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Archive for January, 2014

Signs of an invasion were everywhere on a recent visit to the floating wetland islands at the Education Village. Plants had been devoured from the floating wetlands like they were buffet tables at SouperSalad. The students’ plantings along the shores of the stormwater pond were also missing. All around were footprints and scat from the prime suspect: nutria.

nutria composite

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Last week, our normal Friday crew ventured out to the Phase 4 forested wetlands—the farthest east you can travel and still be on the park.  The intent of this scouting trip was to note the sizes and extent of Chinese tallow trees in the wetland basins.  As expected the basins were full of tallow and, fortunately, of a size (e.g. not too big) consumable by the mulching machines.   Our restoration plan for 2014 includes hiring a contractor to remove the Chinese tallow without harming the existing stands of sweet gum, pine, cypress and very old yaupons.   For the majority of the work, access to the areas with heavy tallow stands is easy and will not require much maneuvering (and by extension, minimal damage).  We were pleased with what we saw in the forest for the prospective clearing job.

It was, however, hard to drag park ranger Kelly out of the forest—being the East Texas boy he is.  But as we stomped our way out of the forest we passed some old sweet gum trees, and I made it very clear that I am a city girl. (Yikes!) One of the larger tree trunks was laced with a series of holes.  Pointing to the holes in the truck, I turned to Kelly, who replied with one word, “sapsucker”.   Cullen chimed in, “probably yellow-bellied sapsuckers, based on the region”.  It was a ‘duh’ moment for me, as I have seen sapsuckers on the park, but it has been a while only because my time at Sheldon Lake State Park is mostly spent in the wetlands on the prairie.

Image  sapsucker

Sapsuckers are a small woodpecker, and it makes sense that they would leave evidence of their presence behind them on the tree they “harvest”.  The holes were deep and in consistent rows which made me appreciate the industry and effort of this little bird.  It is one thing to know that the sapsucker will drill 10 holes in wood and another thing to see the holes and the effort it takes to drill through the hardwood to get to the sap.

Well, little sapsucker, we hope to clean up your neighborhood by taking out the trash trees.  Maybe by clearing out the tallow, we will give the standing sweet gum, pine and cypress more of a chance to make sap for your little hungry belly.

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