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Old Salisbury photos

Old landscape photographs always get me excited because I study forest succession.  It can take centuries for a forest to work its way from young to mature, and I can’t wait that long.  So if an old photo can tell me what a forest looked like several decades ago, I will listen.  I was pleased by what I heard yesterday at the Salisbury Historical Society’s program on old photos.

Salisbury history buffs examine old photos on display, April 25, 2010.

Salisbury history buffs examine old photos on display, April 25, 2010.

Barry Whitney found some old slides that had been prepared around 1987 by James Petersen, Jr.  for a lecture on Salisbury history.  Accompanying the slides of old black and white photos were typed index cards with the text of his talk and a description of each slide.  Barry presented this talk in the old Town Hall, complete with projected slides and his reading of the cards.  Some of the photos have been featured in the Salisbury history books by Max and James E. Petersen, but some I had never seen before.

Barry is compiling a digital collection of these and other old photos, so it will be more efficient to find a photo relevant to your interest.  It might be a great project for students at Salisbury Community School to find the locations from which some of the old photos were taken and retake them.  The digital collection will be an important resource for people studying many subjects, or for people who just like old photos.  It was great to meet some of those people at this event.

Comparing Timber

Bryan Jones is a new member of the Salisbury Planning Commission, and attended his first meeting this month when four members of the Conservation Commission were present to help start a discussion of management options for the Salisbury Municipal Forest. Bryan and I continued this discussion during a three hour walk through the eastern part of the municipal forest yesterday. The Planning Commission will have to make recommendations about generating revenue by harvesting trees on the property, so we noted the quality of the merchantable timber as we walked.

Overlooking Salisbury from the Town Forest. April 24, 2010.

Overlooking Salisbury from the Town Forest. April 24, 2010.

There is almost no sugar maple anywhere in the town forest, so the most valuable trees are red oaks and white oaks. The forest near Upper Plains Road includes some good quality oaks, and stands near the town shed and recycling barn will be attractive to loggers because road access is very good. As we travelled east, away from the road, there was more beech and red maple, and the oaks were smaller and not as straight. A couple hundred yards from the road we reached the base of a steep bedrock slope which would stop a logging skidder, the heavy equipment which drags logs to a landing. At the top of the ridge, the thin soil supported a stunted forest with lots of chestnut and white oaks (Dry Oak Forest), so there was not much for a skidder to retrieve there. There is one place along this ridge where one can get a view to the west over Salisbury.

East of this ridge, deeper, wetter soils nourish some oaks, hemlock, beech, red maple, and yellow birch in a small valley surrounding a vernal pool. Although the quality of the timber is less than that near Upper Plains Road, there is probably enough of it to support a timber sale. However, a skidder would have to cover a lot of territory to gather enough logs, and the logs would have to be taken out to the south across land owned by the Keewaydin Foundation and the US Forest Service along some roads that would have to be newly built or restored. The expense of this might reduce the profit margin substantially.

Shadbush blooming on the southern slope of Bryant Mountain, April 29, 2009.

Shadbush blooming on the southern slope of Bryant Mountain, April 29, 2009.

Farther east, the town forest’s largest area of Dry Oak Forest covers the south slope of Bryant Mountain. This is an unproductive forest of stunted chestnut, white, and red oak, and red maple with little commercial value.  I was expecting an impressive display of shadbush on the slope, but only a few scattered trees were blooming. The photo here was taken last year on April 29, so maybe the display will be better in a few days.

We ran out of time and had to turn back before we got into the hemlock forest at the eastern margin of the town forest. Maybe next time there will be less talking and more walking.

Online auction has started

The Conservation Commission’s online fund-raising auction went live this morning with 17 items ready for bids.  Every item was created or donated by a Salisbury resident.  Take a look at the auctions and you will agree that there is both tremendous talent and great generosity in town.  Thanks to everyone who donated the wonderful items.

Several bids had already been placed by 9:30 Sunday morning.  Although these first bids were less than a dollar more than the starting bids, the bidders might have bid more than that.  When you place a bid, the system automatically bids just enough to outbid others.  To find out how high the actual bid entered was, you have to place another bid.  The system will tell you when your bid is high enough to become the current high bid.  When the auction ends, you might win the item for less than the last bid you entered. For more information, see the Instruction page.

All of the auctions will run for 12 days and end on Thursday evening, April 29, between 7:00 and 8:04 PM.  The auctions will end sequentially in the order they are displayed on the auction home page.  Each auction will end four minutes after the previous auction, at the time noted on each auction page.  Save the date, and be prepared to bid again if someone tries to top your bid by a few dollars at the last minute!

All proceeds from this auction will support the education, research, and conservation programs of the Salisbury Conservation Commission. Enjoy, and thanks for bidding.

A Pre-bloom Hike

The uppermost vernal pool in the town forest. April 13, 2010

The northern end of the uppermost vernal pool in the town forest. April 13, 2010

Galen and I made a nice loop in the town forest yesterday (April 13), checking out the sites east of Upper Plains Road.  We found two more clusters of wood frog egg masses in the high vernal pool, one with seven masses and one with three. These had been deposited since my visit on April 7. There were no egg masses in the lower pools, including the one south of the quartzite canyon.  These pools are shallower and probably won’t last as long as the uppermost pool.

One of the 300 year old hemlocks in the town forest.  April 13, 2010

One of the 300 year old hemlocks in the town forest. April 13, 2010

To the west of the canyon we found a charred stump, evidence of an old forest fire.  There is another charred stump on the other side of the canyon, but they are the only ones I have found.  Maybe the fire did not spread far, or maybe other evidence of the fire has been lost.  The stumps were well rotted, so they probably record a fire from the mid-twentieth century.

In the hemlock grove at the eastern boundary of the town forest, we found a couple of large, old hemlocks that I had not noticed before.  That makes a total of five hemlocks that are about 300 years old.  There are lots of trees in that stand that are about 200 years old, so it is probably the oldest forest in Salisbury.  The stand also includes cut stumps dating from the last 60 years, so it is not an undisturbed forest.

The weather has been so good I expected to see lots of plants blooming.  We found some trailing arbutus in bloom, but no other wildflowers.  The next week will doubtless see more flowers.

Winter Tracking Grant

The Salisbury Conservation Commission has received a $500 grant from the Association of Vermont Conservation Commissions (AVCC) to support its winter wildlife tracking program. We have been recording the locations of wildlife tracks in the snow along roads for four years to locate Salisbury’s significant wildlife movement areas (learn more here). This grant will allow us to continue this project for an additional year and to complete data analysis and map creation of all of our results to date. We will also use grant money to hold a workshop in early 2011 to share our methods and results with members of other towns who are considering starting their own tracking programs. Please contact us if you are interested in helping with the tracking next winter.

We greatly appreciate the support of AVCC, and their recognition of this project’s potential  to increase awareness of the importance of maintaining connections among increasingly fragmented habitats in Salisbury.

Wildlife and Plant Observations

Enter your wildlife or plant information in the “Leave a Reply” box below, and click Submit. Or click “Reply” to respond to any previous post. You must be registered and logged in.
2010 Tally: add to the vertebrate tally. Plant Phenology: add to the phenology journal.

New blog for the Salisbury Municipal Forest

To keep up with the process of developing management guidelines for the Salisbury Municipal Forest, we have started a new blog on these pages. During the next year, the Planning Commission will be working with the town to craft language for the new Town Plan, or create a document separate from the Town Plan, which reflects the town’s goals and objectives for the resources of the 132 acre town forest. To make information about the town forest and about this process accessible, we will be reporting about it on the new blog.

To the dismay and confusion of many, that makes a total of three blogs that the Conservation Commission is maintaining. We now have a general news discussion (the one you are reading), a wildlife and plant discussion, and the new town forest discussion.  You are welcome to participate in all of them by replying to any post.  You will have to register at the site and be logged in to post a reply (this is a new policy).

A froggy night in the vernal pool

The highest vernal pool in the town forest; about 880'. April 7, 2010

The highest vernal pool in the town forest; about 880'. April 7, 2010

There was still ice on the vernal pools in the Town Forest when I was there in March, and tonight’s visit was planned then.  It went more or less as I had hoped.

Wood Frog egg mass in the vernal pool, April 7, 2010

Wood Frog egg mass in the vernal pool, April 7, 2010

It rained today in the late afternoon and evening, but it was just misty as I climbed the steep ridge east of Upper Plains Road at 8:00 PM.  I could hear lots of spring peepers calling behind me even from the top of the ridge, and when I crested the ridge, I could also hear them in front of me.

Predaceous diving beetle in vernal pool, April 7, 2010

Predaceous diving beetle in vernal pool, April 7, 2010


There were several peepers calling in the vernal pools between the ridge and Bryant Mountain, and a few wood frogs as well.  I quickly found some wood frog egg masses, but only in one place at the deepest part of the pool.  About 15 separate masses were attached to branches in 5 inches of water, all within a few feet of one another.

Male spring peeper calling at the vernal pool, April 7, 2010.

Male spring peeper calling at the vernal pool, April 7, 2010.

There were some handsome predaceous diving beetles (probably Acilius mediatus) swimming around the eggs.  I saw one wood frog, and on a mossy island found a pair of spring peepers who I interrupted to photograph.  One of them (the male) was calling and puffing out its throat, the other was just listening (nevertheless, probably a female).
I had to put the camera away and don raingear for the walk out.  I lost the route and stumbled upon a porcupine den I had never seen before.  I am not sure I could ever find it in the daylight.

Salisbury considers town forest management

One of the larger pitch pines in the Town Forest

One of the larger pitch pines in the Town Forest

Yesterday evening the Salisbury Planning Commission jumped into a new project to prepare guidelines for the management of the Salisbury Municipal Forest. Chris Olson, the Addison County Forester, was invited to review the information he had collected about the town forest, and distributed copies of several pertinent old and recent documents. Four members of the Salisbury Conservation Commission were also present to answer questions about the natural resource information currently available for the town forest. Quite a bit of good information is available, and the Planning Commission hopes to receive more after Eric Sorenson, a Natural Communities Ecologist with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, surveys the town forest this spring. Chris Olson also accepted an invitation to expand the timber inventory he has done into other areas of the town forest. The Conservation Commission agreed to compile existing information about wildlife use of the town forest. We are making all of the documents available online here.

I will be leading a public walk through the town forest on May 8, and I hope I can lead other walks just for members of the Planning Commission or Select Board. This is the last springtime opportunity we will have to explore the forest before the new town plan is adopted in March 2011 with management guidance for the town forest.

New Plant Phenology Journal

We have added a new feature to our Wildlife Sightings pages. It is a journal of plant phenology where anyone can record the date when plants in Salisbury emerge, bloom, set fruit, and senesce. This addition has important consequences because, for the first time, it introduces plants to the Wildlife Sightings pages. We therefore have changed the name of this group of pages to Wild Sightings. We also now invite observations of plants on the old Wildlife Sightings blog page, whose name has consequently changed to Wildlife and Plant Observations. (more…)

Fundraising Auction Online

Just like EBAY, sort of.

In April, the Salisbury Conservation Commission will be running an auction on these Web pages as a fundraiser for our programs. About a dozen items have been donated, and some of these can be seen at the auction website.   Bidding will begin on Sunday, April 18 and continue until Thursday, April 29.  Auction winners can pay and pickup their items at the Spring Fling dinner at the Salisbury Community School on Saturday, May 1, or make other arrangements. (more…)

Spring Hike in the Town Forest

Spring Hike – Old Trees, New Leaves, Early Flowers: The Ecology of Spring in the Salisbury Town Forest

Join ecologist Chris Fastie on a hike through the eastern reaches of the Salisbury Municipal Forest.  Click  HERE for all the details.

Date: Saturday, May 8, 2010
Time: 9:00-12:00 noon
Where to meet: The Salisbury Town Forest, Upper Plains Road in Salisbury, across from the town landfill