Although rain delayed by one day, the weather was perfect for our outing to Shaw Woods. Starting on the shorter and less rigorous 1.6 km Old Growth Forest trail (West side), our leisurely pace ran well over the expected hour and a half as Jakob imparted a wealth of information about many aspects of the diversity unique to an old growth forest. The woods contained trees in all stages of growth with the tallest trees growing in the areas with the richest soil.
The even (regular) diameter was noted as a hallmark of an old tree as they first grow in height under the older canopy and then expand in diameter once the canopy opens a spot for them. Beech, Hemlock, Balsam Fir and Sugar Maple amongst others were in abundance with some specimens being impressive in size. Hemlock though are patient and can withstand low light levels staying small until the canopy opens. The White (Paper) Birch which rarely survives over 100 years, and Yellow Birch however belied their age in comparison to other younger trees of the same girth. Except for Beech, they all get wrinkly with age and, like some men, their bark can also go bald!
We saw Nurse logs in this pit and mound topography with ghost logs (places where logs had fallen and decomposed underneath new growth leaving trees with buttressed roots); There were Beechdrops, a parasitic plant, growing from the decomposing Beech trees as well as a plethora of fungus species which provided participants with many lovely photo opportunities.
Participants were also treated to a close-up view of an adult Eastern Red-back Salamander which pound for pound collectively outweigh any other animal species in our forests. This species is the only salamander which does not need a pond in which to breed as it does this in the moist leaf litter. Its presence is crucial to slow the rate of decomposition in the forest allowing for tree growth and fungal variety important to orchids which require fungi in order to sprout. After photos were taken, the salamander, which is lungless and breathes through its skin was given some water to ensure its hydration prior to being returned to a spot adjacent to the log under which it was found. The proper technique for finding, viewing and returning herps to their original location was demonstrated by Jakob.
After doing the Old growth trail (West side) of Shaw Woods, most participants continued to the East side on the trail along Shaw Pond to the lookout from where the nest of an American Bald Eagle could be seen. There are a few spots on that trail where walking poles are a definite asset, especially for the descent. Some participants took the long way back down to the dam via the Snake River trail which is less steep, while Jakob and the remainder returned via the way we had come.
Thank you once again Jakob. And thank you Participants.
Shaw Woods was a peaceful marvel. It was not difficult to find and is well worth an explore. Check out the photos.
Janet McCullough, MFNC Field Trip Coordinator