A Great Time to Hike Richmond’s Bradner Preserves
James Turek ~

Uprooted tree at Bradner Preserve, Richmond, RIThe summer is rolling by, but here is still time for a fine hike with your family, friends, or going solo at the 46-acre,  forested Bradner Preserve. With a parking area at 380 Gardiner Road, you’ll arrive to find a kiosk where you can view a large site map with a layout of the trails, pick up a copy of an interesting interpretive trail guide (prepared by 9th grader and Richmond resident Abbey Paradis), and if you have a smart phone with a QR-code reading app, you can open the trail guide on your phone to learn about the ecology of this scenic spot, with 12 learning stations along the trails. Mornings hikes are especially enjoyable at this wooded property, where cool temperatures and a good chance to see unique wildlife out-and-about await you. Highlights of the preserve include the great Wolf Tree, a massive northern red oak with broad-reaching limbs, and Hanging Rock, a 6-ton glacial boulder precipitously on the edge of a steep rock ridge. If you haven’t yet visited the Bradner Preserve, it’s time you did – you will not forget your experience!

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Let’s Go to the Pool!s
Dinalyn Spears ~

The pool we are going to is not your typical pool. No bathing suits required. Instead an old pair of shoes can be used that you do not mind getting wet. We are taking a journey to amphibian heaven.

Vernal Pool ~ Photo by Dinalyn Spears

Vernal Pool ~ Photo by Dinalyn Spears

LetsGoHave you ever wondered what all the strange calls you hear on a spring night. From these calls you can tell that winter is nearing its end and Spring is on its way by the riot of sounds. Follow these sounds, and they may lead you to a Vernal pool.

Nature’s Nursery
Often called hatcheries for the forests, vernal pools are very shallow, temporary stands of water with no outlet, usually in woodlands. Because they are both shallow and temporary, vernal pools don’t host fish. That eliminates a major predator threat to amphibians. Vernal pools provide an irreplaceable habitat for some very specialized animals such as: Spring peepers, wood frogs, Eastern spade foot toads, along with the spotted, marbled and Jefferson salamanders which thrive in the fish-free environment of vernal pools, where these and other creatures mate, hatch and transform. Vernal pools fascinate people of all ages, from children chasing tadpoles to volunteers guarding road crossings as salamanders make their way to nearby pools.

What YOU can do to help. Activities in or near a vernal pool may require a permit from DEM.

  • Do not fill in the pool with leaves or other debris when dry.
  • Do not stock vernal pools with fish.
  • Do not dig into the bottom of the pool, even when it is dry.
  • Leave a buffer of natural vegetation around the pool for as great a distance as possible.  Many vernal pool species require at least 300 yards of natural habitat around their pools to survive.
  • Avoid cleaning up trees, shrubs, brush, and dead trees in and around vernal pools, as amphibians need these for egg mass attachment.
  • Avoid activities that change the movement of surface water to or from a pool.(Source of above information:  RI DEM Vernal Pool Brochure)

RI Regulations protect vernal pools, but not the upland habitat or the amphibians. Help protect the pools by visiting pools and documenting the animals you see and notifying the RI Department of Environmental Management to seek protection measures to protect the habitat of the amphibians that use the pool.

Visit a Vernal Pool and see all the neat animals. Best time to visit – a warm, rainy spring night.  Visit VernalPool.org for more information.

Wood Frog and Egg Mass

Wood Frog and Egg Mass

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What to Know About Compact Fluorescent Lightss
David Johnson ~

CFL Light Bulb

CFL Light Bulb

Many of us are now using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) for lighting in our homes, and elsewhere.  Some of the early CFLs were limited to the spiral or twisty corkscrew type.  Progress has been made in the manufacture of this type of lighting and they now come in various shapes, sizes, and wattage.  However, the one thing they have in common is that they all contain a small amount of mercury which is classified as a hazardous substance.  Therefore, careful consideration must be given to their proper disposal to avoid improper release of mercury to the environment.  An examination of the white insulator base of CFLs will typically label and list mercury as a component to remind end-users to properly dispose of the bulb when it is no longer functional.

Non-functioning CFLs should not be placed in regular trash; rather, they should be packaged to prevent breakage and can be turned in at nearby Home Depots, Lowes, and the Ace True Value Hardware store in Wyoming, or delivered to the next ECO-DEPOT in your area.  More information on CFLs can be found at Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (link).

The website provides answers to questions such as: Why use compact fluorescent light bulbs in the first place, if they contain mercury? And what should you do if you break a compact fluorescent light bulb? CFLs are energy-efficient but need to be disposed of properly to avoid contaminant release.

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DeCoppet Preserve Press Release
~ Nichole Phelps ~

DeCoppet Preserve, Richmond, RI

A ¾ Mile Stretch of the pristine Beaver River, a tributary to the Pawcatuck, winds its way through the former Hillsdale Estate of Theakston DeCoppet

September 12, 2014

It was a beautiful day for a hike through the woods, especially if you are hiking any stretch of woods alongside the Beaver River. As it winds its way through the Towns of Richmond and Charlestown, there are several nature preserves abutting it for outdoor pursuits of viewing wildlife, foraging and hiking. Now today, thanks to the generosity of a long-ago resident and the efforts of our government officials we have a new preserve located in Richmond. The largest land grant ever in Rhode Island history (if you don’t count Cononicus’s gift to Roger Williams). Rhode Islanders can now count an additional 1,825 acres of beautiful open spaces available for our enjoyment.

TrailGrant-26

Native cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) grows abundantly in the moist shady forest floor along with Jack in the Pulpit.

Local residents and town officials gathered along with state officials to tour the grounds of the DeCoppet estate which was bequeathed to the State of Rhode Island as a nature preserve. Governor Lincoln Chafee along with U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and State Senator Cathie Cool Rumsey all met on the steps of DeCoppet’s unassuming home off Hillsdale Road to share their gratitude to Mr. DeCoppet and those who worked so hard to ensure that his will was executed and the lands were transferred to the state for land protection and public use. Also on hand was RIDEM Director Janet Coit, Town Administrator Rob Rock and several members of the Richmond Conservation Commission. The Commission is already thinking of new trail guides, look out points and so much more that can be done with this important preserve. This is a very exciting time for Richmond, a town that already enjoys a number of wonderful nature preserves and trails for public use.

In 1912, Theakston DeCoppet retired from a life on Wall Street to become a gentleman farmer here in Richmond RI. He had it in his mind to purchase land for protection and conservation. In 1932 DeCoppet wrote his last will and testament, and after a lifetime of acquiring almost 2,000 pristine acres of woodlands, he bequeathed his estate to the State of Rhode Island as a nature preserve. As State Representative Larry Valencia put it at the recent event, “Mr. DeCoppet, who came from a big city and lived in a time when pollution was routine and unfettered, clearly understood the importance of preserving our natural resources. He knew the value his property would provide the public as beautiful, unspoiled land, ans we are so lucky that he ensured its preservation”. Representative Valencia along with Senator Rumsey were instrumental in writing the legislation that passed the State House, ensuring the protection of these great open spaces.

Lesley Bietz, Nichod Wood at DeCoppet Preserve, Richmond, RI

Posing with fellow RCC Commissioner Lesley Bietz (left)

Rob Rock, Nichole Wood, Governor Lincoln Chaffee at the DeCoppet Preservice, Richmond, RI

A photo moment with Governor Chaffee and Rob Rock

On the grounds are the remains of a once thriving mill village known as Hillsdale Village. As we walked along the trail we could clearly see the remains of most of the structures which included a water powered mill, a dye house, a cider mill, a dance hall and general store and lodgings for the workers. The foundations, doorsteps, a drinking well and a

chimney are reminders of our past and serve as important archeological artifacts for study and preservation as well. The existing house on 156 Hillsdale Road is included in the estate, and may become the future home of a forestry caretaker or historical society, or better yet, an educational center. Along with the estate is an endowment equalling approximately $20,000 dollars a year for the care and upkeep of the property. This is a treasure for all to enjoy in perpetuity!

The DeCoppet property encompasses a large portion of the Pawcatuck Watershed, which is an extremely important habitat for fish, fowl, and other wildlife, and it supplies fresh groundwater to local residents and wildlife. If you consider that 70 percent of the state’s endangered plants and animals thrive in this little corner of the state, Mr. DeCoppet had incredible foresight in protecting these lands, and we owe him our gratitude as well. Thank you so much Theakston DeCoppet!

(Photography by Mary Doo)

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Glacial Boulders, Erratics, Moraines, Bosses and Roche Moutonnees
( Richmond Landscape Features 1 )
David Johnson ~

Hanging Rock, Bradner Preserve, Richmond, RI

Hanging Rock, Bradner Preserve, October 2013 – By David Johnson

It is hard to believe that a mile-thick ice glacier once covered Richmond and the surrounding region less than 20,000 years ago. At its maximum southern advance, about 22-24,000 years ago, the front of this thick ice sheet reached what is now Long Island, New York and deposited an immense amount of glacial till (“rock flour” or fine stone particles), sands, gravels and boulders at its front margin, thus forming Long Island itself, classified as a terminal or end moraine. The global climate then warmed, and the front margin of the glacial ice slowly receded northward, reaching the Charlestown, RI area about 18,000 years ago. There, it stalled and an east-west linear pile of soil and stone debris accumulated in front of the glacier. Today, this ridge of ice-deposited debris is known as the Charlestown Moraine and is classified as a recessional moraine. Route 1 parallels this moraine ridge on its south side in Charlestown; Narrow Lane in Charlestown cuts through the moraine’s hummocky interior terrain. When the glacial ice front then retreated again northward, and briefly paused, it formed a less distinctive segmented, recessional moraine called the Wolf Rock Moraine, segments of which are situated in the Town of Richmond.

Hiking the trails through the forests of Richmond, one can readily observe a scattering of rocks and boulders of various sizes which dot the woodland landscape. These stone fragments are glacial boulders that were plucked (quarried) from bedrock outcrops by glacial ice and then often moved by the ice to other locations before being deposited. Local bedrock outcrops served as a source for many of the glacial boulders found south (down ice) of the outcrop’s location. In general, the more angular (sharp-ended, pointed) the boulder, the shorter the distance the stone was transported from its source. Well-rounded boulders or large “potatoes” may have been moved great distances by the glacier. One rather extraordinary glacial boulder or erratic is Hanging Rock located along the trail in the Town of Richmond’s Bradner Preserve. The erratic is perched precariously on the edge of a bedrock ledge, and is a favorite stop for hikers using the preserve trails. If you have not yet seen this great boulder, a trip is highly recommended.

The Richmond woodlands abound with numerous bedrock outcrops, including ledges and bosses. A boss is a mass of bedrock such as granite, which appears as an exposed surface and which has a circular, elliptical, or irregular shape. A boss rock outcrop usually descends into the earth with vertical or steeply inclined sides. Good examples of bosses may be found on the west side of the North-South Trail in the Carolina Management Area between the end of the vehicle-accessible section of Meadowbrook Road, and Kenyon Hill Road. Another good example of a large boss is along the south side of Pine Hill Road, just east of the “wicked sharp” corner. Rock ledges that face southward are sometimes classified by scientists as part of a roche moutonnee (named after 18th century French gentry wig attire), defined as glacially abraded or worn boss, where the glacier wore and smoothed the north side of a ridge as it advanced, and plucked off bedrock on the south side of the ridge, forming steeper, craggy rock ledges generally facing south. Other examples of these bedrock features in Richmond affected by the glacier may be seen in the woods along Old Mountain Road; and a large cluster of glacial boulders can be seen in the horse pasture of the Cherry Croft Stables on the east side of Shannock Hill Road.

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Wasp Gallss
~ David Johnson ~

As you walk through forest trails in Richmond and surrounding towns, you may observe occasional brown, paper-thin-walled spheres, as large as 2 inches in diameter, on the forest floor.  Originating high up on the branches of northern red, black or scarlet oak trees, these are known as galls, produced by the Oak Apple Gall Wasp (Amphibolips confluenta) as part of their unique and complex life cycle.

Wasp Galls

Photo by Dinah McClure, at Francis C. Carter Preserve, Charlestown, RI

Oak apple wasp galls are found wherever there are oak trees.  Adult wasps hatch from galls typically each June and July.  Soon after, the male and female wasps mate and then drop to the ground, where the female wasps burrow into the soil and at the base of a tree, and inject eggs into the tree roots.  Wasp larvae hatch and feed on the roots for over a year before becoming pupae (a resting stage).  Only wingless female wasps hatch from the pupae underground.  In the early spring, the females crawl out of the soil and up the tree trunk. They then find a newly-growing oak leaf and inject an egg into the mid-rib (center vein) of a leaf.

Oak Apple Gall Wasp - internal structure

Internal structure of a wasp gall, courtesy of Les Jones

The larvae that hatch inside the leaf are small and round.  As they grow, they cause a chemical reaction inside the leaf that forms a gall around the larvae.  The gall itself is thus actually a mutated leaf.  Each larva continues eating and growing, and the soft, spongy gall grows with it.   When the larva is full-grown, it pupates (resting stage) and then emerges as an adult wasp.  The adult wasps are small, dark, and have wings, and are either male or female.  After drilling its way out of the gall by making a small hole, each wasp finds a mate, and the life cycle of the oak apple gall wasp begins once again.  The green galls eventually turn brown and fall to the ground, landing along your favorite hiking trail.

Gall Wasp

Gall Wasp, courtesy of University of Minnesota

There are nearly 2,000 gall-producing insects in the U.S., of which 1,500 of them are gall wasps or gall gnats. Insect species most frequently create galls in oaks, daisies, goldenrod, rose and willow families, with oaks affected by over 800 different types of insects.  Oak apple gall wasps are ecologically important as a food item for birds, other insects, raccoons and opossums.

For more info, see:
Oak Apple Gall Wasp by Les Jones.
Oak Apple Gall Wasp Life Cycle.

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Black Bears in Rhode Island
~ Joe McCue ~

Have you heard recent news reports that bears have been seen in Rhode Island, or perhaps you’ve spotted one yourself?  Black bear (Ursus americanus) were once common in southern New England when European colonists arrived.  With colonization, much of the mature forest land was cleared for agriculture, and black bear habitat was lost. Bears were also hunted for both food and fur, and likely disappeared from Rhode Island before 1800.

BlackBear_WPRI

Bears recently seen in Rhode Island are mostly transient, young males that are known to have a range of 12 to 60 square miles, searching for a mate, and it’s likely that the Ocean State will continue to experience more frequent bear sightings. Black bear breeding season in our area is during June and July.

BlackBear2_WPRI

Black bear prefer mature forests with wetlands where ample water and food sources are available. Black bears eat a variety of protein and fat-rich foods including grasses, fruits and nuts, ants, beetles, bees, termites, carrion, and if available, birdseed, pet food, livestock feed, and garbage!

Black bears are generally shy and secretive, but can persist in close proximity to our urban environment.  We can expect to see more black bears as their population increases.  If you encounter a bear, do not panic. They are rarely aggressive towards people, and almost always flee from humans.  If you encounter a bear, do not run away and do not climb a tree (bears are much better climbers than people!), but stand your ground and make a lot of noise (think banging pot and pan). If possible, remain a safe distance from the bear.  Black bears are protected in Rhode Island, and cannot be hunted or taken by any method.  To lessen the likelihood of an encounter with a bear, follow these actions:

  • Place trash in secure containers or buildings that are not accessible by bears.  Wait until the morning to take out the trash for pickup or transfer station drop-off;
  • Place bird feeders in high locations out of bear reach, and wait until November to feed birds and remove feeders by late March;
  • Avoid feeding pets out of doors and do not leave food out overnight;
  • Secure livestock feeds in buildings or airtight containers;
  • Do not place meat scraps or fatty items in compost piles, or elsewhere;
  • Do not let your dogs roam freely, and to prevent dogs from harassing bears;
  • Protect beehives with electric or other secure fencing; and
  • DO NOT INTENTIONALLY FEED BEARS!  Bear feeding is illegal and will cause problems for you, your neighbors and the bear!

Contact the RI Department of Environmental Management for any sightings, emergencies, questions or information:  Division of Fish and Wildlife: (401) 789-0281, Division of Law Enforcement: (401) 222-3070

~ Source: RIDEM Division of Fish and Wildlife ~