From the Northern Veg Crew:

Week five is history! We finally saw some warm weather and afternoon thunderstorms to make it feel like summer. Nevertheless, our sweaty, smiling faces got the work done! That doesn’t mean we are always smiling on the ride home, but we usually last at least until lunch time. 

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Mornings in Susquehannock are always beautiful, check out the rays of sunshine filtering through the canopy, melting off dew to fuel some thunderstorms! The sound of thunder puts a spring in your step when we are trying to find our plots in clear-cut areas with thick cherry regeneration. 

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At this same site, we had a skidder road replace our fence from previous years—so this was our first time building a fence from nothing! Personally, I think we built the best deer fence this study has seen to date! 

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I’ll end my rambling on a positive note extending many thanks on behalf of the northern veg crew to whoever managed this cut and left our fence! They even took care to chop these trees above where the fencing was attached! 

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And I’d like to express how happy it makes me to see so much milkweed (Aesclepias syriaca) in the north! I am sure the monarch butterfly larvae appreciate it. 

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For the weekly botany lesson: milkweeds (all those in the genus Aesclepias) are really neat, beautiful plants! Their flowers rival orchids on their complexity which is coupled with the fact that most are also toxic! Their milky-white sap contains compounds called cardiac glycosides—which stop your heart. Enjoy them, plant them for butterflies, but don’t ever snack on one! 

Plant ID of the week: 
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This is a rare four-leaved trillium! This one appears to be a painted trillium (Trillium undulatum). 

-Jacob
Northern Veg Crew Leader

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From the Southern Veg Crew:

This is my third season with the Deer-Forest Study.  I’ve seen a lot in Penn’s woods.  So aside from my primary task as crew leader which is collecting high quality data safely and efficiently, I also find myself functioning like a guide.  With this familiarity and experience, there are plenty of tales to be told.

We began the week with our first visit to Bull Hollow — the inner sanctum of Bald Eagle State Forest. While this area may not be the most remote place in this state forest, it sure feels that way. If you have never been there, Bull Hollow is a drivable trail that parallels a creek and has two steep ridges on either side. 

I can guarantee that if you visit this place enough, some type of adventure will unfold. Here, I’ve witnessed more technicians walk over rattle snakes, bumped into a few interesting people, nearly slid into a creek getting the truck hopelessly stuck, and garnered a couple of bear stories to boot. 

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Upon turning into the hollow, I recalled the memories of the times Danielle and I visited this area in years past. I cautioned Jonathan not to get too close to the bank of the creek. I pointed to the location where Danielle and I got our field truck stuck and how we had to hike a few ridges for cell service to call for help. Arriving at the first plot of the day, I recalled the time when a bear ate Danielle’s lunch. Our first visit to Bull Hollow was drama free, I’m sure we’ll see rattle snakes in future visits. 

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A four-toed salamander not cooperating for a photo.

I’m often amazed by how things have changed. For instance, we visited a plot inside a deer exclosure on Tuesday. I remember dense thickets of saplings and seedlings a few years ago — mainly sassafras. The plot notes forewarned of a secondary harvest. When we sampled the plot this year, the landscape had indeed changed. The disturbance was fresh and we had to re-monument subplots and rebuild fences. 

This wasn’t the same plot that I remembered. Nevertheless, I was interested to see how management practices changed the plant community. The first time I was there, I saw the forest set back to an early successional stand. This time, the clock was set back even earlier.

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We finished the week with a more demanding plot. We had two choices — short and steep or long and flat with extra bushwhacking. In my opinion, both were of equal discomfort and I let the crew pick their pain. Regardless of the challenge, I’ve continuously been impressed with their high morale and professionalism throughout these adventures. 

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With computer issues and pouring rain, we had to go old school and break out the paper data sheets.

-Mike
Southern Veg Crew Leader

 
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