The creek trail is submerging again under beaver floodwaters. Preserve assistants Joe Vinton and Sean Quinn recently finished brushcutting invasive bamboo and multiflora rose alongside the trail, and it looks great, except that unless you have hip boots, you are not going to be able to see the results.
I had thought the beavers were finished with this section of the creek, but perhaps their failure to maintain this dam had been simply a seasonal change in activity. In the summer they eat perennials and grasses, in the fall and winter the green cambium under the bark of twigs. Many of these they collect and store underwater in the late summer and fall. It seems a bit late for this new activity, but there it is…
Earlier this fall I watched the water levels rise elsewhere along French Creek as beavers flooded a red maple swamp. I noticed first because the water that had been below my knee-high boots the week before was suddenly above them. It was a hot day, so I didn’t mind.
Beavers had created a series of “rooms” in the otherwise three to five foot tall vegetation. It looked they had gathered there to feed, and the rooms were connected by tunnels through the plants and in places, by canals they dug.
Visitors can bypass the creek trail from the parking area and pick up the northern trails behind the barn at 401 Piersol Road. The southern half of the preserve doesn’t make use of the creek trail, so although there is beaver activity there you can still use all the trails.
Another activity that occupies our fall each year is controlling Norway maples (Acer platanoides). The woodland to the left in this photo is unmanaged adjacent property that is filling with Norway maples. To the right is Crow’s Nest where we have been cutting and hand pulling this invasive tree over the last few years.
Norway maple leafs out earlier than our native forest trees, and cast dense shade. Almost nothing can grow under a Norway maple other than another Norway maple. Spring ephemeral wildflowers disappear, and Norway maples outcompete seedlings of other trees. We don’t know exactly what this forest will look like in the distant future—forests are dynamic, not stable, systems. But we know that the possible trajectories of future forest composition will be diminished by a monoculture of Norway maple.
Most of what we find now are first-year seedlings, and there will always be some of these, since several specimen trees are found in neighbors’ yards. But we no longer have any mature Norway maples on the preserve.
Normally we control Norway maples in late October when they are the last trees to still have leaves and easy to located. This year we are doing it a couple weeks later since leaf drop has been so late.