine. And I waded up and down the Creek about 20-30 feet.

Here are photographs of the site itself, and because of the large volume of pictures, these are thumbnails. You can get a larger image, in a new window, by clicking on a thumbnail.

From left to right:
View west, across the intersection of Goulding Creek with the roadcut and onto the other side. Several large trees have fallen over the years, creating a blockage and several sand islands that often sport considerable interesting growth. The area on this side of that point is full of large rocks that themselves are a substrate for some small interesting things.

View east, along the roadcut and into the floodplain.

View northeast, upstream along the east bank of the Creek. This is one area where large amounts of sand have accumulated. Years ago, we called this area Goulding Beach, but hasn't deserved its name in a long time. Now it does, again.

View south and downstream. The left bank is relatively high, about 10 feet above stream level, which is why we call it Goulding Cliffs.

Next up, Animalia! As a teaser, here's arguably the best find of the day, which I will post in its entirety. It's a Twin-spotted Spiketail, I think, Cordulegaster maculata - an Odonata, of course. There were several of these flitting about the roadcut depression, and one landed on an Allium (wild onion) long enough to show off its very startling, pretty blue eyes. A first for me.

Animalia! The Animalia were not really cooperating, I'm afraid, other than the exciting dragonfly above. I did a little rock turning, and heard but did not see, a great many birds. I'm afraid birds are likely to get the short end of this deal from me, unless they come right up and beg me to take their picture. There were several nice Turkey Vultures observing me from far above.

From left to right, first row:
Cicindela sexguttata, Six-spotted Tiger Beetles, engaged otherwise on a rock. I've been watching these for the last three weeks - they love the hot sand and rocks, but seem now to be thinking about the future. There was a third one of these scurrying about the love nest, trying to get into the action. A very easily observed and identifiable Coleopteran!

Lycosa rabida, I think - Rabid Wolf Spider. Despite the name, these are rather tiny hunting spiders, and I don't know why anyone would think their bite is dangerous, if indeed they can bite humans. They're everywhere on the forest floor, in all locations. They scurry aside as you pass, which is fortunate since if they didn't move you'd never see them. The front pair of black legs, and the double dark striping down the cephalothorax and abdomen are good things to watch out for.

A Tachinid Fly, Order Diptera, Family Tachinidae, possibly Genus Tachina but no amount of scouring through Bugguide helped me to get down to species. No matter - I love finding these guys and netted several equally unspecified individuals last year. They're all quite different, and if you can get them still, as this one is, resting on a Southern Lady Fern, photogenic. And of course they're important insect predators, too.

Second row, l-r:A Red-spotted Purple Butterfly, Limentis arthemis form astyanax, with its wings up, which shows the red spotting. There were a half-dozen of these puddling on the moist sands of Goulding Creek. There were also a number of Tiger Swallowtails, but I didn't get photos of those.

Same species, same individual in fact, but with its wings down.

The sole Chordate, Green Anole, Anolis carolinensis, sporting himself shamelessly. He was a permanent fixture on the branches of a downed black walnut. They're one of our very few lizard types. Go west, if you want lizards!

Next up, Plantae!

Last, most copiously, but least in the minds of many and yet most importantly as nothing above would exist without it is the diversity of plants. Unfortunately most of these are not flowering, but the ones I present in photograph are abundant at the moment, at least. They dictate the basis of everything that's here, and the photographs I do present will hopefully be those that serve as identification helpers. Glenn helped to remind me of quite a few of these that I had forgotten and that he has spent a couple of years identifying to species.

First, and with no photographs, the canopy. This section of Goulding Creek is fairly open, with trees that are not very old for the most part. Here's a list:Black Walnut, Juglans nigra: quite a few of these, and I imagine they exert a fair influence due to alleopathy. Walnuts are probably the best-known example of a plant influencing through their chemical secretions what grows under them. Tomatoes don't, by the way.

Tulip Poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera: not a large number - we get into those on the floodplain and higher elevations, but there are a few.

Box Elder, Acer negrundo: a fairly important tree in this tiny spot, as it holds in the soil and shades the understory directly along the creek.

Carolina Buckthorn, Frangula caroliniana: Oh well, it's here. Not in quite the masses we find at higher elevations, but it's here.

Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua. Same thing - the trees are small down here at Goulding Creek, but ominipresent.

River Birch, Betula nigra: I was pleased to find a single very large tree growing within this zone. There are several others along the smaller creek that runs into this one.

American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis: a single large tree, and we can probably be grateful for that.

Silverbells, Halesia tetraptera, a new discovery and probably Common Silverbells, eight small trees holding up the banks of Goulding Creek.

That's the upper to medium canopy in this spot, and it surely changes as you move away from Goulding Creek. Here's what we find growing closer to the ground right now:

Lower Plants: These are some of the seedless vascular plants - fern types, from left to right:
Adder's Tongue, probably Southern Adder's Tongue, Ophioglossum pychnostichum. This is more prevalent on the floodplain above the site but some encroachment is found into the Goulding Creek site. A single leaf and then eventually a snakelike fertile leaf make Adder's Tongue easy to identify.

Netted Chain Fern, Woodwardia areolata. This is fairly common along the creek bank.

Meadow Spikemoss, Selaginella apoda. Barely noticeable down at the very bottom amidst all the higher plants - looks like a moss, but it isn't.

Then we have the forbs - higher plants, but low to the ground. Among those that are most predominant are some that I haven't presented here, but have here, two weeks ago. Sweet Cicely Osmorhiza claytonii, and Beaked Corn Salad Valeriana radiata, which are very dominant at the moment in these woods.

A number of grasses, monocots, and sedges are appearing now, and have a great effect on stabilizing soil in this unstable area. Here are two grasses:
Cypress Panicgrass, Dichanthelium dichotomum. I have a feeling that this is an important erosion control plant, especially since as a grass it grows in both shady and sunny locations.

Fowl Mannagrass, Glyceria striata. Grows in considerable profusion, and has very nice drooping flowers and fruits. I wonder if birds like it?

Left to right:

Finally some dicots, and these aren't nearly as many as we've been working on, but they are fairly common. Left to right:
Devil's Darning Needles, or if you prefer, Virginbower, Clematis virginiana. I was a little surprise to find these growing along the banks of the creek. In the full sun, the leaves are purplish, but in shade they would tend to be green. This is a wandering, climbing plant that you could have a little too much of, but easy to recognize.

Spotted St. Johnswort, Hypericum punctatum. A lovely compact plant, and you can never have too much Hypericum.

Crown-beard, Verbesina occidentalis. And am I glad to see it. I was afraid that it might have been inundated in the flood, since it grows very low on the bank, but these small plants are pushing up through the deposited sand and will come to dominate this area in the next few months.

Two in one: Virginia Creeper babies, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, and some kind of Spleenwort Fern Asplenium species. Virginia Creeper is everywhere, but it never seems to be a problem here (I've heard it's a real pill in other places). Once it starts climbing, it will produce berries beloved by birds, and it certainly helps to stabilize the soil.

I haven't presented the odd little legume Desmodium, the several mints, nor the sedges or rushes. We'll just have to understand that they go into the excel file.

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