You have probably noticed the new mile markers on the trail. These have been up for several months now and were constructed and donated by a trail volunteer. These markers are a great addition to the Backcountry Trail and can be helpful when planning a hike or bike trip.
Here are the trail measurements:
Rattlesnake Ridge = 1.6 miles
Gulf Oak Rideg = 2.95 miles
Catman Road = 2.25 miles (actually continues on into the State Park Campground)
Rosemary Dunes = 2.1 miles
Twin Bridges = .9 mile
New trail maps are available and are in the map boxes along the trail.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The barricade at the Catman Road entrance has been put up to keep motorized vehicles from driving on the trail. The gate that is normally at this location hasn't been put back up yet and the barricade is taking it's place until then. The trail is open to all of the usual activities so feel free to hike, jog or walk on any part of the Backcountry Trail.
Posted by Trail Blog at 11:08 AM
Monday, August 15, 2011
Just north of the Twin Bridges Trail is a really nice longleaf pine savanna. During certain times of the year, you can see a wide variety of colorful plants, such as various orchids, butterworts, common goldenrod, meadowbeauties, and pitcher plants. While I enjoy seeing all of the colors these plants add to the forest floor, I am particularly interested in the pitcher plants. Maybe it's because they are carnivorous and eat some of those insects that sometimes pester me. Or maybe it's because I like the shape and colors of these plants.
How do these plants attract and eat insects? A pitcher plant has a deep cavity filled with a liquid known as pitfall trap. Insects are attracted to the cavity, which is formed by the cupped leaf, by visual lores such as nectar. The sides of the pitcher plant are slippery and may be grooved in such a way so as to ensure that the insects that get into the cavity cannot climb out. In the cavity there is a sticky liquid which drowns the trapped insects. This liquid then slowly dissolves the insect into a mineral solution and this solution provides the plant with its nutrients.
The roots of the pitcher plant function almost entirely as structual support so the highly acidic soil that they grow in doesn't seem to bother them. But since the bog soils are so nutrient poor and the roots only provide structure, the plant needs the the dissolved insect solution for its nutrients.
The rhizomes under the soil of a pitcher plant can live up to 30 years. While forest fires might top kill a pitcher plant, the plant will resprout from the undamaged rhizomes. However,a severe fire which burns into the peat layer will kill the entire plant. Periodic fires are necessary for pitcher plants because the fires combat competition from other plants and release nutrients that are bound up in the organic peat. Fire suppression leads to less frequent, more severe fires which will damage pitcher rhizomes and thus destroy these plants. So, fire is a natural event in all carnivorous plant habitats.
The pitcher plant bog near Twin Bridges can be accessed off the trail by walking the fire break path that is located north of the information board on the trail. That's the board that has information about longleaf, gopher tortoises and pitcher plants. Just walk up the break about 100 yards and you should see the white tops of the plants. This area has had the benefit of several prescribed fires and you can tell what a difference these fires have made.
Posted by Trail Blog at 6:32 AM
Monday, August 8, 2011
Just as they did last summer, the dragonflies are starting to swarm again. I have heard of swarms being reported along the Backcountry Trail near the Sportsplex and on Rosemary Dunes. Like I reported last year, scientists aren't quite sure what causes dragonflies to swarm but they believe that swarms are related to the climate.
There are two types of dragonfly swarms: 1. Migratory swarms involving thousands (maybe millions) of the same species of dragonflies traveling long distances and, 2. Static swarms, which is the type of swarm that normally occurs in our area.
Static swarms contain far fewer numbers of dragonflies...usually between 20 to 1000...than the migratory swarms.Static swarms are highly localized too. You might see them in one front yard and not in the yard next door. You might also notice swarms along certain parts of the trail and not in other areas. The dragonflies in a static swarm will stay in the same area flying figure 8's and hovering anywhere from 1 to 20 feet above the ground. Why? Food. These dragonflies have found an area with plenty of food, hopefully mosquitoes, and they won't leave until they die or the food source is depleted.
Both migratory and static swarms tend to occur during the same time of year, summer, and after two climatic conditions have been met; long hot weather and recent storms. Why this stimulates swarming is not clear but it stands to reason that both rain and hot, humid weather might cause insect populations to explode. When this occurs, the dragonflies will swarm an area of easy feeding.
Posted by Trail Blog at 6:11 AM
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Just thought that I would let everyone know that the long bridge near the Sportsplex on Gulf Oak Ridge has been repaired and is now open. There are still potholes and rough spots in the pavement on both the Twin Bridges Trail and Gulf Oak Ridge so use caution. The pavement should be repaired within the next month.
Posted by Trail Blog at 8:02 AM
Monday, August 1, 2011
I have always enjoyed watching birds flying in formation. I am impressed at how these birds are able to coordinate their flying and stay in formation. Brown Pelicans, like the ones pictured above, frequently fly over the trail on their way to and from the beach. Back during the Fall migration, I saw a large group of White Pelicans flying high above Rattlesnake Ridge. In addition to pelicans, I sometimes see formations of cormorants,seagulls and ibis.
When I tell people about the flights of birds that I see, I sometimes struggle to come up with a term to describe the group of birds. Is it a covey of seagulls? A flock of swans? I usually use the word "flock" to describe all groups of birds but I wasn't sure if that terminology was always correct though. So I did a little research on bird terminology and I came up with some interesting findings.
A group of oystercatchers are called a "parcel".
A group of gull-billed terns are called a "ternery" or a "U" of terns.
A group of glossy ibis are called several things such as, "congregation", "stand" or "wedge".
A group of seaside sparrows are a "picnic".
A group of American Woodcock have at least four names including, a "cord", a "fall", a "flight", a "plump", or a "rush".
Groups of king rails are commonly referred to as "king" or "rumor".
Groups of sandwich terns are referred to as a "hogey".
A group of black skimmers are called a "conspiracy", an "embezzlement", or a "scoop".
Groups of laughing gulls are called a "flotilla", a "gallery", a "screech", a "scavenging" or a "squabble".
Least terns are called a "straightness".
Groups of Brown Pelicans are referred to as a "pod", a "squadron", a "colony", a "brief" or a "pouch".
My personal favorite though is a group of Northern Gannets. If you see a group of them flying overhead, you are watching a "newspaper syndicate".
Now I'm not sure that I will remember the different terminogy for each species but I don't think that I will ever watch a "ponderance" of Wilson's Plovers without being impressed by them.
Posted by Trail Blog at 6:18 AM